Decarbonizing electricity: a key role for state-owned power companies, 27 Oct 2023 – Brussels / Online

Scientific Commission on Public Enterprises and Public Services
Seminar – Webinar
Friday 27 October 2023 (CEST 13.30 – 16.00)
Decarbonizing electricity: a key role for state-owned power companies by Philippe Benoit

Hybrid Event: online or possibility to join physically in Brussels (see below)

A rapid decarbonization of the electricity system is urgently required for the Paris Agreement objectives to stand a reasonable chance of being met. While state-owned power companies (SPCs) are the dominant firm type in the global electricity sector, representing nearly two thirds of larger-scale global electric power generation capacity, most climate policy literature focuses on private sector companies when analyzing decarbonization interventions. SPCs’ distinct corporate governance structures, objectives, relationships with government, and sources of finance, however, can be markedly different from those of private companies.

SPCs differ from private sector companies but also amongst themselves. A framework can help to identify key common and divergent features of SPCs, and the markets in which they operate, and how these factors affect their relationship to government interventions on decarbonization. Relevant factors include differences in their agency, motivation, capacity, and market exposure, which in turn may result in different potential responsiveness to government regulatory, policy and market interventions on decarbonization. This points to four SPC archetypes and how they might respond differently to government interventions targeting decarbonization.

SPCs can, under the guidance of governments pursuing ambitious climate policy, potentially be more effective vehicles for decarbonization relative to private sector companies, particularly when they have the financial and technical capacity to invest in the decarbonization of their asset base. Similarly, market-wide policy interventions, such as carbon pricing mechanisms, could in practice be less effective interventions with respect to SPCs than their private counterparts given SPC non-financial mandates and corporate governance frameworks.

Ultimately, governments will need to step up their climate action to achieve needed emissions reductions. SPCs can, and where they are major market players, must be key actors in driving decarbonization and therefore deserve significantly more attention in the climate policy debate.

Philippe Benoit is an Adjunct Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University-School of International and Public Affairs: Center on Global Energy Policy, and the Research Director for Global Infrastructure Analytics and Sustainability 2050. He also served as Head of the IEA’s Energy Environment (Climate Change) Division and as Energy Sector Manager at the World Bank. Philippe has managed over 50 publications in the areas of clean energy, development and climate change while at the IEA and the World Bank. He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, a B.A. in economics and political science from Yale University, and a masters in trade law from the University of Paris: Pantheon-Sorbonne.

This presentation is based on his work on engaging state-owned power companies and other enterprises in climate action, including several publications with Alex Clark and Moritz Schwarz, of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, and Arjuna Dibley of Stanford Law School.


Stefano CLÒ is an associated professor of Economics at the University of Florence, Department of Economics and Management.




Relevant publications include:

To join the Webinar, click below:
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13.30 – 13.45 – Introduction and very short tour de table of those sitting in Brussels
13.45 – 14.00 – welcome to the Commission members and to the CIRIEC members attending per video
Introduction to the keynote speaker: Philippe BENOIT
14.00 – 14.45 – Presentation by Philippe BENOIT
14.45 – 15.00 – Stefano CLÒ (Assoc. Prof. in Economics, University of Florence, Department of Economics and Management): Discussant

Coffee break (allowing the remote/online participant to write their questions in the chat/discussion)

15.15 – 16.00 – Group discussion – Q & A
16.00 – Closing

For any further question or information, please contact:
Eoin REEVES, President of CIRIEC’s Scientific Commission on Public Enterprises and Public Services ( )
Barbara SAK, CIRIEC ( )
or Solène GASTAL, CIRIEC ( ) for physical participation in Brussels.

Conference details

Date 27 octobre 2023 @ 13 h 30 min - 16 h 00 min