Why do countries emulate each others’ policies? A global study of renewable energy policy diffusion

Elizabeth Baldwin, Sanya Carley, Sean Nicholson-Crotty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The international environmental community and many donor countries have encouraged developing countries to adopt renewable energy (RE) policies that will encourage low-carbon energy development. While the drivers of RE policy adoption have been well-studied in the U.S. and Europe, we know little about the factors that drive RE policy adoption in developing countries. Both theory and anecdotal evidence suggest that policies often spread when one country emulates another's policy, but scholars of policy diffusion have tended to focus on emulation of political and ideological peers, overlooking other factors that may be particularly critical for driving RE policy adoption, including emulation of peers with similar electric sector conditions and emulation that is driven by coercive donor-recipient aid relationships. We use a directed dyadic analysis to assess the factors that prompt a country to emulate another's policies and to determine whether emulation patterns differ across developed and developing countries. We find that both sets of countries tend to emulate the policies of their political peers, and that developing countries tend to emulate the policies of donors. The effect of electric sector similarities varies by policy type. Countries emulate feed-in tariffs of countries with similar electric sector conditions, but they emulate quota policies of countries with dissimilar levels of reliance on renewable energy. Results suggest that different policies may diffuse via different emulation patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-45
Number of pages17
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Energy policy
  • Feed-in tariff
  • Ideological similarities
  • Policy diffusion
  • Quota system
  • Renewable portfolio standard

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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