Reference : Local transition paths to sustainability. How a biogas plant transformed local policy...
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Human geography & demography
Local transition paths to sustainability. How a biogas plant transformed local policy: the case of Beckerich/Luxembourg
Faller, Fabian mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
RSA research network: Governing the Sustainability Transition – Transformation Processes and their Meaning for the Sustainability Transition – Linking Local Practices and Global Agendas
from 10-10-2013 to 11-10-2013
Regional Studies Association
United Kingdom
[en] Renewable energies are increasingly perceived as important subjects for local development: employment effects, substitution of energy imports, creation of networks that can encourage the further development of social capital, just to name a few. Related to these potentials are questions of the energy transformations’ governance and spaces, such as: which local policies are developed; which economic activities evolve locally; which conditions at various scales (local, sub-national, national, supra-national) frame the aforementioned aspects; which actors are key to take the transition path?

The core interests of the paper are threefold: First, to provide a conceptual framework for thinking socio-technical transitions as local to regional phenomena grounded in practices of transitions and their management; I call these practices “energetic regionalisations”: processes of constitution and reproduction of energy regions, and how practices and policies of such “energetic regionalisations“ intertwine.

Second, to develop a methodology or analysis tool for examining transition pathways, based on the so-called Capacity to Act Matrix (cf. Hammer 2008), enriched with a governance perspective on actors’ constellations; here, my focus lies on actors’ constellations, their overall visions, their strategies, powers, and the kind of tools they can use to change or to conserve the current regime–as defined, for instance, by Geels (2002).

Third, to illustrate, with the help of a case study from Beckerich in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, how the energy transition can support the local transition to a sustainability agenda (beginning in the late 1970s). I examine institutional and structural conditions that framed processes of transitions towards renewable energy policies, and how these related to socio-technical developments. Furthermore, practices of actors involved into the transition process get core of the analysis. Consequently, important elements are:
• Energy related activities at the local and regional scale as seed-bed of transitions;
• The national and supra-national energy regime and frameworks for energy development, such as the Covenant of Mayors, the Climate Alliance, the Kyoto protocol, the Renewable Energy Roadmap for Luxembourg, or the EU 2020 strategy;
• The actual timeline of the transition path in the case of Beckerich, subdivided into four phases (cf. Loorbach 2006): the predevelopment phase, characterized by the rural migration context, by the oil crisis and by the environmental movement growth. The take-off phase, where new ideas relating to the energy transition start to become mainstream. The breakthrough phase, when sustainable development is the guiding principle. Finally, the stabilisation phase and the emergence of a new dynamic equilibrium, in which the achieved transition is, on the one hand, sustained in terms of thinking and acting, and on the other hand, improvements are added to further enhance the economic, social and environmental situation of the commune;
• The main actors of transition processes (the mayor, two NGOs, some farmers, consultants and their feasibility studies, the Government of Luxembourg, and the European Union) and their relations, based on their type of policy levers (rulemaking, regulatory oversight, direct expenditures/procurement, financial incentives, information gathering and dissemination, convening/facilitation and advocacy), as well as their modes of cooperation.

The paper concludes with six key findings. First, municipalities can be essential for boosting the energy transition. Second, a long breath is needed, because the transformation proves to be sustainably effective if it is taking several years. Third, intelligent and solid networking is essential to acquire profound knowledge on energy production. Fourth, transition paths do not necessarily emerge bottom up. Fifth, from the transition process various institutionalised groups can emerge (NGOs) that can become important lobby groups in the long run. Sixth, the wider political landscape is a very important element to enhance or to block the energy transition. To summarise these main insights: the local government can play an essential role, but a successful outcome will also heavily depend on the abilities of local stakeholders as well as on external events. Therefore, the capacity to change and to adapt to new roles throughout the transition path is essential.

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