We conducted a qualitative study (2019–22) to contextualise Colombia's energy policy for sustainable development and renewable energy diversification, focusing on the new governance toolbox of market incentives, weak institutions, security risks in areas of limited statehood, and the role of indigenous people. We also examined how geopolitical events, such as COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are affecting fossil fuel and decarbonisation strategies. Our findings suggest that weak institutions are a major obstacle to Colombia's energy transition. The Western definition of energy democracy takes for granted good governance in line with SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions; however, in Colombia, the context of social unrest, violence, corruption, and inequality hinders its implementation. Colombia's energy policy considers green investment a market opportunity rather than a way of institution building or phasing down fossil fuels, and there is no meaningful communication with civil society, especially indigenous people, to develop small-scale green investment initiatives. This study enhances energy policy by emphasising the role of governance and strong institutions in energy democracy. We argue that if governments and corporations were committed to climate change mitigation, they would invest in institution building over renewable energy.
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