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Special Issue "Innovation in the European Energy Sector and Regulatory Responses to It"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 May 2017)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Michiel Heldeweg

University of Twente
Website | E-Mail
Interests: law; governance; technology; energy; sustainability; smart rules; smart regimes; legal regulatory governance; governance innovation; institutional
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Ellen van Bueren

Delft University of Technology
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Interests: sustainable cities; governance; public policy; planning; energy transition; smart cities; big data
Guest Editor
Ms. Anna Butenko

University of Amsterdam (UvA)
Website | E-Mail
Interests: energy law; economics; local smart energy distribution; electricity distribution grids; gas grids; legal framework innovations
Guest Editor
Dr. Thomas Hoppe

Delft University of Technology
Website | E-Mail
Interests: governance; public policy; policy implementation; energy transition; low carbon policy; low carbon city; renewable energy supplying cooperative
Guest Editor
Dr. Séverine Saintier

University of Exeter
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Interests: energy justice, food-chain resilience, commercial agency contracts
Guest Editor
Dr. Victoria Daskalova

University of Twente
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Health markets, Energy markets, Food (retail) sector, Sustainability, Standard setting, Innovation and entrepreneurship

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Innovation in the European energy sector used to be characterized as mostly incremental and top-down. At the same time, it is an important sector that is also traditionally highly regulated. With the intensifying tempo of technology and governance innovation, catalyzed inter alia by the energy transition, and accompanied by new formats of innovation (disruptive and bottom-up), the question arises whether the existing regulatory framework sufficiently allows for such innovation and supports its further development.

Moreover, the traditional European energy system, in terms of its technical and commercial/market design, as well as the regulatory framework supporting it, is still organized according to the traditional value chain of energy production, transport, storage and distribution. This system has formed in the 20th century; however, the current European energy market is far from static. In recent years many developments have changed its structure. First, liberalization and drive towards integrated internal market pushed the dynamics of the energy market towards a pan-European, harmonized and coordinated model. Secondly, against the backdrop of technological innovation, intensifying security of supply and climate change concerns triggered the emergence of renewable energy sources (RES) in the energy mix of the Member States. RES are usually produced in a more decentralized manner compared to traditional fossil energy sources. Combined with an increased level of energy-related awareness of the population, as well as technological progress and respective increasing affordability of technology, this creates a bottom-up pull in the energy market towards distributed and smaller-scale energy production. Thereby, the European energy market is experiencing a number of conflicting forces: First, on the vertical axis, there is a multi-level governance issue, and namely push towards more centralization on European level, and at the same time pull towards more decentralization on national level. Second, on the horizontal axis, there is a multi-actor governance issue, such as the governance of decentralized RES production by citizens, as well as market and government actors.

Whereas the central pull towards European harmonization has often been the locus of academic investigation, the latter, that of innovative decentralization of energy production on the national level and that of regulatory responses to it, has received relatively less attention. This Special Issue aims to contribute to filling this academic gap, especially from a law and policy perspective. Moreover, in this Special Issue we aim to focus both on the ‘traditional’ regulatory responses to innovation taking place in the energy sector, and on the more recent regulatory reactions to current innovations, such as for example local sustainable energy initiatives, etc.

This Special Issue will comprise papers that will be presented at the EUROPEAN CONSORTIUM FOR POLITICAL RESEARCH (ECPR) 6TH STANDING GROUP ON REGULATORY GOVERNANCE BIENNIAL CONFERENCE (6–8 July, 2016, Tilburg University, the Netherlands).

Prof. Dr. Michiel Heldeweg
Guest Editor

Prof. Dr. Ellen van Bueren
Ms. Anna Butenko
Dr. Thomas Hoppe
Dr. Séverine Saintier 
Dr. Victoria Daskalova
Co-Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • regulatory frameworks
  • law
  • innovation
  • governance
  • energy
  • public policy
  • renewable energy
  • energy markets

