Institutional harmonization for energy transition: How actors ‘play the game’ of balancing renewable energy generation with other sea- and land-uses


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    Generation of renewable energy (RE) typically requires much space and is more visible in the landscape compared to fossil fuels. Due to the limited amount of space available, both onshore but also offshore, finding physical space for energy transition requires cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination between RE and various other sea- or land uses to ensure efficient use of spatial resources. However, the various actors and sectors that are currently using offshore and onshore space are often guided by institutional frameworks that are tailored to sector-specific needs, and tend to be ill-equipped at recognizing and acting upon requests and opportunities related to energy transition. Simultaneously, specific institutional frameworks are being created and adapted relating to energy transition. This results in institutional fragmentation, both regarding various sectoral frameworks and between existing and new frameworks. Such fragmentation can form important constraints for cooperation and coordination and pose institutional barriers that limit opportunities for finding physical space for energy transition. Addressing these barriers requires alignment and harmonization between various sectoral, existing and new intuitional frameworks. In response, the aim of this doctoral thesis is to examine how actors pursue institutional harmonization for energy transition and the different institutional barriers and opportunities they encounter.
    This study draws on agency-oriented institutional theories and advances the theoretical debate regarding the role of actors in institutional harmonization processes in energy transition contexts. Two case studies form the empirical backbone of this study, both of which are illustrative of cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination in energy transition contexts and the difficulties encountered by actors in trying to balance RE with other uses of space: (1) the case of photovoltaics along national transport infrastructure; and (2) the case of offshore wind farm development in the Dutch North Sea, with particular focus on the North Sea Dialogues. The findings show that in energy transition contexts, institutional barriers are often the result complex and nuanced interrelations between formal and informal institutions, both within individual sectors and in guiding the interactions between them. The fine-grained reality of institutional harmonization between RE and other sectors is shown to be a process of incremental institutional change, where interacting actors are involved in adaptation, reinterpretation and (re)design of rules, while also actively maintaining aspects of key institutional frameworks. Informal institutions are of key importance in these processes. This study illustrates how finding physical space for energy transition, also requires attention to its institutional counterpart, which is coined institutional space.
    Originele taal-2English
    KwalificatieDoctor of Philosophy
    Toekennende instantie
    • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
    • Arts, Jos, Supervisor
    • Zuidema, Christian, Supervisor
    • Busscher, Tim, Co-supervisor
    Datum van toekenning28-apr.-2022
    Plaats van publicatieGroningen
    Gedrukte ISBN's978-94-93164-19-2
    StatusPublished - 2022

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