Methodology

The Energy Policy Tracker website showcases publicly-available information on public money commitments for different energy types, and other policies supporting energy production and consumption. The research follows a bottom-up approach, which involves collecting data on individual policies at an individual country level, and then aggregating them.

Policies are classified according to different criteria. One of the key criteria is a policy’s environmental profile that depends on 1) which energy types it benefits, and 2) whether it has any environmental conditionality attached. Throughout the Tracker, information is split across five categories: “fossil unconditional”; “fossil conditional”; “clean unconditional”; “clean conditional”, and “other energy”.

The Tracker is being launched in several phases. The first phase includes only G20 countries and policies by the European Union (here defined as European institutions).

G20 aggregate numbers are those of its 19 member countries and exclude the rest of the European Union’s policies and population.

Later website updates will add more countries, Multilateral Development Banks and potentially data on central banks’ quantitative easing policies benefitting fossil, clean and other energy.

Approved government policies

The Energy Policy Tracker website includes only the policies that are approved by national, subnational or municipal governments, central banks, majority state-owned public finance institutions, majority state-owned enterprises (SOE) or other government-related bodies. We do not include policy proposals.

Policies relevant to energy production and consumption

The Energy Policy Tracker website includes only policies that affect energy production and consumption, in particular in the following sectors: resources (e.g. extraction of oil, gas and coal, pipelines as well as restoration of extractive sites); power; buildings; mobility (e.g. airlines, airports, car manufacturing, rail and public transport, cycling and walking), and other energy-intensive sectors.

New policies or amendments of existing policies since 1 January 2020

The Energy Policy Tracker website includes new policies or amendments of existing policies. We exclude existing policies such as ongoing subsidies and other support mechanisms in the energy sector – those that already functioned in previous years.

For example, some countries have automatic pricing mechanisms for fuels that adjust domestic prices to the fluctuations on global markets according to a formula. These are not new policies and automatic adjustments (e.g. in Egypt) should not be reflected in the Tracker. However, a change in a fuel pricing mechanism itself (e.g. in Nigeria, Ecuador, Tunisia) is an amendment of the existing pricing policy and will be included in the Tracker. Meanwhile, many countries (e.g. Saudi Arabia) change energy prices ad hoc, and each change counts as a new policy and is added to the Tracker.

The majority of energy policies in the Tracker are government responses to the twin crises of the oil price plunge and the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. However, we also include policies that had been designed before the crisis and introduced as planned after 1 January 2020. Some of them may not appear to be directly linked to the deterioration of commodity prices or the COVID-19 pandemic: for example, this is the case with France introducing new rules for transforming vehicles with thermal engines into electric battery or fuel cell engines, or the government of the Canadian province of Ontario purchase of gas power plants. Nonetheless, the introduction – rather than abandonment – of such policies despite the disruptions and additional pressures on governments is noteworthy. In fact, many policies were included in recovery packages only because they were “shovel-ready” and governments could use these blueprints for a quick response to the crisis. Many of the EU stimulus and recovery approaches trace back to the European Green Deal adopted in 2019, while in South Korea, Green New Deal fundamentals was developed as a ruling (and re-elected) party election platform.

For simplicity, 1 January 2020 is the earliest possible start date for policies registered on the Tracker.

These new or amended public money commitments, and other policies, are additional to many other government policies that existed to support different energy types before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Values of public money commitments

The researchers behind this website do not estimate any values committed or disbursed. The only values reported are drawn from publicly available sources, with a strong preference for government sources.

In cases where policy values are available, we report them at their committed face value, even if the entire amount will not be eventually disbursed. This is, for instance, the case with loan guarantees or assumptions of environmental liabilities.

On a case-by-case basis, additional checks are made to avoid double-counting of public money commitments, such as in the case of a national program being disbursed by regrants at a subnational level. Typically, public money commitments through government policies, public finance and SOE investments are considered to be additional to each other.

Missing policies

Our bottom-up estimates are possible for about 3% to 5% of the total stimulus and recovery commitments. A considerably larger amount of public money committed to supporting the economies in response to the crisis may also benefit different elements of the energy sector. However, these values are not available from official sources and are therefore not included in the research estimates. 

Despite the Tracker partners’ best efforts to be comprehensive, it is inevitable that the Tracker misses many public money commitments and other policies supporting different energy types for several reasons. First, government reporting on support measures, especially during the crisis, remains incomplete.

In particular, many recovery packages are designed in an “industry-neutral” way, where access to anti-crisis support is given to all sectors. However, in reality, even support from central banks through mechanisms such as quantitative easing is not entirely neutral and benefits the incumbents, which, in the energy sector, are predominately fossil fuels. Some non-governmental organisations work on estimating support flowing to the fossil fuel industry through such “industry-neutral” policies (e.g. the Paycheck Protection Program in the US or European Central Bank’s corporate bond purchases), but we exclude such estimates since they a) each pursue a separate methodology for each country and b) do not provide estimates of benefits, through the same schemes, to clean and other energy.

