Evaluating renewable energy policy: A review of criteria and indicators for assessment

Evaluating renewable energy policy: A review of criteria and indicators for assessment

Produced by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), this paper investigates the criteria and indicators used to evaluate the deployment of renewable power, and asks whether ‘short-hand’ indicators are feasible for situations of limited capacity, i.e. developing country contexts. The methodology consisted of a ‘rapid systematic review’ of relevant literature, including a thorough web search. Additionally, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a number of experts. The review used a framework consisting of four criteria, described here together with some of the key findings:

  • Effectiveness: simple, short-hand indicators that can be easily employed include installed capacity, and the electricity generated. More sophisticated measures, such as progress toward targets, provide more nuance but require considerably more data. This is difficult to employ in developing contexts.
  • Efficiency: literature is primarily focused upon economic efficiency, be it in simple financial terms or against social costs/impacts. However, as with simple effectiveness indicators, these provide limited insight into why policies have or have not been efficient/effective.
  • Equity: The distribution of policy impacts dominates the literature, though specific indicators were only found for consumer impacts, while there is a lack of literature on indicators evaluating the equity of consultation processes for renewable deployment. Unlike effectiveness and efficiency, the more subjective nature of equity presents difficulties for developing internationally-applicable short-hand indicators.
  • Institutional feasibility: some analysts regard this as the most important criteria for success, underpinning the implementation that results in the previous three criteria. It is also hardest to quantify, not suited to short-hand assessment, and is limited in predictive capability; case studies, impact assessments, and multi-criteria assessment are more useful for telling whether a policy is not feasible, rather than quantifying its feasibility.

Further indicators for consideration are also suggested, including political accountability, finance sources, and regulatory structure. Overall, the review found that literature was primarily focused on developed country contexts, relying on sophisticated models and data requirements. While simple, short-hand indicators offer a useful first-step, they are subject to limitations, and the level of complexity applied should account for a country’s particular capacities. Criteria should always be analysed in combination, and, given its importance, there is a need for greater focus on the issue of institutional feasibility.

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