Renewable Energy Disputes in the World Trade Organization
Oil, Gas and Energy Law Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 3, pp. 1-51, 2015
52 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2015
Date Written: March 18, 2015
This article analyzes renewable energy disputes in the World Trade Organization (WTO), explores the specific WTO norms that have been, and are likely to be, engaged by trade-distortive measures that WTO Members may seek to argue have been taken to promote renewables, and advocates implementing stronger governance of energy trade and provides an analysis of the WTO’s treatment of renewable energy. It also discusses the impact of subsidies on different forms of energy and whether feed-in tariffs count as subsidies in the WTO context. Our conclusion is that the main obstacles to the scale-up and take-up of renewable energy are not normative/institutional per se. Rather, they are economic. The only systemic ‘obstacle’ that the WTO presents is its requirement that measures not be disguised mercantilism and that they be applied even-handedly. The WTO system, as it stands, could, and does, accommodate bona fide non-discriminatory measures that promote the scale-up and take-up of renewable energy. After all, we see that it tolerates conventional energy subsidies, which certainly are not predicated on the general exceptions to WTO rules or other dispensations, as these appear in the covered agreements. That said, while the system, as it stands, is considerably flexible towards externalities such as environmental protection objectives, further trade liberalization remains the system’s principal objective.
Keywords: governance of renewable energy; WTO and renewable energy; environmental protection objectives and the WTO; energy trade; renewable subsidies
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation