Co-opted energy transitions: Coal, wind, and the corporate politics of decarbonization in Colombia

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Latin America has long been a key site of resource extraction, acting as a sacrifice zone for the Global North's fossil fuel needs. Now, the region is pushing for an "energy transition" by opening its own electric grid to renewable sources. Using a case study from La Guajira, in Northeastern Colombia, we argue that energy corporations are appropriating and deploying the concept of energy transitions to fashion themselves as climate conscious, post-extractive, and environmentally caring actors. Based on ethnographic evidence from coal mining and wind energy companies, we argue that the corporate co-optation of the energy transition agenda plays out in public narratives and representations, environmental projects, and community relations. Drawing on insights from the political ecology of energy transitions and low-carbon infrastructures, we contend that corporate transition agendas are more than smoke and mirrors; they are tangible and consequential processes that perpetuate environmental conflicts, sustain forms of "green" accumulation, and foreclose the possibility of a just transition. In unraveling the competing yet entangled agendas of coal and wind companies, this article renders visible the continuities between fossil fuels and renewable energy in Latin America and beyond.

Keywords: energy transition, corporate power, climate change, Latin America, low-carbon infrastructures, low carbon infrastructures

How to Cite: Banks, E. & Schwartz, S. D. (2023) “Co-opted energy transitions: Coal, wind, and the corporate politics of decarbonization in Colombia”, Journal of Political Ecology. 30(1). doi: