The Rise of Renewable Energy Protectionism: Emerging Trade Conflicts and Implications for Low Carbon Development


The emergence of several rapidly industrializing economies within leading renewable energy technology industries has contributed to more globalized supply chains and an increase in the international trade of renewable energy technologies. In most markets, wind and solar power technologies still require some form of government support to be deployed, yet few countries are willing to subsidize an industry that relies primarily on imported technology. These trends have led to an emergence of trade-related disputes, both via the World Trade Organization and domestic trade remedy channels. Through an analysis of the emerging trade disputes and the prevalence of protectionist polices in the wind and solar industries, this article examines the conflict between the political economy of domestic renewable energy support and the basic principles of global trade regimes, as well as the implications for nations’ abilities to transition to low carbon economies.