A sustainable energy governance example coordinating renewable energy expansion

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Governance complexities soon become apparent even if we simplify to a supply-side example like renewable energy. Widespread renewable energy systems pose a considerable policy challenge. The policy 'object' - viable renewable energy systems - brings with it many coordination challenges. There are various renewable energy technologies to choose from (wind, solar, biomass, marine, and others), each of which can be configured at various scales in different ways, and each of which is already developed to various degrees. The innovation and deployment of renewable energy technologies involves a mix of established energy utilities and new business models and firms. Renewable energy projects like wind farms can involve large and protracted planning processes. Other projects involve smaller planning applications, but these can prove just as protracted and debilitating for the applicant (such as those for solar water heating panels in UK conservation areas). Both make demands upon the existing institutional structures and routines of planning authorities in regional and local government, few of whom are renewable energy enthusiasts.

Furthermore, manufacturing, installing, and maintaining renewable energy systems involves a mix of new skills sets (such as solar architecture) and established skills reoriented to new practices (plumbing, for example). Some renewable energy systems, such as wind farms, can plug into and operate over modified versions of existing energy infrastructures. Others need new infrastructures and management systems, for example the chains of supply, processing, and delivery of material for biomass-fuelled heating. Markets for renewable energy may need to be more differentiated and tailored than conventional mass fuel markets, which will require alterations to fiscal and regulatory regimes. And, of course, such market creation has to be not just viable but compellingly attractive for firms and customers to switch from their existing arrangements. This means policy support to ensure favourable returns on investment, and equally convenient energy services compared to those with which we are familiar. It also means assuring users that the new renewable energy technologies and practices are reliable and have good maintenance and support systems in place. As such, policies to accelerate renewable energy deployment need to address and help coordinate a host of institutional, market, spatial, and technological processes.

Clearly, sustainable energy systems, whatever shapes they take, pose a complex challenge, and their construction is far from straightforward. It is consequently difficult to create them exclusively through hierarchical government measures like planning. Nor are they likely to arise spontaneously through energy markets. Additional problem-solving capacity must be coordinated and steered outside government hierarchies and beyond markets. The UK government recognised some of this in its Energy White Paper in 2003. A section titled 'delivery through partnership' identifies the coordination efforts upon which energy policy is dependent as follows: 'We will need to work with others to achieve these goals. The products and services needed in future will depend on business enterprise and innovation. Local authorities and regional bodies are pivotal in delivering change in their communities. We will continue to work closely with the Devolved Administrations. We will continue to need a sound basis of academic research and information. Independent organisations and voluntary bodies can communicate messages to the public and help them to get involved in decision-making. And Government itself must change so energy policy is looked at as a whole.' (DTI, 2003c, p. 112).

It is noteworthy that the UK central government conceded that it also has to change in order to better contribute to sustainable energy governance. These private, public, and civil society 'partners' must negotiate the necessary processes of innovation, business development, community involvement, knowledge production, infrastructure provision, communication, education, regulation, market creation, confidence building, and all the other 'contextual factors' that contribute towards a sustainable energy transition. In short, energy governance has to coordinate between different visions of sustainable energy systems, steer the commitments of different actors away from the current energy system and towards investing in new, more sustainable energy services, and ensure adequate resources are devoted to these tasks (Smith et al., 2005). Governance arrangements must appraise options in new ways, form commitments towards diverse sustainable energy services, coordinate targeted interventions to realise these choices, and learn and adapt from the inevitable successes and failures that arise.

To sum up the argument so far, energy systems are influenced by decisions within complex, interpenetrating policy networks, while a diversity of policy initiatives are implemented through a plethora of public and private bodies, each with their own objectives, cultures, and histories. Energy governance in recent decades has attended to running the existing energy system more competitively and efficiently, which has included bringing in some new electricity generating technologies. It has not hitherto considered a complete transition to a new, sustainable energy system. Furthermore, decisions in key areas such as aviation, construction, transport, industrial policy, and economic development have, until recently, been made with little reference to their energy consequences. The availability of adequate energy tends to be presumed. Such presumptions are currently problematic because energy supply is not considered adequate (in terms of its environmental performance) and there are concerns about its availability (as consumed in current forms). Sustainable energy governance needs considerable stores of political, economic, and social capital to attend to these challenges.

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Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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