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Community Energy Companies in the UK: A Potential Model for Sustainable Development in “Local” Energy?
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1325; doi:10.3390/su9081325
Received: 30 April 2017 / Revised: 20 July 2017 / Accepted: 25 July 2017 / Published: 29 July 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (249 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The rise of renewable energy sources (RES) comes with a shift in attention from government and market energy governance to local community initiatives and self-regulation. Although this shift is generally welcome at domestic and EU level, the regulatory dimension, at both levels, is
[...] Read more.
The rise of renewable energy sources (RES) comes with a shift in attention from government and market energy governance to local community initiatives and self-regulation. Although this shift is generally welcome at domestic and EU level, the regulatory dimension, at both levels, is nevertheless not adapted to this multi-actor market since prosumers are not empowered and energy justice is far from achieved. The rise, in the UK, of Community Interest Companies (consumers and local actors’ collectives) in the energy sector provides an interesting perspective as it allows a whole system’s view. Research was conducted with six energy community organizations in the South West of England in order to evaluate their role and identity and assess whether this exemplar of “the rise of a social sphere in regulation” could be used as a model for a more sustainable social approach to the governance of economic relations. Findings illustrate that such organizations undoubtedly play an important role in the renewable energy sector and they also help to alleviate some aspects of “energy injustice”. Yet, the failure to recognize, in terms of energy policy, at domestic and EU level, the importance of such actors undermines their role. The need to embed and support such organizations in policy is necessary if one is to succeed to put justice at the core of the changing energy landscape. Full article
Open AccessArticle Normative Alignment, Institutional Resilience and Shifts in Legal Governance of the Energy Transition
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1273; doi:10.3390/su9071273
Received: 30 April 2017 / Revised: 25 June 2017 / Accepted: 12 July 2017 / Published: 20 July 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2354 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
In Europe, the energy transition by means of a governance shift through liberalization is followed by a transition and shift towards community energy initiatives, with a particular view of supporting the demand for greater energy sustainability. What institutional legal consequences, as constraints and
[...] Read more.
In Europe, the energy transition by means of a governance shift through liberalization is followed by a transition and shift towards community energy initiatives, with a particular view of supporting the demand for greater energy sustainability. What institutional legal consequences, as constraints and opportunities for lawful behaviour, follow from a shift in legal governance towards facilitating resilient community energy services? This conceptual article looks for an answer to this question by combining governance theory with Ostrom’s IAD-framework and Institutional Legal Theory. A key aspect is understanding normative alignment (as institutional conduciveness and resilience) in relation to the possible shift from the current institutional environment of regulated energy market to that of a community energy network. The heuristic and analytical (design) relevance of the approach is illustrated with two policy examples contrasting the energy democratization and energy expansion frames, and discussed also in the perspective of energy governance experimentation with community energy initiatives in The Netherlands. Three scenarios of shifts in legal governance are identified. The key issue in legal governance design is the choice between these, particularly with respect to the integrity of institutional environments in terms of former frames to provide proper guidance to operational (experimental) activity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Pioneering Renewable Energy in an Economic Energy Policy System: The History and Development of Dutch Grassroots Initiatives
Sustainability 2017, 9(4), 550; doi:10.3390/su9040550
Received: 5 January 2017 / Revised: 15 March 2017 / Accepted: 30 March 2017 / Published: 5 April 2017
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (1292 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The first grassroots initiatives for renewable energy in The Netherlands were a small number of wind cooperatives that developed in the 1980s and 1990s. After a few years without developments, new initiatives started emerging after 2000, and after 2009 the movement boomed, growing
[...] Read more.
The first grassroots initiatives for renewable energy in The Netherlands were a small number of wind cooperatives that developed in the 1980s and 1990s. After a few years without developments, new initiatives started emerging after 2000, and after 2009 the movement boomed, growing from around 40 to over 360 initiatives. These initiatives form an active, large and diverse movement that uses various motivations, technologies and connections, which have changed over time. This article uses a mixed methodology, aiming to map the development of these different “waves of initiatives” and relate them to the way in which the initiatives fit with their institutional environment. Institutional changes—such as the liberalization of the energy market, changing energy policies and discourses and a policy field that became increasingly multi-actor and multi-level—have influenced the presence and activities of grassroots initiatives. The article concludes that the growth and increasing visibility of the movement can be attributed to a large institutional fit at the decentral level, but that the low priority for grassroots initiatives and the economic rationale of the national government have hindered the political influence and installed capacity of renewable energy production facilities of the initiatives. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Seeing the People’s Republic of China through the Eyes of Montesquieu: Why Sino-European Collaboration on Eco City Development Suffers from European Misinterpretations of “Good Governance”
Sustainability 2017, 9(2), 151; doi:10.3390/su9020151
Received: 1 November 2016 / Revised: 20 December 2016 / Accepted: 6 January 2017 / Published: 7 February 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (592 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
