Energy Transition and the ‘Greening’ of Regional Policy

Cite as: European Policies Research Centre (2023), Energy Transition and the ‘Greening’ of Regional Policy, EoRPA Report 23/2, EoRPA Regional Policy Research Consortium, European Policies Research Centre, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and EPRC Delft

Energy transition, as part of the longer-term green transition agenda, is an increasingly important strategic priority at global, European, national and regional level.

Energy transition has a strong territorial dimension. Energy-related potentials, challenges, needs and impacts vary greatly across regions. Much of the action to deliver transition to a carbon-neutral economy takes place at regional level, where important competences and policy levers relevant for sustainable transitions are concentrated. Complex environmental and socio-economic implications of energy transition are largely uneven across geographies, and have the potential of intensifying territorial disparities. This highlights the relevance of regionally-sensitive policy responses, including through regional policy.

Across EoRPA countries, there is a strong variation in approaches to addressing energy transition in a regional development perspective, with varying role of regional policy. Dedicated regional policy measures addressing energy transition challenges in specific regions often coexist with wider support linking energy and regional development objectives. Energy concerns are often integrated into the existing instruments at the level of priorities, eligibilities, or broader sustainability commitments. In addition, regionally-sensitive or place-based approaches to addressing energy transition challenges are often pursued under various sectoral policies.

Specific objectives, priorities and spatial targeting of these policy efforts also differ greatly across countries. They reflect varying patterns of territorial concentration of carbon-intensive activities, composition of regional endowments of natural assets and industrial specialisations, as well as broader governance and organisational approaches and frameworks.

The energy crisis has so far had a limited impact on energy transition support within regional policy. Policy responses have been mostly national in scope, although some measures have a degree of spatial targeting or regional considerations – including to reflect spatially uneven energy vulnerabilities (e.g. linked to energy poverty and affordability) and potentials (e.g. in renewable energy production).

Several common factors have been highlighted as important for effective regional policy support for energy transition. These include: strategic mainstreaming; place-based approach, regional engagement and participation; horizontal and vertical policy coordination; enabling regulatory frameworks; and regional capacity and capacity-building.

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