Details of Colloquia

Energy and climate governance


Dr. Thomas Hoppe (University of Twente; and dr. Ellen van Bueren (Technical University Delft;




Governments face an ‘energy trilemma’ following the confluence of economic, engineering and environmental constraints to energy production. Furthermore, reliable supply of energy is threatened, and as a consequence the price of (fossil fuel) energy is rising, and will continue to do so. In order to deal with these problems governments face the challenge to ‘green’ their energy economies. This concerns lowering greenhouse gas emissions (climate mitigation) and hence, limiting the use of ‘dirty’ generated energy from the fossil fuels. Currently, many alternative strategies are available: reduction of energy demand, the use of renewable energy sources, and using energy more efficiently. In operational terms many benefits can be achieved from increasing the installed capacity of renewable energy generation plants, better coordination of energy supply and demand (e.g., by implementing ‘smart grids’), use of ‘smart’ (ICT) technologies, using heat residuals from industrial processes to heat housing, or changing spatial schemes in order to allow the establishment of large renewable energy plants, or implementing large governmental programs to improve thermal insulation of privately owned dwellings.

Although these technologies, measures and practices offer many benefits many barriers exist that block adoption. Policy strategies aimed at greening energy economies are often incoherent (e.g., policy foci change year by year, lack visions and sectoral policies are only aligned to a low extent), there is a high degree of institutional complexity, and energy infrastructure does not allow for innovative solutions. Not surprisingly, effectiveness of climate and energy policies is poor, and it looks like the market for sustainable energy alternatives grows at a rather low pace. Nonetheless, awareness has risen recent years and many local ‘green energy’ initiatives are on the agenda or have already been realized. For example, water boards develop ‘energy factories’ and farmers join forces to collectively run green gas production and distribution plants.

The role of government in energy and climate issues is ambiguous. On the one hand governments have a role in setting goals, norms and standards. On the other hand governments often lack the authority and competence to demand that societal and market parties to achieve targets in terms of fixed rates of reduction in energy consumption and emission of greenhouse gases. In this NIG colloquium we take a critical stance toward the ways governments design and implement policies to green energy systems. We focus at the institutional dimension and the use of power in decision-making (both in national policy making processes and local implementation projects). Both policies aimed at innovation and diffusion of alternative ‘green’ energy technologies are addressed as well as policies that lower harmful effects vis-à-vis energy production, use and emissions of greenhouse gases.

Relation to NIG research program “multi-actor governance in complexity”

Multiple public and private stakeholders are involved in decision-making on energy and climate issues. The theme is quiet broad and involves multiple layers of governance and multiple (types of) actors. Due to their sheer numbers, their wide array of interests, and the fact that not all of them are ready to compromise, there is a high degree of complexity. Energy and climate issues and the quest for the transition towards a carbon free society may be classified in terms of a ‘wicked’ or at least ‘poorly structured’ problem. Indeed, conformity on achievable goals and a coherent strategy is absent, let alone the selection of a coherent policy mix and roadmaps to incrementally contribute to a strategy to bring this transition about.


  • Panel sessions at Annual NIG work conferences;
  • Panel sessions at other conference, e.g. ECPR;
  • Alignment of research agendas by colloquium members in (development of) joint projects;
  • Joint academic publications, e.g. special issues in peer reviewed academic journal articles;

Realized output

  • Panel sessions at NIG conferences 2012, 2013 and 2014;
  • Panel session at ECPR conference 2013;
  • Panel session at EURA conference 2013;
  • Panel sessions at Eseia conference 2014.
  • Special issue in academic journal Bestuurswetenschappen (‘Sturingsvraagstukken rond energie en klimaat’, Hoppe, Van Bueren and Sanders (Eds.) 2013, volume 67, 2).
  • Special issue in academic journal Energy, Sustainability and Society: (Governing the Climate Challenge and Energy Transition in Cities, Hoppe and Van Bueren (Eds.) 2014).