Energy transitions, sub-national government and regime flexibility: how has devolution in the United Kingdom affected renewable energy development?

Richard Cowell, Geraint Ellis, Fionnguala Sherry-Brennan, Peter A. Strachan, David Toke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Amidst growing analytical interest in the spatial dimensions of
sustainable energy transitions, relatively little attention has been
given to the role of sub-national government, or the ways in which
dominant socio-technical regimes for energy navigate diverse contexts.
This paper addresses these two concerns by assessing the impacts of
devolution within the UK on renewable energy development. It draws
principally on policy networks analysis as the basis of a comparative
assessment, examining how far the governments of Northern Ireland,
Scotland and Wales have translated their formal powers in the energy
sphere into renewable energy outcomes. Scotland's relative success in
facilitating rapid expansion of on-shore wind is attributed to a more
enduring and cohesive policy community around renewable energy growth
than in Northern Ireland and Wales, but this success has been adversely
affected by fragmenting policy networks around renewables at national
(UK) level. The analysis highlights especially the role of planning and
consenting, as mechanisms by which devolved governments have worked to
contain the potentially disruptive effects of opposition to major
infrastructure investments, thereby enhancing regime reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-181
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Early online date31 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017



  • renewable energy
  • policy networks
  • transition
  • United Kingdom

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