Philip Andrews-Speed

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Philip Andrews-Speed is a Senior Research Fellow with OIES’ China Energy Research Programme. He is also Senior Principal Fellow at the Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore. He started his career as a mineral and oil exploration geologist before moving into the field of energy and resource governance. His main research interest has been the political economy of the low-carbon energy transition. China has been a particular focus for his research, but in recent years he has been more deeply engaged with energy challenges in Southeast Asia. Philip has published extensively on China’s energy governance in academic and policy fora. His latest book, with Sufang Zhang, is China as a Global Clean Energy Champion: Lifting the Veil (Palgrave, 2019).

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                    [post_content] => 

The global low-carbon energy transition will require major changes to institutional practices and energy industry paradigms with implications for society writ large. A country’s existing institutional pattern inevitably shapes the transition, and helps or hinders its progress. This is perhaps especially so in state-dominated systems such as China, which have historically considered energy as a strategic field for reasons of both security and economic development.

China has already taken steps to embrace clean energy, even as it remains the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels: Indeed, it is the world’s leading producer and consumer of renewable energy in absolute terms today, and the country’s leaders speak of encouraging a revolution in energy consumption and production, in line with new targets announced in 2020 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. But how successful will China be in introducing the sweeping changes required? At the technological level, such changes could include replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, but they also require institutional shifts, which could entail major market reforms and changes to the structure of the Chinese energy sector, dominated now by SOEs and administrative planning.

This Insight examines how China’s institutional setting both contributes to and hinders the energy transition, with a particular emphasis on the energy sector. It also aims to dispel the binary view of China’s governance and the energy transition, in which central government commitment is portrayed as the sole determinant of success. Finally, it sets out a preliminary framework for analysing the areas where technological and institutional factors make change more likely to be lasting and transformative, versus areas in which resistance will likely remain strong.

Historically, China has been better at building out energy supplies and adding the ‘hardware’ of energy infrastructure, while having greater difficulty adjusting the ‘software’ of institutional and societal change or practices related to energy demand and energy efficiency. We would argue that China is likely to continue to expand the hardware, given its strong institutions devoted to investing in supply. But China will struggle with the software as this relies on a demand pull, market incentives, and greater coordination among stakeholders and between sectors.

When considering innovation for the energy transition, the paper makes a similar argument: China’s technology innovation system has enabled innovation in first generation technologies. But will China’s strong incumbent industries impede the transformational change required for the more modular technologies that are less capital intensive and require greater societal involvement and coordination? China has come to dominate global supplies in manufacturing-intensive technologies – solar photovoltaics and batteries – which have also seen the most rapid cost declines due to scale. For design-intensive technology – such as wind, concentrating solar power plants, or advanced coal plants – cost declines have not been as pronounced. For those technologies that are less modular and more design-intensive, state-owned enterprises may play a larger role and the potential for transformative technological change could be slower to emerge.

  Read the full paper here - Software versus hardware: how China’s institutional setting helps and hinders the clean energy transition [post_title] => Software versus hardware: how China’s institutional setting helps and hinders the clean energy transition [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => software-versus-hardware-how-chinas-institutional-setting-helps-and-hinders-the-clean-energy-transition-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-13 09:57:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-13 09:57:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=44395 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 44393 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2021-12-10 11:06:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-12-10 11:06:41 [post_content] =>

The global low-carbon energy transition will require major changes to institutional practices and energy industry paradigms with implications for society writ large. A country’s existing institutional pattern inevitably shapes the transition, and helps or hinders its progress. This is perhaps especially so in state-dominated systems such as China, which have historically considered energy as a strategic field for reasons of both security and economic development.

China has already taken steps to embrace clean energy, even as it remains the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels: Indeed, it is the world’s leading producer and consumer of renewable energy in absolute terms today, and the country’s leaders speak of encouraging a revolution in energy consumption and production, in line with new targets announced in 2020 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. But how successful will China be in introducing the sweeping changes required? At the technological level, such changes could include replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, but they also require institutional shifts, which could entail major market reforms and changes to the structure of the Chinese energy sector, dominated now by SOEs and administrative planning.

This paper examines how China’s institutional setting both contributes to and hinders the energy transition, with a particular emphasis on the energy sector. It also aims to dispel the binary view of China’s governance and the energy transition, in which central government commitment is portrayed as the sole determinant of success. Finally, it sets out a preliminary framework for analysing the areas where technological and institutional factors make change more likely to be lasting and transformative, versus areas in which resistance will likely remain strong.

