The EU and Global Sustainable Futures I: Renewable Energy Governance
This is the first of three panels proposed to discuss the role of the European Union in the transition towards low carbon economies and more sustainable futures. This particular panel will focus on the ups and downs of the transition towards wider use of renewable energies across the EU and beyond. It includes researchers at different stages of their career and it covers perspectives from cross-disciplinary approaches (Geography, Politics, Public Policy, etc.). Each paper will contribute to the debate on different relevant aspects of the governance of renewable energies within the EU. The purpose is to address how the governance approaches have evolved over time, and try to suggest ways forward: The first paper (Catuti) will look at the role of the regulatory instruments, while the second one (Schoenefeld and Knodt) will look at the role of institutions (EU Commission and Parliament). The third paper (Fitch-Roy, Fairbrass and Woodman) will then look into the specific support instruments for renewables (from feed-in-tariffs to auctions). The panel will end up with a fourth paper (Göler and Kurze) analysing the role of the so called ‘normative power’ of the EU to influence Energy Community countries into adopting more favourable approaches to renewables and sustainable development, i.e., covering the external dimension of energy policy governance.
Presentations of the Symposium
EU Renewable Energy Leadership in the New Intergovernmentalism Era: The Governance of the Energy Union
The highly ambitious Energy Union project has been deemed the most significant proposal to reform European energy governance, policy and regional cooperation. Its stated purpose is to create a more secure, sustainable and competitive energy sector in the EU. Through this project, the EU would not only eventually develop a genuine common energy policy, but it would also solidify its leading role in the global efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, especially through the promotion of renewable energy sources. While on the surface the Energy Union benefits from EU-wide support, this highly ambitious project must simultaneously meet its goals and be sensitive to the heterogeneity of national energy sectors and the general preference of member states to maintain substantial autonomy over decision-making in their energy sectors. This became obvious during the negotiations and passage of the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package. Therefore, this paper analyses two of the main legislative acts of this package, the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and the Recast Directive on the Promotion of Renewable Energy, in order to show how the logic of the new intergovernmentalism theory of European integration (Bickerton et al., 2015) can explain both the negotiation process and the institutional outcomes of these legislative acts. The paper further assess whether the new governance framework of the Energy Union, especially when it comes to renewable energy, can solidify the EU in its global quest for promoting renewable energy and whether it can provide a successful example for intergovernmental cooperation on energy and climate change matters.
Governing Renewables in the EU: Softening the Surface, but Hardening the Core?
Energy governance in the European Union is characterized by severely limited EU-level shared competencies and no competences in respect to the national policy mix (Art. 194 1 & 2 TFEU). As a result, the EU is now turning to ‘softer’ governance approaches in order to enable steering in this difficult policy area when agreement on specific national targets is out of reach. This paper focuses on the development of renewables policy, where we are observing on the one hand a softening or de-legalization of existing approaches, but on the other hand an introduction of ‘harder elements’ which allow potentially deeper influence over the national energy mixes (see Ringel & Knodt, 2018). This paper analyses when, how and why ‘harder’ elements are being added to renewables governance in the EU. It identifies the emergence of many ‘harder’ elements in the rules for implementation that will accompany softer policy surveillance mechanisms through national plans, including a new ‘formula’ to calculate national contributions. This has mainly been done in the late stages of negotiating the implementation of the Energy Union and through the more obscure specific details of implementation. One of the key drivers of this development has been the European Commission, which seeks to more actively shape policy by strengthening its hand through hardening the implementation of law that appears soft at the surface, but the Parliament has also played a key role. We are thus observing an increasing hybridization of energy policy with a view to the soft/hard law.
European Renewable Energy Governance under the Hammer: Interrogating the Rise and Rise of the RES Auction
As a renewable energy pioneer, the EU is a laboratory for policy instrument evolution and innovation. Following many years of debate about the relative merit of feed-in tariffs and tradable green certificates for promoting renewable electricity expansion in Europe, there is a new instrument in town. The renewable energy support (RES) auction has rapidly become the instrument of choice, de facto mandated by the European Commission under state-aid law. RES auctions are now the main instrument in many European countries and their profusion continues apace as countries in the Energy Community and beyond follow the EU example. Superficially, this growth reflects changes in technology costs and shifts in the politics of renewable energy investment. However, underlying the rapidity of uptake, a more complex and significant set of issues play out, including a more assertive stance towards renewable energy finance in EU state-aid law and the role of self-propagating and expansive expert ‘instrument constituencies’ (Fitch-roy, Benson, and Woodman 2019). This paper updates readers on the status of RES auctions, drawing on research conducted as part of the ongoing AURES project. A case is made that the economic characteristics of the auction mean that is by no means a direct replacement for the feed-in tariff and instead marks a profound shift in EU renewable energy governance. Finally, we examine the significance of the auction as a RES instrument for Europe’s long-term energy objectives, a particularly salient point given the questionable performance of auctions in enabling participation and diversity in the energy system (Grashof 2019).
Promoting Sustainability by Facilitating Spill-over: The Export of EU Renewable Energy Norms to Southeast Europe
Promoting sustainable development internally and externally is a defining feature of the EU as a “normative power”. In this vain, the EU has become a leader in environmental and climate politics over the past decades. Less noticed are however more recent attempts to become a leader in the global clean energy transition. The emerging green dimension of the EU’s external energy relations are hardly investigated so far. Moreover, most of the existing literature focuses on the export of norms, rules and policies as well as the modes of governance used in this endeavor. However, in the case of EU external energy relations we can identify a unique governance approach, which we have described as “polity-shaping” (Göler/Kurze 2009). Accordingly, the EU has created a new international organization – the Energy Community – to export not just specific energy norms and rules, but also its institutional design. We argue that this comprehensive and highly-institutionalised approach has triggered spillover dynamics similar to those shaping European integration over the past decades. Against thisbackdrop, our research questions are: Do we observe a process similar to European integration in the Energy Community (i.e. from internal market-building to environment and renewable energy norms)? May spill-overs facilitate a clean energy transition? Overall, the paper assesses the potential of exporting the logics of integration to promote sustainable development beyond EU borders.