For most countries around the globe, finances, resources and infrastructure all provide significant barriers to decarbonisation and achieving net zero. Even for the most financially stable countries, these targets are not easy to turn into reality and require significant mobilisation of resources. For those countries categorised as developing, this process is even more difficult.
We have already seen how countries can work together to solve energy supply issues with the interconnection of power grids. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russian oil, EU Member States signed over 100 different agreements to share energy sources (both fossil fuel and renewable) and reduce reliance on Russia. 
Now we are seeing more and more collaboration between countries regarding renewable energy. The importance of working together on this has been highlighted at previous Conferences of the Parties (COP), as a requirement to help us reach the targets set in place by the Paris Agreement. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), without increasing international collaboration, we could set our net zero targets back by decades.
The Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, could itself be described as ‘global collaboration,’ as it shows multiple governments agreeing on broad pledges. However, in this article, the Renewable Energy Institute will explore evidence of more tangible collaboration and action, on specific projects designed to bring about decarbonisation, as well as the general advantages and pitfalls of this.
What Are The Benefits of Collaboration?
The benefits of collaborating on renewable energy projects are numerous.
Most importantly perhaps, by working together on net zero targets, we can speed up the pace of the global energy transition and reach these targets sooner. Collaboration allows nations to pool resources, both in terms of materials and finances, as well as share innovation. This is likely to be incredibly important for developing countries across the globe as they also work to achieve specific climate targets with more limited resources.
Collaboration can also help with security of supply, in turn making renewables a more viable option to replace fossil fuels. By connecting grids between countries, worries about intermittency of renewable energies, such as solar and wind, can be overcome. For example, the ‘North Sea Link’, between the United Kingdom and Norway, allows the UK to share surplus wind power, and Norway surplus hydropower, to combat pressure on the grid when either resource is low. Finally, by collaborating with others, nations are held to account on their own targets. While this is perhaps the least important benefit (and difficult to measure), it goes some way to encouraging nations to make the changes required when they have other parties analysing their actions and overall success.
How Can Nations Collaborate?
By Sharing Information
Perhaps the simplest way in which countries can work together on renewable projects is to share information and data from existing projects. In May 2023, the UNDP organised for several delegates from Turkey to visit Sweden and Denmark where information was shared on climate change adaption actions and sustainable urban development, in the hopes that this could help Turkey’s own response to the threats of climate change.
Also in 2023, the Innovation Zero Conference in the UK brought over 300 exhibitors together to share knowledge on recent developments in the renewable sector and new green technology. It is reported that 25% of the delegates attending were international showing a degree of international collaboration. However, it can also be argued that there is room for further improvement, a point already highlighted by the organisers of Innovation Zero for the 2024 conference, as they seek to enhance the emphasis on international collaboration.
By Sharing Energy
As highlighted above, countries can collaborate on these targets by sharing their supply of energy generated through renewables. This is generally achieved between neighbouring countries using underground or subsea cables. By doing so, these countries rely less and less on fossil fuels to top up their energy supplies when demand is high and move towards a low carbon energy sector.
By Decarbonising Transport
This is an area that different countries already collaborate on and so it makes sense to work together on how to make these systems more sustainable.
An IEA report shows that the greatest collaboration so far has not been in sharing renewables, but rather in decarbonising the aviation industry, with this collaboration making up 80% of totals. The International Air Transport Association (made up of 290 airlines across 120 countries) is committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions in the industry by 2050.  The next highest sectors were cement and steel, with other initiatives making up less than a quarter of global efforts.
What Evidence Of Collaboration Have We Seen?
Nordic Countries – Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland
The countries above have been described as being at the forefront of the green transition. Each country has its own strengths when it comes to renewable energy; for example, Denmark produces a lot of wind power and has an electricity grid that is well connected to continental Europe. Whereas Norway and Sweden produce a considerable amount of hydropower.Connections between these countries on the pan-European electricity market allow them to share this power as needed.
Furthermore, this collaboration is not a new initiative. ‘Green Cooperation Denmark-Sweden’ has been running for over a decade, allowing the two nations to work together and share information on green technology with other countries across the globe. In 2019, the Prime Ministers of the Nordic countries further emphasised this collaboration by signing the declaration on Nordic Carbon Neutrality, designed to allow them to work together on climate and sustainability issues.
Denmark follows a particularly collaborative approach on its net zero targets, both within the country itself and by joining with other nations. The Danish Government has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Currently around 50% of their energy needs are met by wind and solar energy, they cite partnership between the private and public sector as playing a key role in this. However, collaboration outwith the country has also been important in achieving their goals.
As of May 2023, Denmark and the United States have agreed to cooperate on green issues under the ‘Statement of Understanding.’ The statement covers a range of actions but specifically mentions collaboration on production of wind energy, as well as the manufacture of green technologies. This has large financial benefits for Denmark specifically, providing numerous opportunities for Danish Companies in the US.
Australia is currently collaborating with 8 different countries on clean energy partnerships (Germany, India, Japan, The Republic of Korea, Singapore, The United Kingdom, The United States and The Netherlands). 
They are working with Germany, specifically on advancing the use of hydrogen energy and the collaboration will help Australia trade their hydrogen supplies globally.
They are collaborating with Japan on decarbonising heavy industry, including steel and iron ore production, through co-operation on green technology. Australia have also worked with the United Kingdom in a similar capacity, decarbonising industry through electrification and fuel‑switching.
Australia’s collaboration with the United States involves sharing of resources through mineral supply chains, as well as partnering on future carbon capture projects. For more on the importance of carbon capture in achieving net zero, read our article ‘The Role of Carbon Capture in a Net Zero Future‘ or enrol on our NEW course Carbon Capture and Storage, launching in October 2023.
We can also see collaboration on a more wide-scale level than outlined above.
For example, a Green Grids Initiative was launched at COP26 in 2021, aiming to speed up development of interconnected electricity grids across countries, and even continents. At the time, this was backed by over 80 countries, showing the global appetite for collaboration on renewables.
In late 2022, the G7 agreed the terms of reference for a Climate Club, aiming to bring governments together to collaborate on key areas of industry decarbonisation. This would also include policies for climate mitigation, approaches to transform industries and the role of technical and financial assistance to accelerate the transition in emerging markets and developing economies.
What Are The Barriers To Collaboration?
Renewable energy projects remain incredibly expensive and collaboration can only go some way to helping this. In general, specific financial mobilisation for renewable projects is required; trillions of dollars per year are reportedly needed to finance the projects required, and several countries working together are unlikely to be able to fix this issue.
Furthermore, grid capacity and storage remain limited if we want to transition fully to renewables within the next few decades. This in turn delays projects that may involve an element of global cooperation.
Therefore it is clear that there are several barriers to effective collaboration on renewables. These issues must be solved to allow for more projects in the future.
From the Institute’s research, collaboration between developed and developing nations appears limited. While the Green Grids Initiative and Climate Club mentioned above do include many countries, we need to see more evidence of specific projects involving countries outside of Europe, Australasia and North America.
While collaboration will not allow us to reach net zero on its own, the benefits of nations working together are undeniable. By reducing worries around intermittency and sharing new ideas, this brings us several steps closer to achieving the required targets.
However, the scope of this collaboration clearly needs to expand to include more nations across the globe, including developing countries, who are facing the brunt of climate change. The Institute hopes to see more and more evidence of these projects coming to fruition over the next few years.
We would love to hear from you on this topic! Get in touch and let us know if you or your organisation are collaborating with other nations on renewable energy or energy efficiency projects.
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