National competitive advantage and energy transitions in Korea and Taiwan

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Despite the rise of domestic firms as leading manufacturers of clean technology products, Korea and Taiwan were the lowest users of green energy in the developed world. However, in 2016 Taiwan took a decisive turn to scaling up the use of renewables while lessening the dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and Korea did the same the following year. These significant events raise an intriguing question: Why were these countries capable of embarking on their green energy transitions and with such urgency when they did? I argue that the intensification of competitive pressures in the global renewables sector created the conditions for these states to muster a developmental response via the expansion of domestic markets for renewables. These governments used this opportunity to accelerate the promotion of cutting-edge energy innovations, which would help create new sources of national techno-economic competitiveness. My overall argument is that developmental-cum-environmental states possess national competitive advantages for coping with a global shift to renewables. The findings have implications for the debate over the popular idea of ‘green growth’ and its effectiveness in theory and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalNew Political Economy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Apr 2020


  • Korea
  • Renewables
  • Taiwan
  • developmental environmentalism
  • green growth

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