Sub-national government and pathways to sustainable energy

Richard Cowell (Corresponding Author), Geraint Ellis, Fionnguala Sherry-Brennan, Peter A Strachan, David Toke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In an effort to understand how to promote more sustainable forms of energy provision, researchers have begun addressing the scale of political and governance processes, yet the effects of sub-national government remain neglected. At the same time, analysts of political devolution, decentralisation and independence have rarely given attention to the energy sector. Papers in this special issue seek to better understand the relationship between sub-national government and pathways to sustainable energy: examining how city-regional and devolved governments have shaped agendas for building retrofit; elucidating the importance of decentralised governance in knitting together electricity, heat and transport energy markets; mapping the complex, fuzzy spatial organisation of legal powers to direct energy policy across multi-level polities; and analysing conflicts over the allocation of energy infrastructure consenting powers between national and devolved governments. The papers highlight the interdependencies of action in different governmental arenas, and reinforce arguments for greater central-to-local reflexivity in governance styles. Analysing the interface between sub-national government and energy transition also raises new questions about the meaning of ?sovereignty?, the fragmentary nature of democratic control over energy systems, and the effects of boundaries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1139-1155
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number7
Early online date13 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank the participants in the symposium ‘Sub-national government and pathways to sustainable energy’ held in May 2014, where first versions of the papers were originally discussed. In addition to the papers published in this issue, insightful papers were also given by Jessica Brittan, George Callaghan, Christina Demski, David Hawkey, Mick Lennon, Danny McKinnon, Elin Royles, James Simmie, Philipp Spa¨th and Geoff Whittam. We would like to thank them for their contributions, which informed the writing of this paper


  • devolution
  • energy
  • environmental governance
  • environmental sustainability
  • multiscalar governance


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