Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Groningen's online course, Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds My name is Martha Roggenkamp. I’m a Professor of Energy Law at the University of Groningen and the director of the Groningen Centre of Energy Law. The previous lectures have shown that the process of energy transition is influenced by technical elements. However, energy transition also depends on the extent to which law facilitates this process. This lecture series will therefore address the role of law. The first question is, what its law? Around the world, there are many different interpretations and definitions of the concept of law. The concept of law is closely linked to the notion of state sovereignty. As part of its sovereignty, a state can exercise lawmaking and law enforcing powers on its territory.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds Law is in short a set of rules, enforceable by the courts, regulating the government of a state, the relationship between the organs of government and the subjects of the state, and the relationship or conduct of subjects towards each other. This definition shows that a legal system involves a competent authority providing a set of rules, which are commonly acceptable and enforceable. It requires the involvement of lawmakers and law enforcers acting independently. This in order to create a system of checks and balances. The primary lawmaking body of a state is usually the government together with Parliament. The powers to make law can be delegated to lower governments, like provinces and municipalities.

Skip to 1 minute and 54 seconds Most legal systems distinguish between public law, private law, and international law. Whereas public law governs relationships between individuals and government, private law deals with relationships between individuals, such as the law of contracts or torts. International law involves the relations between states and/or the involvement of international organisations. It is also referred to as the law of nations. Most legal systems rank international law above national law. How does the law affect the process of energy transition? Is there something to be called energy law? Adrian Bradbrook defines the concept of energy law as the allocation of rights and duties concerning the exploitation of all energy resources between individuals, between individuals and the government, between governments, and between states.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds We will now consider in more detail the scope and meaning of some of the components of this definition. What kind of resources do we consider? And what does exploitation refer to? First we need to distinguish between primary and secondary energy resources. Primary energy sources include finite and non- finite resources. Finite resources are, for example, oil, natural gas, and coal, and often also referred to as fossil fuels. The non-finite resources are, amongst others, solar, wind, wave, waste, and hydropower. They are generally referred to as renewable energy sources. The most important and well known secondary energy source is electricity. Producing electricity always requires the use of one of the above primary sources.

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 seconds Although strictly speaking not an energy resource, energy conservation can be seen as an indirect energy source. Less energy consumption enables society to use fossil fuels for a longer period of time. Another important aspect is the exploitation of these resources. Each energy resource may require a separate means of exploitation. This may, again, involve a different legal regime. The exploitation of subsoil oil, gas, and coal all require the use is made of the deep subsoil. The law must thus regulate ownership rights. Is the owner of the land also the owner of the subsoil resource? Or can the ownership of the subsoil resources be divided from the land? Such ownership issues do not apply to wind and solar energy.

Skip to 4 minutes and 45 seconds But these energy sources do depend on access rights, which means there is a role for planning law. This has been discussed earlier. Moreover, the exploitation and use of energy resources can have cross- border implications. Oil or gas are often imported, but oil and gas fuels can also straddle national borders. This requires an involvement of international law. This shows that energy law is very broad and covers all activities from production to consumption. A specific feature of energy law is that its development is closely linked to the development of the techniques necessary for the exploitation. The first energy sources, like wood, were easily accessible and did not require special legislation.

Skip to 5 minutes and 33 seconds However, the exploitation of the deep subsoil has led to the introduction of special mining laws. The development of the network- bound electricity and gas sectors also shows how technique influences lawmaking. Whereas, originally, these resources could be transported over smaller distances only, the techniques to well pipelines and to transform power enabled long distance transportation and thus lawmaking by regional and national governments. Technical and political developments require a constant adaptation of the law in order to meet society’s needs. Currently, the role of international law is increasing. The same applies in Europe for the role of European law. This will be discussed in the following lecture.

Introduction to energy law

This video presents a brief introduction to the role of law in energy transition. Martha Roggenkamp, professor of Energy Law at the University of Groningen, explains what energy law entails and how it may affect the process of energy transition.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition

University of Groningen