Renewable Energy as a Luxury? A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of the Role of the Economy in the EU’s Renewable Energy Transitions during the ‘Double Crisis’

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The European Union (EU) faces a double crisis: both economic and environmental, which has brought into stark relief the question of whether climate change mitigation and economic growth are mutually exclusive. Is saving the environment a ‘luxury’ reserved for wealthy countries, with less affluent countries being too poor to be green? We seek to address this important and timely question using fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) to analyse the causal relationship between economic growth and stability, and the expansion of renewable electricity shares among the European Union’s (EU) 28 member states during the recent economic recession (2008-2013). Our paper, analyses the recent economic and financial crisis and its effects on sustainability transitions, and establishes a new indicator for progress in renewable electricity transitions in the context of Europe’s 2020 targets. It therefore extends the ‘sustainability as a luxury’ debate to include renewable energy. The analysis reveals an ambivalent picture of the role of wealth in renewable energy transitions (RET) in Europe. Indeed, driven by the EU’s common renewable energy targets, the findings suggest that RETs are promoted both because, and in spite of the means.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-90
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Economics
Early online date23 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

Funding Information:
The research has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2014-183), which had no further involvement in the specifics of the research. We would also like to thank particularly Alrik Thiem for his extremely helpful and continuous advice and support. Many thanks also to the anonymous reviewers for their detailed, constructive and supportive comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Austerity
  • Double crisis
  • EU
  • Economic crisis
  • Qualitative Comparative Analysis
  • Renewable energy

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