Towards a Theory of Local Energy Transition
2. Theoretical Background
- Endowments describe the regional context and include natural resources, geographical and population characteristics, climate conditions, land area, and historical legacy which create a foundation for prosperity. In Porter’s view, true competitiveness arises from productivity of the use of these endowments.
- Macroeconomic competitiveness includes sound monetary and fiscal policy, effective public institutions, and human and social development with a good education and health care system. It is important to underline that, following Porter, macroeconomic competitiveness provides the economy-wide context in which local competitiveness can emerge, but is not sufficient to ensure it.
- Microeconomic competitiveness ultimately depends on improving the microeconomic capability of the economy and the sophistication of local competition. The important determinants for local competitiveness are the quality of the business environment, the sophistication of company operations and strategy, and the state of cluster development.
3. Determinants of Local Energy Transition—The Three-Levels-Model of LET
3.1. Local Context
3.2. The Macro Framework
3.2.1. Sound Transition Policy
3.2.2. Effective Transmission Grid
- Deeper integration of European electricity markets, which allow for a better use of the complementarities that exist between the differing generation mixes across Europe and which contribute to generation adequacy by lowering the needs for operational security margins and reducing grid losses.
- A higher level of interconnection in combination with the increase in generation from renewables reduces the extent of power shutdowns.
- Increased security of supply across Europe.
- Strengthened regional cooperation between Member States.
- Cooperation on interconnectors, which offers opportunities for uptake of European technologies and thus strengthens employment and industrial competitiveness.
3.3. The Micro Framework
3.3.1. The Implementation of LET
- Planning phase: the examination of local renewable energy potential; analysis of potential local actor networks; sensitization and mobilization of local citizens; and the search for external knowledge sources.
- Pioneer phase: strong entrepreneurial activity and knowledge development, which can be supported by publicly available presentations of energy-benchmark and pilot-projects.
- Pivotal network phase: diffusion of knowledge and mobilization (sensitization) of resources within the community; building strategic networks—including external, more experienced actors—by establishing platforms of dialog and common routines with the aim to reach a high level of trust and close relationships between local individual actors.
- Extended network phase: key actors formulate their expectations and initiate the process; and the municipality supports local capacities by implementing and practicing participative elements in the early process of planning and decision making.
- Market formation: energy projects are realized, resources mobilized, and counteraction of local resistance takes place if necessary; long-term investments in critical infrastructures such as the electricity grid or hydrogen infrastructure are realized; and opportunities for local and external actors to cooperate on innovative projects emerge.
- Networking of local actors;
- Citizen participation;
- Expanding local distribution grids into smart grids and developing a long-term energy storage solution.
3.3.2. Networking of Local Actors
3.3.3. Citizen Participation
3.3.4. Enhancement of the Distribution Grid and Development of a Local Long-Term Energy Storage Solution
4. Application of the Three-Levels-Model of LET on Two Case Regions
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Stakeholders||Role of Actors|
|Municipality||The municipality can play an important role in the LET process as initiator, network manager, idea provider, exemplary model, and financial supporter. Municipalities should develop strategies with principles of good governance, such as negotiation, transparency, communication, trust, and cooperation between stakeholders . In most cases of LET, the municipality will take on at least some of these roles. Sometimes these roles can, however, also be taken by other actors, such as private individuals and companies. In this case, it is sufficient for the municipality to actively support the LET process by aligning its administrative planning procedures and its own communication, and by processing approval procedures quickly and as straightforwardly as possible.|
|Citizen’s associations||These associations serve as a platform for the citizens to discuss renewable energy projects. Through these associations, persuasive efforts are carried out. They are the link between the other actors and the citizens. Citizen’s associations can even take up an active leadership in the production of renewable energy . In two rural LOTUS case studies, we observed that the associations contribute to the organization of guided tours for interested groups and answer questions from the press and other organizations.|
|Private companies||The presence of private companies in the local network is an important indicator of the project’s potential for success. They will only be engaged if there is an opportunity to make profits. Companies also contribute the necessary technical and economic know-how to the network. Citizen-owned energy companies or cooperatives should be highlighted as important in order to involve citizens economically in the use of sustainable energy. These companies may invest in wind turbines or photovoltaic panels. Capital can be mobilized from private households.|
|Local energy manager||The tasks of the energy manager are the expansion of the local distribution grid and the development of a local long-term energy storage solution. In many municipalities there are already local distribution grid managers (e.g., public utility companies). These could also take on the task of building a local hydrogen economy (see also Section 3.3.4).|
|Farmers||Farmers are key actors especially in rural areas. They are the owners of the land where wind turbines and biogas plants are built. Furthermore, they have large roof areas which are used for photovoltaic systems. Many local farmers themselves invest in renewable energies. They become energy producers, not only for their own consumption but also as entrepreneurs.|
|Financing institutions||In many LOTUS cases renewable energy projects were co-financed through loans by a bank. At the very beginning of the LET process, such projects were still “uncharted territory” for the local banks. Since then, local banks have taken up the financing of such projects too.|
|Universities, research institutes||The heterogeneity of the places and the different local context make every LET process also a journey of discovery. Universities and research institutions are the ideal partners to assess such unique local situations and to generate innovations. They can, for example, help to build a smart distribution network that is tailored to local requirements  or analyze special local storage and production possibilities, such as the conversion of a World War II flack bunker into a heat storage facility .|
|LET manager||The LET manager initiates, coordinates, manages, and monitors projects in the LET process. If necessary, he also implements them. The position will usually be located in the municipality or in a local public company but can also be filled in smaller communities by civic engagement or a civic enterprise. The connectivity of a specific actor, working as ‘place leader’, helps to span boundaries between local stakeholders. This corresponds with studies on the role of leading individuals or place leaders in bridging scales, crossing rural–urban boundaries, and spatial networking . Because the LET manager needs to coordinate the external network of local actors and the internal network of local administration, the job description is similar to that of a cluster manager . Their tasks are also found in the relatively new professional profile of the climate protection manager in the local government in Germany .|
|Local context||Located on a mountain plateau.|
Rural, agriculture and tourism.
