Accountabilities in energy governance

Any increased authority on the part of sustainable energy leaders must be accompanied by greater accountability and legitimacy. Historically, energy governance has tended to be highly technocratic. Specialist partnerships and policy networks dominate decisions. The governance literature notes that as the number of actors and complexities involved increases, lines of accountability become both more baroque and less clear-cut. 'Fragmentation erodes accountability because sheer institutional complexity obscures who is accountable to whom and for what' (Rhodes, 1997, p. 101). While policymaking moves, conventional democratic oversight stays still (Olsson, 2003).

Elected representatives are not central to many sustainable energy discussions and activities. Accountability, where it exists, tends to refer indirectly to formal ministerial responsibility for administrative units. For example, Regional Development Agencies in England make decisions on energy-intense regeneration activities, such as providing commercial office space or aviation infrastructure. Their accountability rests in the fact that their boards are appointed by the secretary of state for Trade and Industry, rather than in directly representing regional citizens (Wilson, 2003). Inclusion of locally, regionally, and nationally elected representatives in sustainable energy governance may not be adequate under current arrangements, and may need complementing more directly and imaginatively with new forms of accountability and legitimacy (Humphrey and Shaw, 2004; Bache and Flinders, 2004), such as more direct civic ways of holding key energy actors to account through consumer boycotts, shareholder lobbying, or liability claims through the courts.

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