Overcoming Incumbent Resistance to the Clean Energy Shift: How local governments act as change agent

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

By Hao Tan, Elizabeth Thurbon, Sung-Young Kim, John A. Mathews

The researchers have just published an article on Energy Policy, available at:

The article is on an important issue for energy policy- phasing out the use of coal for power generation. Based on a case study of closures of coal power plants in China’s Guangdong province, the researchers find that under certain circumstances, governments - especially those in the provincial and city levels - can and do act as change agents when it comes to retirement of coal fired power stations. The study with a sub-national focus sheds important new light on the drivers and decision-making dynamics of exiting of coal power use in China. The study reveals a number of push and pull mechanisms that governments have utilized to overcome the resistance of incumbent power generation companies, primarily based on developmental considerations. By identifying the drivers and enabling mechanisms of phasing out the use of coal power in a significant sub-national region in China, this article contributes to both of the sustainability transition literature and the energy policy literature.