China faces a number of impressive challenges in dealing with climate change: rising energy use, growing emission levels of greenhouse gases, dangerous levels of air pollution over cities and low resilience against flood and drought. Sustainable urbanization has been adopted as a keyword
[...] Read more.
China faces a number of impressive challenges in dealing with climate change: rising energy use, growing emission levels of greenhouse gases, dangerous levels of air pollution over cities and low resilience against flood and drought. Sustainable urbanization has been adopted as a keyword in handling these challenges. The Chinese central government has undertaken a variety of measures, including the launch of large Sino-European programs to learn from ‘developed nations’. In the wake of these partnerships, a great variety of cross-national and cross-city agreements were signed. Sino-European cooperation does not often run as smoothly as initially hoped because of diverging interests, cultural misunderstandings and practical limitations. In the background, a mismatch in normative conceptions Chinese and European participants have of ‘good governance’ plays a role. In this contribution, insights taken from Montesquieu’s ‘The Spirit of Laws’ regarding checks and balances and trias politica (updated to ‘sextas politica’ for the 21st century) are used to comprehend how the exertion of power is distributed and expected to be distributed differently in Chinese than in European administrative traditions. The article will end with conclusions on how European misconceptions of Chinese governance complicate Sino-European collaboration in sustainable urbanization policies. Full article
Open AccessArticle Experimenting with Law and Governance for Decentralized Electricity Systems: Adjusting Regulation to Reality?
Sustainability 2017, 9(2), 212; doi:10.3390/su9020212
Received: 20 December 2016 / Revised: 20 January 2017 / Accepted: 1 February 2017 / Published: 5 February 2017
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (217 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Moving towards a low-carbon society calls not only for technological innovation, but also for new modes of governance. However, the current legal framework of the electricity sector, and the modes of governance that it establishes, impede innovation in the sector. To overcome this
[...] Read more.
Moving towards a low-carbon society calls not only for technological innovation, but also for new modes of governance. However, the current legal framework of the electricity sector, and the modes of governance that it establishes, impede innovation in the sector. To overcome this obstacle, in 2015 the Dutch government adopted a Crown decree for experiments with decentralized renewable electricity generation (Experimentation Decree) with the aim to generate insights on how to adjust the legal framework. The question remains whether regulation is being adopted to real-life settings, i.e., which lessons can be learned from experimentally acquired results regarding new modes of governance for decentralized electricity systems? To answer this question we apply an interdisciplinary approach: we investigate which modes of governance are established in the Experimentation Decree (legal research) and which ones are implemented in nine projects (governance research). Under the Decree, associations have to carry out all tasks in the electricity supply chain and can engage in collective generation, peer-to-peer supply and system operation. Other modes of governance, new actors for emerging activities and consumer involvement are limited. We conclude that the Experimentation Decree is too restricted regarding new modes of governance for a decentralized electricity system in real-life settings. Full article
Open AccessArticle Facilitation as a Governance Strategy: Unravelling Governments’ Facilitation Frames
Sustainability 2017, 9(1), 160; doi:10.3390/su9010160
Received: 28 October 2016 / Revised: 19 December 2016 / Accepted: 14 January 2017 / Published: 22 January 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (233 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Governments increasingly choose facilitation as a strategy to entice others to produce public goods and services, including in relation to the realisation of sustainable energy innovations. An important instrument to implement this governance strategy is discursive framing. To learn how public authorities use
[...] Read more.
Governments increasingly choose facilitation as a strategy to entice others to produce public goods and services, including in relation to the realisation of sustainable energy innovations. An important instrument to implement this governance strategy is discursive framing. To learn how public authorities use discursive framing to implement a facilitation strategy, we conducted a comparative case study on two Dutch examples in which the government aims to facilitate non-governmental actors to exploit public waterworks for the production of renewable energy. Using content analysis, we identify ten ‘facilitation frame’ elements. We find two configurations of elements: restrained facilitation and invitational facilitation, which both have their advantages, ambivalences and drawbacks. It is often unclear what governments want to achieve and what they have to offer in terms of facilitation. The (discursively) offered support, ranging from ‘giving space’ to ‘creating beneficial conditions’, is often elusive. We conclude that, to avoid deadlock, false expectations and the inactiveness of external actors, the government’s communication should both enthuse and inform these actors about what they can expect. If, however, the potential, non-governmental initiators just lack the necessary capacity to act, there is only so much discursive framing can do. Then authorities should reconsider their ‘facilitative’ role. Full article
Open AccessArticle Modes of Governing and Policy of Local and Regional Governments Supporting Local Low-Carbon Energy Initiatives; Exploring the Cases of the Dutch Regions of Overijssel and Fryslân
Sustainability 2017, 9(1), 75; doi:10.3390/su9010075
Received: 22 August 2016 / Revised: 21 December 2016 / Accepted: 23 December 2016 / Published: 7 January 2017
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (2952 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Recent scholarly attention shows increasing involvement of local low-carbon energy initiatives (LLCEIs) in governance and policy, in particular in relation to innovations regarding low-carbon energy and energy efficiency. The future perspective of active citizenship in the production of locally generated low-carbon energy is
[...] Read more.