Historically, China has been better at building out energy supplies and adding the ‘hardware’ of energy infrastructure, while having greater difficulty adjusting the ‘software’ of institutional and societal change or practices related to energy demand and energy efficiency. We would argue that China is likely to continue to expand the hardware, given its strong institutions devoted to investing in supply. But China will struggle with the software as this relies on a demand pull, market incentives, and greater coordination among stakeholders and between sectors.

When considering innovation for the energy transition, the paper makes a similar argument: China’s technology innovation system has enabled innovation in first generation technologies. But will China’s strong incumbent industries impede the transformational change required for the more modular technologies that are less capital intensive and require greater societal involvement and coordination? China has come to dominate global supplies in manufacturing-intensive technologies – solar photovoltaics and batteries – which have also seen the most rapid cost declines due to scale. For design-intensive technology – such as wind, concentrating solar power plants, or advanced coal plants – cost declines have not been as pronounced. For those technologies that are less modular and more design-intensive, state-owned enterprises may play a larger role and the potential for transformative technological change could be slower to emerge.

Read the short-version of the full paper here - OIES Energy Insight - Software versus hardware: how China’s institutional setting helps and hinders the clean energy transition [post_title] => Software versus hardware: how China’s institutional setting helps and hinders the clean energy transition [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => software-versus-hardware-how-chinas-institutional-setting-helps-and-hinders-the-clean-energy-transition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-13 09:57:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-13 09:57:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=44393 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 44324 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2021-11-17 11:30:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-11-17 11:30:09 [post_content] => Power outages in China were widely expected this year after the country experienced some rationing in December 2020 and then again over the summer. In early September a handful of localities were seeing shortages, but by October over 20 Chinese provinces were curbing or rationing power supplies, not only for industrial, but also residential users, a rare occurrence for a country aiming to prioritise household energy supply. The reasons for these outages are widely covered but also highly debated: is it high coal prices or the “dual control” policies — the cap on provincial energy consumption and the energy intensity reduction target set by the central government? While there are a number of factors contributing to the power outages, the mixed signals from the central government combined with pricing distortions in China’s power market are at the heart of this crisis. This comment briefly reviews the causes of the power outages, their near-term market impact on oil and gas as well as the outlook for power pricing reform and the extent to which they are changing the thinking in China about the 2030-2060 goals. [post_title] => China's power crisis: Long-term goals meet short-term realities [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => chinas-power-crisis-long-term-goals-meet-short-term-realities [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-11-17 11:30:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-11-17 11:30:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=44324 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 43523 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2021-03-16 10:45:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-03-16 10:45:56 [post_content] =>

On 11 March 2021, the Chinese government ratified its 14th Five Year Plan and long-term targets for 2035. Since this is the first Five Year Plan (FYP) published following China’s announcement in September 2020 that it would aim to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060, it was expected to be a strong indicator of China’s commitment to this pledge and a first concrete step toward it, although viewing it as a bellwether of China’s ambitions may be misguided. This comment discusses some of the key statements from the Plan regarding energy and the environment, as well as five themes that will be important to watch over the next few years.

The overarching Plan seems weak in terms of its climate ambition and heavy on self-sufficiency, but these are early days, as more details will emerge with sectoral and provincial plans in the coming months. Still, there are a number of inherent policy tensions that will plague the upcoming plan. It will be important to watch whether these are addressed (although they are unlikely to be resolved) in sectoral plans; whether or not the political framework evolves in support of a stronger climate agenda, either through stronger ministries, leading groups, or improved coordination. The development of the emissions trading scheme will also be important, although we argue that even though it is a significant step for China, its near term impact on emissions in the power sector will be limited. Finally, we argue that despite slower oil demand growth, refining additions will continue in the near term, and that even though the decarbonisation agenda may weaken gas demand in the long-term, liberalisation efforts (and potentially some coal to gas switching) will be a boon for gas demand in the near-term.

