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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds An important issue is, of course the planning and governance of such a transition. And to actually help you with understanding that, I want to give you a very short introduction of what it is– planning and governance– and how they relate to the idea of an energy transition. Let’s start with planning. Planning comes from the word planum, which is Latin for flat surface. This is also a reference to the idea that planning has to do with making plans– spatial plans– and, therefore, has to do with spatial design. But planning is a bit more than that. It also involves institutional design. We’re not just making plans with regards to how we might want to change the landscape– urban or rural.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds We also make plans with regards to how we want to change things, institutions, and, for example the law, the regulations, et cetera. And that also brings us to another word– the word governance. Governance basically refers to the idea of steering. Governance also comes from the word in French that also refers to exactly that– steering. But governance is more than that. It is also used in contrast to the word government. Government has to do with the state basically being the most important institution that is steering our society. But nowadays, we start to understand that it’s not just a state that is steering society. There are also many others involved in the steering process.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 seconds And governance is the word used to explain that. But who is involved? On the one hand, we see that there has been a shift towards market parties that have gained an important stake in the process of steering. Big multinationals, other companies, and even all kinds of market processes where, we, as individuals, are the consumers in a big market. This is what we basically call the neoliberal turn in the idea of who plans, with the idea that through processes of competition, there is also a way to steer society. On the other hand, there is a shift that is referred to as the communicative turn, where we say, well, it’s not just a state. It is also the people, citizens.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds Civil society that is involved in the process of steering. They can be NGOs. They can be individual citizen groups that all have their own stake, and also participate in the process of steering. These things also all matter with regards to the energy transition. Let us start with the changes with regards to market-based instruments. There are many subsidies and fines that are important in trying to govern, also, energy– subsidies on certain fuels, for example, or fines on using others. There might be things like carbon exchange systems. There might also be feed-in tariffs, where it is possible to actually get a good price for your renewables, maybe a better price than what the market could offer.

Skip to 2 minutes and 53 seconds Essentially, what then happens is that you try to subsidise the things you want and try to fine the things you don’t. Be aware, however, that currently, also, fossil fuels are still subsidised quite heavily. It is a very difficult system to fully understand. But what we are seeing in the past decades is that the shift towards renewables is also visible here. They are getting more support than what they used to. It is a way of actually stimulating them. But there’s also another way, which relates more to the communicative instruments, where you can, for example, have informational campaigns, use ecolabels to actually tell people, hey, wait a second, this is green, this is less green, so that you can influence behaviour.

Skip to 3 minutes and 34 seconds And sometimes you might even make agreements with big groups– NGOs, for example– to also make changes with regards to the energy system. They are important shift that take place. But also in important shifts, of course, they relate to the state itself, because the state remains important. Without regulation, subsidies become difficult. Without regulations, ecolabels become difficult. The shadow of the law remains. But the state is also important to set boundaries, to give direction, to sometimes be the first mover. So the state still plays a fundamental role. It has become a mix of these different things.

Skip to 4 minutes and 9 seconds And if we then look at the questions that emerge, because to what degree should the state actually control the whole process of implementing or pursuing an energy transition? To what degree should the state basically leave it to the market and to people? And to what degree might a state also just be one of those parties that facilitates and support an energy transition where, indeed, market-based instruments, where, indeed, citizens, but also the role of the state, will matter?

Skip to 4 minutes and 35 seconds What we know from transition management is, at least, that if we want to have innovation from the bottom up that might actually be innovations so important, so relevant, and so efficient, that they can change the system, it would be helpful that the state also is involved with that by supporting them, allowing them, and making room for them.

Planning & governance

In this video, Christian discusses the more general idea of governing. He does so by explaining that governing a shift towards a more sustainable energy system cannot rely on traditional forms of top-down and command-and-control policies but needs the involvement of many societal actors.

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This video is from the free online course:

Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition

University of Groningen