Renewable energy partnerships in development cooperation: Towards a relational theory of technical assistance

Produced as part of the Advancing climate finance and investment CCCEP research programme theme

Recent decades have witnessed a surge in international programs set up to assist the transfer and application of renewable energy technologies (RETs) to low and lower-middle income countries. So far, such programmes have yielded a mixed record of success. While partnerships between international, national and local organisations have become the pre-eminent model for programme design and implementation, we know relatively little about their actual contribution. This paper traces the role of renewable energy partnerships in development cooperation, shifting the analytical emphasis from contingency factors to key actors and their relationships. It then presents a relational approach for the analysis of RET transfer through technical assistance, drawing on theories concerning the role of strong and weak ties in inter-organisational networks. Through an analysis of six empirical cases from Central America, the paper provides insights into how different forms of inter-organisational relationships can facilitate the implementation of RET programmes but do not necessarily enhance the capacities of local organisations in a way that they can support a more sustainable adoption of RETs. On the basis of this analysis, theoretical and policy implications are discussed.