Recent scholarly attention shows increasing involvement of local low-carbon energy initiatives (LLCEIs) in governance and policy, in particular in relation to innovations regarding low-carbon energy and energy efficiency. The future perspective of active citizenship in the production of locally generated low-carbon energy is largely dependent on the existing institutional and policy frameworks and settings. Subnational governments, in particular, can have a prominent role in this process by engaging in institutional adaptation and policy innovation. The central research question of this paper is: In what ways do local and regional governments innovate in governing to respond to the emergence of LLCEIs? The research question is answered by comparing two case studies: the Dutch regions of Overijssel and Fryslân. We have conceptualized a meta-governing approach of experimentation, characterizing the innovations in governing that emerge when governments respond to the emergence of LLCEIs. We specifically focus on two capacities that subnational governments can use to enhance their governing capacity vis-à-vis LLCEIs and which substantiate the experimental meta-governance mode: institutional adaptation and policy innovation. We then formulated hypotheses that specify the expected policy innovations and institutional adaptations employed vis-à-vis LLCEIs. Data collection involved in-depth interviews and use of secondary data. The results show that a balancing process of authoritative and enabling modes of governing particularly characterized the type of policy innovations that were developed and the institutional adaptations that took place. Both provinces govern LLCEIs at arm’s length and issue significant capacity-building strategies that vary in terms of their conditions. Municipalities, however, incline towards impromptu and opportunistic responses, some of them having lasting effects by patching up existing institutional settings, others having more of an episodic character. The results will further the understanding of subnational low-carbon policy and governance innovation processes vis-à-vis the role of LLCEIs. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Cheat Electricity? The Political Economy of Green Electricity Delivery on the Dutch Market for Households and Small Business
Sustainability 2017, 9(1), 16; doi:10.3390/su9010016
Received: 14 October 2016 / Revised: 5 December 2016 / Accepted: 19 December 2016 / Published: 23 December 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1222 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The European Commission’s renewable energy directive introduced a market-based Guarantees of Origin (GO)-trade system that gives consumers the choice of buying “real” green energy. This has been successful, as the market share of Dutch households that buy green energy grew to 64% in
[...] Read more.
The European Commission’s renewable energy directive introduced a market-based Guarantees of Origin (GO)-trade system that gives consumers the choice of buying “real” green energy. This has been successful, as the market share of Dutch households that buy green energy grew to 64% in 2015. However, societal organizations are dissatisfied with the green energy offered, categorizing it as “cheat” electricity. This article aims to solve this riddle of a successful product created under the GO-trade system but also heavily criticized. Research reveals a lively marketplace with buyers eager to buy green energy and energy producers offering a wide range of labels. Marketplace mechanisms are strongly influenced by political choices, and financial support for energy suppliers makes green energy a credible option. Societal groups, however, argue that the information provided is incomplete and misleading, that buying green energy does not impact positively on greenhouse gas reduction, and that better information and structural reform are required. The GO-trade system is strongly influenced by member states’ national energy politics. Societal organizations have helped to optimize the implementation of the GO-trade system in the Netherlands, but they are not expected to be able to support the creation of a level playing field in which an optimal GO-trade system will flourish. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Towards the Comprehensive Design of Energy Infrastructures
Sustainability 2016, 8(12), 1291; doi:10.3390/su8121291
Received: 26 September 2016 / Revised: 1 November 2016 / Accepted: 13 November 2016 / Published: 9 December 2016
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (1452 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Energy infrastructures are increasingly perceived as complex, adaptive socio-technical systems. Their design has not kept up; it is still fragmented between an engineering and economic dimension. While economists focus on a market design that addresses potential market failures and imperfections, opportunistic behavior, and
[...] Read more.
Energy infrastructures are increasingly perceived as complex, adaptive socio-technical systems. Their design has not kept up; it is still fragmented between an engineering and economic dimension. While economists focus on a market design that addresses potential market failures and imperfections, opportunistic behavior, and social objectives, engineers pay attention to infrastructure assets, a robust network topology, and control system design to handle flows and eventualities. These two logics may be complementary, but may also be at odds. Moreover, it is generally unclear what design choices in one dimension imply for the other. As such, we are ill-equipped to identify, interpret, and address the challenges stemming from technical innovations, e.g., the integration of renewable energy technologies, and institutional changes, e.g., liberalization or new forms of organization like cooperatives, which often have interrelated operational and market implications. In response, this paper proposes a more comprehensive design framework that bridges the engineering and economic perspectives on energy infrastructure design. To this end, it elaborates the different design perspectives and develops the means to relate design variables of both perspectives along several layers of abstraction: the form of infrastructure access of actors, the division of responsibilities among actors, and type of coordination between actors. The intention is that this way system and market design efforts can be better attuned to each other and we further our understanding and conceptualization of the interrelationship between the techno-operational and economic-institutional dimensions of energy infrastructures. The framework also aids in overseeing the broader institutional implications of technical developments (and vice versa) and stimulates awareness of lock-ins and path-dependencies in this regard. Full article
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