Second, the ease of quantification depends on the mechanisms of government support . For instance, direct budgetary transfersand loans have a face value. When it comes to tax breaks, quantitative estimates of conferred benefits are not always available. Further, when governments introduce energy price caps or roll back environmental regulations, benefits to consumers and industry can be very considerable, but without a price tag. 

Due to capacity constraints, the Tracker Team focuses on the policies that confer the largest benefits to different energy types. These tend to be policies at the national level. Hence the Tracker coverage of subnational and municipal policies remain incomplete. 

To fill in the gaps, the researchers welcome external submissions of missing policies, through the “Submit missing policy” button on each of the country pages.

Fossil unconditional

Policies are classified as “fossil unconditional” if they support production and consumption of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal, “grey” hydrogen or fossil fuel-based electricity) without any climate targets or additional pollution reduction requirements.

Fossil conditional

We categorize policies as “fossil conditional” if they support production or consumption of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal, “blue” hydrogen or fossil fuel-based electricity) with climate targets or additional pollution reduction requirements. The conditionality includes climate and pollution reduction targets as well as support to measures reducing environmental damage through carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), end-of-the-pipe solutions such as reduction of methane leakages, extractive sites clean-up and other measures. For example, the French government made its bailout of Air France conditional on reducing the airline’s emissions.

While such conditionality is a step in the right direction, the policies in this category are still providing significant funding to fossil fuels and are violating the “polluter pays principle.” 

Clean unconditional

Policies are marked as “clean unconditional” if they support production or consumption of energy that is both low-carbon and has negligible impacts on the environment if implemented with appropriate safeguards. These policies support energy efficiency and renewable energy coming from naturally replenished resources such as sunlight, wind, small hydropower, rain, tides, and geothermal heat. “Green” hydrogen, active transport (cycling, walking) are also included.

Clean conditional

We classify policies as “clean conditional” (“potentially clean”) if they are stated to support the transition away from fossil fuels, but unspecific about the implementation of appropriate environmental safeguards. Examples include: large-hydropower; rail public transport and electric vehicles (electric cars, bicycles, scooters, boats etc) using multiple energy types; smart grids and technologies to better integrate renewables; hydrogen in the case of mixed, but predominantly clean sources (e.g. under Germany’s hydrogen strategy); and biofuels, biomass and biogas with a proven minimum negative impact on the environment (sometimes referred to as “advanced: or “second” or “third generation”). Without appropriate environmental safeguards, such policies can still have significant impacts. For instance, if powered with coal- or gas-based electricity, EVs can have a significant impact on the environment. Large hydropower has a negligible carbon footprint, but can damage ecosystems. And even “advanced” biofuels can have a significant water footprint.

Other energy

Policies outside of the two “fossil” and two “clean” buckets, or in both of them, fall in this umbrella category. These policies support nuclear energy (including uranium mining), “first generation” biofuels, biomass and biogas (with proven negative impact on the environment), incineration, hydrogen of unspecified origin, and multiple energy types, e.g. intertwined fossil fuels and clean energy (a sizeable group, since many policies benefit both fossil and clean energy across the board).

Energy types and stages

We provide a breakdown of policies by energy type and energy stage. Energy types include: coal; oil and oil products: gas and gas products; oil and gas; multiple fossil; biofuels and waste; wind; solar; hydropower; hydrogen; other renewable; multiple renewable; energy efficiency; active transport; nuclear; multiple energy types; other energy type.

Energy stages include: exploration or production or processing or storage or transportation; electricity generation; electricity storage or transmission or distribution; energy use (all energy types, including consumption in transport, household use, buildings etc); energy efficiency; reduced environmental damage; several energy stages (many policies apply to several energy stages); active transport (cycling or walking); and other energy stage.

Energy efficiency (a “hidden fuel”) and active transport are categories for both energy type and energy stage.  

Monetary, fiscal and other policies

The Tracker includes monetary, fiscal and other policies.

Monetary policies are affecting money supply and are issued by central banks. Examples are quantitative easing, regulations on lending by commercial banks.

Fiscal policies are policies affecting budgets through spending or tax cuts by national, subnational or municipal governments. In this respect, majority-owned public finance institutions and SOEs can be seen as government spending arms. The biggest number of policies registered in this Tracker are fiscal policies. Examples include cash transfers, tax deferrals, loans.

Other policies include all other types of regulations issued by governments, public finance institutions and SOEs. They can include labour regulations, changes in technology and pollution standards, renewable energy curtailment, rollback on environmental impact assessment requirements, suspension of licensing procedures.

