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Accepted Paper:

Energy Transition in Central Asian Countries: A Comparative Study of State Strategies   
Elena Shadrina (Waseda University)


Despite abundant renewable energy (RE) resources in all Central Asian countries, their adoption progresses faster in hydrocarbon-rich countries. Kazakhstan was the first in the region to inaugurate RE policy and commence RE projects. Uzbekistan embraced the RE agenda as essential to the nation’s post-2016 transformational aspirations. Recently, amply endowed by natural gas Turkmenistan adopted official rhetoric for RE development and endorsed its first projects. In contrast, possessing no fossil fuels Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are less engaged in RE adoption, despite acknowledging the importance of energy transition and having endorsed certain RE policies. The paper demonstrates that energy transition is attractive to the state for it offers the latter versatile ways to simultaneously balance the tasks of preserving the national political regime status quo, addressing emerging public demand for a more sustainable development model and activating additional potential for national economic growth through inclusion in the global value chains. The paper argues that the states with greater economic sovereignty have greater progress with RE deployment owing to their larger financial resources accumulated through energy export revenues and stronger geoeconomic status enabled by current energy exports and, increasingly, by the prospects of inclusion into new energy global value chains (such as hydrogen and critical raw materials). The theoretical framework of this study is drawn upon the institutional theory and multilevel perspective, commonly employed in energy transition studies. Theoretical perspectives of varieties of capitalism, state capitalism, and rentier states are incorporated to feature the state’s nature, manifestations and role in energy transitions in the region in question. The comparative study of energy transition pathways in Central Asian countries focuses on: 1) unravelling the nature of path dependency (resource curse/ lock-in) of each country and analysis of the state’s strategy to tackle the associated with it challenges; 2) examination of the patterns of climate policy and action and their effects on energy transition pathways; and 3) identification of the formats of international cooperation and their influence on energy transition. Pursuance of energy transition helps the state revitalise the national economy directly (via state-owned companies and sovereign wealth funds) and indirectly (through expanded business activity). It also assists the state in gaining wider public approval via articulation of the environmental components of socio-economic policies. Finally, energy transition broadens the prospects for international trade and investment cooperation and international technological and financial aid (which are stipulated by a nation’s adherence to the values of sustainable development).

Panel ECON01
Environments, Economics and Livelihoods in Central Asia
  Session 1 Thursday 6 June, 2024, -