Book Chapter: Energy Governance in the United Kingdom

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Book Chapter: Energy Governance in the United Kingdom

Energy Governance in the United Kingdom

Lockwood M., Mitchell C., Hoggett R. (2019) In: Knodt M., Kemmerzell J. (eds) Handbook of Energy Governance in Europe. Springer, Cham


The UK’s energy transition path has been shaped by a legacy of fossil fuel use across electricity generation, transport and heat, but also by the institutions and ideas that make up the governance of energy. Some important elements, such as a market-led policy paradigm and the delegation of regulation to arm’s-length bodies, are the result of privatization in the 1980s. Others, such as a heavily centralized, supply-led power sector and a resilient nuclear lobby, are continuities from an earlier period. This governance system, strongly concentrated within central government, was challenged in a major way in the 2000s by a wave of concern about climate change. This driver has meant that the UK energy transition has been primarily about emissions reduction, rather than specific technologies such as renewable energy, whose expansion in the UK has largely been the result of European-level policy. With a preference for incentive-based and internalizing instruments over direct regulation arising from the market-led paradigm, the UK has managed to bring about a major decline in power sector emissions and some increase in renewable energy, especially in electricity generation, while at the same time trying to support a program of new nuclear build. However, as the country now enters the next phase of transition, involving integration of intermittent renewables into electricity sector systems and institutions, and of transport and heat into electricity, the coherence of policy, clarity of direction, and coordination of regulatory change are all open to question.

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