Public Attitudes, Co-production and Polycentric Governance in Energy Policy

May 10, 2021
Download this guide to learn more about the climate and energy policies for 2020–2030 for the European Union.

The climate and energy policies for 2020–2030 for the European Union (EU) require decarbonization of the energy sector, including energy generation, transportation, and the industry as a whole (COM, 2013). The energy and climate security policies framework supports EU member states in achieving such energy policy targets as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80–95% below the 1990-year level by 2050; reducing the EU’s dependence on energy imports, especially fossil
fuels; and replacing and upgrading the energy infrastructure (COM, 2014). The Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change requires limiting global warming to 2 ◦C above preindustrial levels. It also recognizes that further reducing global warming to 1.5 ◦C will reduce the risks and impacts of climate change (Bodansky, 2015). According to the Paris Agreement, each country should develop a national plan for mitigating climate change, establish nationally determined contributions, and regularly report on the implementation of the plan. Nationally determined contributions are the defining targets of every country acting to mitigate climate change. The climate security policies foresee a global reduction in carbon emissions by 45% compared to the year 2010 and a complete decarbonization of electricity generation by 2050.

The decarbonization of energy generation can be achieved with various technologies and measures such as the use of renewable energy sources (RES) and greater energy efficiency (Directive [EU] 2018/2001; Patt, 2015). Achieving a certain degree of or full decarbonization of energy and electricity generation will transform systems from centrally planned systems with energy generation and demand centers located close to each other and with fossil fuels as baseload technologies to more diversified energy generation systems (Reusswig et al., 2018; Sovacool and Dworkin, 2015). Various energy producers will enter the market, and consumers will become prosumers. Various forms of energy generation, as well as digital and smart technologies, will arise, and there will be a need to manage peaks of supply and demand while also considering the volatile nature of energy generated from RES. This will lead to the creation of distributed energy systems and social innovations around the generation, transmission, and distribution of energy (Komendantova and Neumueller, 2020).

The targets of climate and energy security policies are determined at the national level. Furthermore, they are put into effect at regional and local levels, leading to various patterns of social acceptance of innovations connected with their implementation. Social acceptance of innovation mainly takes place at the market and community levels, and conditions to support this innovation are shaped by sociopolitical acceptance (Wü;stenhagen et al., 2007). As the generation of energy becomes less centralized, the communities in which such infrastructure is constructed and the laypeople who live in them and use these technologies are gaining greater influence (Komendantova et al., 2018). The emergence of distributed energy systems might lead to polycentricity in governance and a need to reframe the discourse on social acceptance from a focus on technologies to a focus on the acceptance of social innovations and new forms of governance, including co-production in the generation and management of energy.