Energy Policy paper calls for regional perspective on energy policy and research

23 Jun 2015

A paper in Energy Policy which draws on UKERC research into smart grids suggests that a regional perspective to energy policy and research would better integrate these two approaches, and contribute to more effective policy making.

The ageing of existing energy system infrastructure, the threat of climate change and uncertainty in the movement of energy prices have resulted in a widespread agreement on the need for a transition to a low carbon energy system. Yet the nature of this transition and its socio-economic outcomes at different scales are not well understood. The interdependence of the energy sector and economic growth has been mostly studied at the national level whilst sub-national studies at community or urban levels mostly focus on the governance of transitions.

This paper suggests that a regional perspective to energy policy and research promises to integrate these two approaches by providing a more robust and comprehensive understanding of the implications of low carbon transitions, as well as contributing to the development of more effective policies. By building on recent ideas on geographical aspects of energy transitions, this article offers insights on the changing relationship between the spatial organisation of economic activities and energy systems, and identifies tools and methods from urban and regional planning to help with the delivery of efficient and equitable policy outcomes.

The research identifies five issues through which low carbon transitions might lead to spatial differentiation and uneven development: the clustering of low carbon technologies, the exacerbation or reduction of inequalities between urban and rural areas, the economic growth and job creation potential of transitions, agglomeration economies and network constraints, and the public good problem in liberalised energy markets.