The Territorial, Multi-Actor and Local dimensions of the Energy Transition: PhD study Anneloes van Noordt (2016-2022)

The Territorial, Multi-Actor and Local dimensions of the Energy Transition: PhD study Anneloes van Noordt (2016-2022)

The aim of this PhD research is to gain insights in the way local energy actions initiated by various actors can contribute towards an energy transition. A spatial-relational approach is employed to investigate the territoriality of current projects and to formulate the possibilities of spatial policy to guide, facilitate, support and manage the operationalization of ambitious local energy- and climate visions. Urban planning and land use planning are often overlooked areas to assist in reducing energy needs, increasing energy efficiency and increasing the integration of renewable energy forms in the landscape. Densification, reducing urban sprawl, mixed land use, connectivity, accessibility, collective installations, heat networks, reservation of space for renewable energy projects and integrating renewable energy sources into the built environment are however key influencers on greenhouse gas emissions (Van Noordt, 2018, 2019a).

The challenges our society is facing regarding climate and energy have been put on the agenda some decades ago. Recently, the discussions, scientifically, but also in the media and on a political level are intensifying. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), energy production and the associated CO2 emissions, are largely responsible for climate change. Decarbonizing our energy production should therefore be the most important part of mitigation strategies (IPCC, 2014). It is important that policymakers become aware of the fact that ‘energy’ and ‘climate’ are not separate projects which need to be developed, but instead should become an integral part of every project started. Policies and measures should look beyond the building level and focus to connect different scale levels from building to building block, neighborhood, city, region, nation and even global. Connecting these scale levels and looking beyond the building will help to translate policy ambitions into concrete actions while at the same time making the abstract consequences of climate change very tangible for citizens. By thinking beyond borders, whether this is the border of a specific project or municipality borders, linkages, opportunities and synergies can be detected.

A wide spectrum of actors is involved in transitions in general. Because of this inherently multi-actor quality of transitions it is important to be able to map and analyze all these different actors. Turning to the energy transition, this can be regarded as very complex, because it involves different scale levels. These different levels refer to spatial, socio-political and temporal scales. Moreover, this transition is dependent on collective (van Noordt, 2017) and long-term processes which involve several actors to achieve fundamental social and technological innovation. This PhD research will argue that, because of this complexity, the traditional role of the government no longer suffices to tackle the energy transition challenges. Governance is seen as a collaborative process between public, private and civil parties (Boelens, 2010; van Noordt, 2019b).

Within this PhD study, theories from Transition Management (Loorbach, 2007; Jan Rotmans et al., 2000; J Rotmans & Loorbach, 2001) are combined with a relational, multi-actor framework (Boelens, 2010; Callon, 1999; Latour, 1996, 2005; Law, 1992). Territorial factors within the energy transition will be identified and examined within 6 cases. Within each of the three large actor groups (public sector, private sector and civil society) two Flemish cases will be selected for in-depth analysis. The conclusions will focus on how spatial policy can guide, facilitate, support and manage the operationalization of ambitious local energy- and climate visions.

Promotor: Luuk Boelens (Ghent University)
Co-promoters: Sven Stremke (Wageningen University) and Ann Pisman (Ghent University)
Figure: The spatial challenges of the energy transition (Credits: Architecture Workroom Brussels, Jelte Boeijenga, Vereniging Deltametropool (2017) De Lage Landen 2020-2100. Een toekomstverkenning).

Boelens, L. (2010). Theorizing practice and practising theory: Outlines for an actor-relational-approach in planning. Planning theory, 9(1), 28-62. doi:10.1177/1473095209346400

Callon, M. (1999). Actor-network theory—the market test. The Sociological Review, 47(1_suppl), 181-195.

IPCC. (2014). Summary for Policymakers. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Latour, B. (1996). On actor-network theory: a few clarifications. Soziale Welt, 47(4), 369-381.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Law, J. (1992). Notes on the theory of the actor-network: Ordering, strategy, and heterogeneity. Systemic practice and action research, 5(4), 379-393.

Loorbach, D. (2007). Transition management. New mode of governance for sustainable development. Utrecht: International Books.

Rotmans, J., Kemp, R., Van Asselt, M., Geels, F., Verbong, G., & Molendijk, K. (2000). Transities & Transitiemanagement. De casus van een emissiearme energievoorziening. Maastricht: ICIS, MERIT.

Rotmans, J., & Loorbach, D. (2001). Transitiemanagement: een nieuw sturingsmodel. Arena/Het Dossier, 6, 5-8.

van Noordt, A. (2017). De energietransitie collaboratief aangepakt: samenwerken aan gebiedsgerichte ingrepen. Paper presented at the Plandag 2017 Gedeelde Ruimte.

Van Noordt, A. (2018). The role of spatial development in the energy and climate transition. Paper presented at the 54th ISOCARP Congress 2018, Bodo.

van Noordt, A. (2019a). The spatial dimension of the Flemish Covenant of Mayors: A comparative spatial analysis on the transition towards climate friendly municipalities. Paper presented at the AESOP anual congress Planning for Transition, Venice.

van Noordt, A. (2019b). Wie voelt zich verantwoordelijk voor de energietransitie? Een relationele multi-actoren analyse van de complexe klimaat en energie uitdagingen Paper presented at the Plandag 2019 Meer met Meer, Turnhout.