[post_title] => Key issues for China’s 14th Five Year Plan [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => key-issues-for-chinas-14th-five-year-plan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-03-16 10:45:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-03-16 10:45:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=43523 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 42195 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2020-10-28 10:51:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-28 10:51:20 [post_content] => The COVID-19 pandemic has created what can be termed a critical juncture from the perspective of the low-carbon transition. Nations have the opportunity to use their economic recovery plans to accelerate this transition. As an upper-middle-income country, China might be expected to build on its recent successes and accelerate the pace of its low-carbon energy transition. Until recently, the Chinese government has been relatively successful in constraining the rise of emissions through a mix of economic, energy and technology policies. This trend appeared to be under threat in October 2019 when Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, argued that China should make better use of its domestic resources of coal, oil and natural gas to enhance national security of energy supply, presumably in response to the trade conflict. In contrast, almost one year later, in September 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that China would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. These two, apparently contradictory policy announcements, bracketed the launch and delivery of the national economic recovery plans. In this context, the paper addresses the question of whether the year 2020 marks a critical juncture in China’s management of the low-carbon energy transition. In simple terms, the events of 2020 could yield one of three medium- to long-term trends: The juncture could become critical in a positive way. In this case, the pandemic, along with Xi Jinping’s announcement, would trigger an acceleration of country’s low-carbon energy transition. Conversely, a focus on economic growth, employment and security of energy and material supply might render the juncture critical in a negative way by undermining recent achievements and boosting carbon emissions. Finally, the juncture may not become critical in which case trends in the energy sector would continue as before. To address the question, this paper carries out a document analysis of the economic recovery plans and the energy policies announced in the first ten months of 2020 and reveals that the economic recovery plan has few distinctly green features. In the energy sector, these priorities favour fossil fuels and self-reliance. The paper then contrasts these policy approaches with President Xi’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2060 and concludes that whilst the preceding policies did not reflect a critical juncture, the President’s bold call may do so, but the challenges ahead will be formidable. [post_title] => Does 2020 mark a critical juncture in China’s low-carbon energy transition? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => does-2020-mark-a-critical-juncture-in-chinas-low-carbon-energy-transition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-11-17 10:02:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-11-17 10:02:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=42195 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 5 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 44395 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2021-12-10 11:10:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-12-10 11:10:34 [post_content] =>

The global low-carbon energy transition will require major changes to institutional practices and energy industry paradigms with implications for society writ large. A country’s existing institutional pattern inevitably shapes the transition, and helps or hinders its progress. This is perhaps especially so in state-dominated systems such as China, which have historically considered energy as a strategic field for reasons of both security and economic development.

China has already taken steps to embrace clean energy, even as it remains the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels: Indeed, it is the world’s leading producer and consumer of renewable energy in absolute terms today, and the country’s leaders speak of encouraging a revolution in energy consumption and production, in line with new targets announced in 2020 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. But how successful will China be in introducing the sweeping changes required? At the technological level, such changes could include replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, but they also require institutional shifts, which could entail major market reforms and changes to the structure of the Chinese energy sector, dominated now by SOEs and administrative planning.

This Insight examines how China’s institutional setting both contributes to and hinders the energy transition, with a particular emphasis on the energy sector. It also aims to dispel the binary view of China’s governance and the energy transition, in which central government commitment is portrayed as the sole determinant of success. Finally, it sets out a preliminary framework for analysing the areas where technological and institutional factors make change more likely to be lasting and transformative, versus areas in which resistance will likely remain strong.

Historically, China has been better at building out energy supplies and adding the ‘hardware’ of energy infrastructure, while having greater difficulty adjusting the ‘software’ of institutional and societal change or practices related to energy demand and energy efficiency. We would argue that China is likely to continue to expand the hardware, given its strong institutions devoted to investing in supply. But China will struggle with the software as this relies on a demand pull, market incentives, and greater coordination among stakeholders and between sectors.

When considering innovation for the energy transition, the paper makes a similar argument: China’s technology innovation system has enabled innovation in first generation technologies. But will China’s strong incumbent industries impede the transformational change required for the more modular technologies that are less capital intensive and require greater societal involvement and coordination? China has come to dominate global supplies in manufacturing-intensive technologies – solar photovoltaics and batteries – which have also seen the most rapid cost declines due to scale. For design-intensive technology – such as wind, concentrating solar power plants, or advanced coal plants – cost declines have not been as pronounced. For those technologies that are less modular and more design-intensive, state-owned enterprises may play a larger role and the potential for transformative technological change could be slower to emerge.

  Read the full paper here - Software versus hardware: how China’s institutional setting helps and hinders the clean energy transition [post_title] => Software versus hardware: how China’s institutional setting helps and hinders the clean energy transition [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => software-versus-hardware-how-chinas-institutional-setting-helps-and-hinders-the-clean-energy-transition-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-13 09:57:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-13 09:57:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=44395 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 5 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => 1 [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => b9561a8de62b5bf5021e93c87b221278 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

Latest Publications by Philip Andrews-Speed