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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Sarah Knuth

Knuth, S. (2018). “Breakthroughs” for a Green Economy? Financialization and Clean Energy Transition. Energy Research and Social Science 41: 220-229.

Author(s) from Durham


Reimagining energy infrastructures for the 21st century increasingly means choosing between competing economic futures, a dilemma that is now provoking conflicts across many places and realms. In the United States, one critical clash is unfolding among tech sector advocates for a clean energy transition, as U.S. cleantech has worked to regroup from Silicon Valley’s failed clean energy manufacturing push of the late 2000s and to navigate an ongoing solar trade war with China: about what that transition might look like, how it might be achieved, and, critically, what economic sectors and rents might emerge from it. One set of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists argues that “breakthrough” clean energy technologies are needed to produce an energy transition and to bolster U.S. economic power into the 21st century. Meanwhile, a competing set prioritizes deploying existing technologies and infrastructures at scale. The latter argues that new kinds of innovation can accomplish this task, and in the process defend embattled U.S. hegemony: notably, so-called financial innovation, and new articulations between finance and high tech. This debate has major implications for the nature and global politics of a green economy.