Low density of population.
Residents have long been sensitive to environmental protection, sustainability, and renewable energies.
|Proximity to coasts.|
Urban and industrialized.
High density of population.
Residents face social problems and integration.
|Macro framework||Energy policy in Germany is influenced by large popular resistance against nuclear power, at least since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. After the Fukushima core meltdown accident in 2011, the German government, supported by a large majority of the people, decided on a nuclear phase-out by 2022.|
The notion that a low-CO2 energy supply could soon be necessary and that renewables therefore would play a key role in future energy systems already emerged in the 1980s. The awareness of global warming continued to grow in the 1990s and was picked out as a central theme by the Green party in every election campaign. For the first time in German history, in 1998, the Greens, a party which focused on ecology became part of the federal government. The Act on Granting Priority to Renewable Energy (Renewable Energy Act, EEG), came into force in March 2000. The Renewable Energies Act made it a requirement for grid operators to feed all energy from such sources into the grid, even in the event of oversupply, and to pay for it according to fixed feed-in-tariffs. In case of doubt, conventional power plants must be shut down to compensate. Various shortcomings of the law, such as very high costs to taxpayers due to high feed-in tariffs and insufficient incentives for self-use of locally produced energy, have been remedied over time.
As a consequence, the German market price for electricity became one of the highest in Europe. This burden on German-based industry simultaneously makes investments in renewables more attractive.
The federal system of Germany allows municipalities to own the local distribution grids and to organize energy production locally.
|Citizen’s participation||The Freiamt LET initiative is a genuine bottom-up project organized by some citizens of the community. Participation of the people is guaranteed in the communication and decision making, as well as in the profits. The citizens founded several commonly owned energy companies which executed the construction of wind turbines and solar panels. The large civic engagement is certainly a reason why opposition to wind turbines is more or less inexistent. Furthermore, the common citizens’ will to promote energy transition in Freiamt overcomes obstacles created by state policy, e.g., in the form of excessive bureaucracy.||The Wilhelmsburg LET initiative is a top-down project, organized by the city-owned IBA. Civil society has been involved in several actions in different ways but plays a minor role. Citizens or civic movements do not take the initiative. They provide information and make suggestions in workshops but otherwise play a rather passive role.|
|Actors network||A citizen’s organization taking the role of a transition manager, farmers, private companies, the municipality, financing institutions, universities; the participants in the network share the same similar values which build trust among the stakeholders allowing common and intensive engagement in the LET process.||IBA Hamburg GmbH, which successfully takes the role of the transition manager, the city of Hamburg, municipal and private companies, and universities; The strong cooperation enables innovative projects, such as the reuse of a WWII flag bunker, which has been converted into an electricity and heat plant and storage. The facility supplies 3000 households with renewable heat and 1000 with renewable electricity .|
|Distribution grid/hydrogen economy||Since 2018, studies have been undertaken to make the grid smart, introduce storage and organize a higher degree of self-consumption. A hydrogen economy or other long-term storage solutions are inexistent.||The electricity distribution grid as well as the local district heating grid is owned and managed by Hamburg Energy, a public company of the city. It is the main energy producer in town. The company cooperates with research institutes to make the grid smart. A hydrogen economy or other long-term storage solutions are inexistent.|
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Drewello, H. Towards a Theory of Local Energy Transition. Sustainability 2022, 14, 11119. https://doi.org/10.3390/su141811119
Drewello H. Towards a Theory of Local Energy Transition. Sustainability. 2022; 14(18):11119. https://doi.org/10.3390/su141811119Chicago/Turabian Style
Drewello, Hansjörg. 2022. "Towards a Theory of Local Energy Transition" Sustainability 14, no. 18: 11119. https://doi.org/10.3390/su141811119