Mechanisms

The Tracker focuses on public money commitments to the energy sector via a variety of mechanisms. It follows a bottom-up approach and creates an inventory of such measures. To classify those, we rely on the international methodology for the SDG indicator 12.c.1 for identifying and measuring fossil fuel subsidies. In its turn, the SDG Indicator 12.c.1 methodology is aligned with the definition of subsidies of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under Article 1.1 of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) and the approaches to analyzing government support in the fossil fuel, agricultural and other sectors by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In the absolute majority of cases, government policies introduced in response to the COVID-19 crisis either fully meet the strict subsidy definition in the WTO ASCM Article 1.1 sense, or are hybrids with a subsidy component along with investments on market conditions. In such hybrid cases, government sources rarely allow to distinguish between the subsidy and market-based elements.

Therefore, we have adapted the SDG indicator 12.c.1 methodology to accommodate the wide range of government policies that appeared in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We also use a broader term “public money commitments” that captures both a) public money outflows to the energy sector via subsidies and hybrid measures such public finance and SOE investments, and b) inflows via subsidy reform and increased fossil fuel taxation.

A non-exhaustive list of mechanism examples

Public money outflows (registered with positive values if estimates are available)

Group of mechanismsMechanismsExamples (not an exhaustive list)
1. Direct transfer of governme
nt funds (DT)
DT via budget or off-budget transferGrants, cash transfers to citizens or companies
 DT via government procurementBuild-up of strategic petroleum reserves
2. Induced transfers (IT)IT via regulatory rollback or non-government fee waiversRelaxation of emission standards, electricity fee and other waivers
 IT via a new or extended regulationRegulated energy prices, priority dispatch to coal power over renewable power
3. Government revenue foregone (GRF)GRF via tax, royalty or government fee breakTax, royalty or government fee deferrals, waivers, reduced rates
 GRF via underpricing of government-owned goods & servicesFree LPG cylinders distributed by the government, preferential access to government-owned infrastructure
4. Hybrid (typically a combination of 1 and 3 plus transfer of risk)Loan (Hybrid)Loans by public finance institutions
 Loan guarantee (Hybrid)Loan guarantees by public finance institutions or governments
 Equity injection or nationalisation (Hybrid)Purchase of assets by government
 Purchase of bonds (Hybrid)Quantitative easing by central banks
 Debt write-offs (Hybrid)Debt restructuring or forgiveness by governments, public finance institutions, or SOEs
 Insurance and indemnification (Hybrid)Government compensations in the case of harm caused to people or the environment
 Assumption of environmental liabilities (Hybrid)Governments’ commitment to cover costs of clean-up in case of pollution
 Other hybrid support measures 

Public money inflows (registered with negative values if estimates are available)

Group of mechanismsMechanismsExamples (not an exhaustive list)
5. Fossil fuel subsidy reformFossil fuel subsidy reformSpending cuts or elimination of tax breaks and induced transfers, e.g. via energy price deregulation or introduced an automated pricing mechanism 
6. Increased fossil fuel taxationIncreased fossil fuel taxationIntroduction or increase in excise and other taxes on fossil fuels, including a carbon tax 
Source: adopted from the SDG Indicator 12.c.1 methodology by UNEP, OECD and IISD

Sources of information

The Energy Policy Tracker uses only publicly available sources of information, with a strong emphasis on the official documents and statements by governments. Official sources are complemented with expert commentary or media articles as appropriate. Links are provided and, technology permitting, have been archived using Archive.Org.

Exchange rates are based on the January – June 2020 averages, as reported by the OECD. Population numbers for all countries and the EU (as EU-27) are 2019 data sourced from the World Bank Open Data.

Verification of the methodology

This methodology has been developed by the Tracker Core Group (IISD, IGES, OCI, ODI, SEI and the Columbia University) and agreed by all organizations who are part of the project. We ensure its consistent application by internal peer review. All data collected by one partner are always peer reviewed by another partner: Argentina (data collection by FARN, data review by SEI); Australia (data collection by The Australia Institute, data review by the Columbia University); Bangladesh (data collection by IGES, data review by OCI), Brazil (data collection by INESC, data review by SEI); Canada (data collection by IISD, data review by OCI); China (data collection by IGES and the Columbia University, data review by IISD); European Institutions (data collection by the Columbia University, data review by ODI); France (data collection by I4CE, data review by IISD); Germany (data collection by FOES, data review by ODI), India (data collection by IISD, data review by IGES); Indonesia (data collection by IISD, data review by IGES); Italy (data collection by Legambiente and SDA Bocconi, data review by ODI); Japan (data collection by IGES, data review by OCI); Mexico (data collection by ITAM and the Columbia University, data review by SEI); Poland (data collection by WiseEuropa, data review by the Columbia University); Republic of Korea (data collection by IGES, data review by OCI); Russia (data collection by IISD and Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, data review by the Columbia University); Saudi Arabia (data collection by the Columbia University, data review by IISD); South Africa (data collection by IISD, data review by the Columbia University); Spain (data collection by B3C, data review by ODI); Turkey (data collection by Bengisu Özenç, data review by ODI); United Kingdom (data collection by ODI, data review by IISD); United States (data collection by ODI and the Columbia University, data review by IGES); and Vietnam (data collection by IGES, data review by OCI).