Carbon lock-in and contradictions - applied guide to academic teaching of Mexico’s energy transition

Hernandez, Ariel Macaspac / Daniel Alejandro Pacheco Rojas / Diana Barrón Villaverde
External Publications (2021)

in: Applied Sciences 11 (18), article 8289

Open access

The energy sector plays an important role in Mexico’s development trajectory. Mexico makes an interesting case study because it shows how difficult it is to reduce fossil energy dependence despite geographic and climatic conditions that favour renewable energy deployment and use. Resolving path dependencies and the related carbon lock-in are key to Mexico’s sustainable energy transition. This applied teaching guide contemplates the use of a case-illustration typology to identify and discuss how the politics about carbon lock-in affects Mexico’s sustainable energy transition. This methodology is an innovative endeavour that aims to apply the case study in classrooms with the intention to encourage discussions and solution-oriented approaches when tangible actions are identified by the educator and students. This methodology elevates the case study to a “living” case study that leads to recommended actions. The applied teaching guide allows educators, who are mostly researchers, to reflect on how Mexico’s case study could be explained not only to promote the students’ understanding of the challenges, but also to provide educators/researchers the skills on how to effectively disseminate knowledge. Mexico’s carbon lock-in involves oil and oil-run power plants that are costly to build but relatively inexpensive to operate. To conclude, this case study identifies potential entry points for transitioning towards sustainable energy in Mexico—resources that can promote the use of clean energy despite carbon lock-in. For example, focusing on electrification—particularly the carbon-intensive sectors—can help Mexico transit towards sustainable energy despite institutional constraints. Complementing this case study is a teaching guide with recommendations for using Mexico’s energy transition in courses on sustainability. By understanding how to explain the case study, the educator/researcher can better structure the complexity of the case study. This approach introduces a “learning activation framework” to identify emerging opportunities that can advance sustainable energy transitions in different cases of carbon lock-in. The framework also gives students a chance to help dismantle or cope with carbon lock-ins. Mexico’s energy transition makes a valuable teaching example because its energy transition is part of a broader developmental goal. This teaching guide’s systematic approach can maximise the students’ learning experience.

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