Much of the geopolitics of the 20th century was shaped by the location of energy supplies – the Middle East assumed outsize importance because most of the world’s oil reserves are there. Other countries such as Russia, Angola and Nigeria, along with Venezuela, are also blessed – or cursed – with plentiful oil or gas, or both.
But the geopolitical map that has become so familiar to us is changing, and fast, thanks to the rapid deployment of renewable energy. Because, while not every nation has oil, gas or even coal under its soil, everyone has at least some renewable resources, whether that is wind, solar, geothermal or biomass .
A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) highlights the way the energy landscape is changing, and the dangers and opportunities that it brings to different countries around the world. A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation says that the consequences of the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy could be as momentous as the switch from biomass to coal and oil two centuries ago.
Fossil fuel producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia will see their influence decline and new energy leaders will emerge, particularly among producers of crucial raw materials such as cobalt, the report’s authors said, while trade relationships will shift and new alliances will emerge.
Oil and gas producers that don’t prepare will find themselves face a significant loss of revenue and even political instability if they don’t act to replace those revenues soon. While some have started on the transition, such as the UAE and Saudi, others such as Venezuela, Angola, Yemen, Iraq and Libya, are likely to struggle to adjust.