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

Recent decades have witnessed a surge in international programmes established to assist the adoption of renewable energy technologies (RETs) in low and lower-middle income countries. So far, such programmes have yielded mixed success. While partnerships between international, national and local organisations have become the pre-eminent model for RET programmes, we know relatively little about their contribution. This article traces the role of renewable energy partnerships in development cooperation, shifting the analytical emphasis from barriers and drivers to key actors and their relationships. It presents a relational approach for the analysis of development assistance for renewable energy, drawing on theories concerning the role of strong and weak ties in inter-organisational networks. Through an analysis of seven empirical cases from Central America, the article provides insights into how different forms of inter-organisational relationships can facilitate implementation of RET programmes but do not necessarily enhance the capacities of local organisations in a way to support a more sustainable adoption of RETs. On the basis of this analysis, theoretical and policy implications are given concerning the potential of relational approaches for researching technology diffusion processes, and the role of strong and weak ties for the success – or failure – of renewable energy partnerships.

Kruckenberg, L. J. (2015) .In: Energy Policy, 77, 11-20. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2014.11.004

Paper given the 2015 best paper award from the ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Centre.