OECD Trade and Environment Working Papers

1816-6881 (online)
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Selected studies addressing the policy interface between trade and environment prepared for use within the OECD. They address such issues a liberalizing trade in goods that affect the environment, and trade in environmental goods and services.

Domestic Incentive Measures for Renewable Energy With Possible Trade Implications You or your institution have access to this content

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Heymi Bahar1, Jagoda Egeland1, Ronald Steenblik1
Author Affiliations
  • 1: OECD, France

27 June 2013
Bibliographic information

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In recent years the manufacturing of renewable-energy technologies has become truly global. The associated rise in international investment and trade in goods and services related to renewable energy has been rapid, but it has not always been smooth. Already there have been challenges at the WTO, and the unilateral imposition of countervailing and anti-dumping duties, in response to some countries‘ policies on the grounds that they distort trade. Against this background, this paper surveys, through the lenses of market-pull and technology-push policies, the numerous domestic incentives used by governments to promote renewable energy, focusing on those that might have implications for trade — both those that are likely to increase opportunities for trade and those that may be inhibiting imports or promoting exports. Many OECD countries, and an increasing number of non-OECD countries, have established national targets for renewable energy. To help boost the rate of penetration of renewable energy in their economies, most of the same countries are providing additional incentives. Market-pull incentives for the deployment of renewable-energy-based electricity generating plants include quota systems, usually administrated through "green" certificates, and fixed per kilowatt-hour feed-in tariffs and premiums. Renewable fuels for transport are typically promoted by governments through obliging fuel suppliers to mix ethanol or biodiesel with their corresponding petroleum-derived fuels. Frequently, renewable fuels for transport also benefit from exemptions, or reductions in, fuel-excise taxes, and in a few countries from production bounties. Many national and sub-national governments also support capital formation in these industries with grants, subsidised loans, loan guarantees, or a combination of instruments. In some jurisdictions, access to government support schemes have been made conditional upon meeting certain minimum levels of domestic content. Such domestic-content requirements are highly controversial because of their direct effects on trade. These effects, and the effects of other policies in combination and in isolation, are examined through a graphical analysis of generic policies, using a simplified stylised representation of the relevant markets. The basic message is that while many domestic incentives are both increasing the supply of renewable energy and facilitating trade in associated technologies and renewable fuels, some — especially those combined with border protection or domestic-content requirements — are likely reducing export opportunities for foreign suppliers, and raising domestic prices for renewable energy as a consequence.
trade, biofuels, bioenergy, environmental subsidies, renewable energy, environment
JEL Classification:
  • F18: International Economics / Trade / Trade and Environment
  • H23: Public Economics / Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue / Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
  • L98: Industrial Organization / Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities / Government Policy
  • O38: Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth / Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights / Government Policy
  • Q42: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Energy / Alternative Energy Sources
  • Q56: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
  • Q58: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Government Policy