Social innovation and the role of the government

Wednesday February 26, 2014 10:34

Citizens become more active in organizing their own environment, such as healthcare and education. The energy sector is no exception to this trend. This so called social innovation in which citizens aim to meet demands for public goods is growing. Why is this happening? And does this have an impact on the role of the government? These and other questions were discussed in a recent workshop organized by the Unit Policy Studies.

In all kinds of different constructions, citizens (sometimes in collaboration with governments or business) are locally generating energy, for instance by installing PV panels or wind turbines. It is often incorrectly assumed that this trend is solely based on a reaction to government subsidy schemes or tax rebates. While these financial aspects might play a role in some of the public initiatives to generate energy, it most certainly is not the only aspect. 

Many local energy producers indicate that environmental issues are their main concern. They are often knowledgeable, entrepreneurial individuals and have a clear view on scaling up to a sustainable energy system. They are often frustrated with the slow pace in which the government is handling the transition to more renewable sources of energy. Also, social aspects such as doing something positive with the community or gaining more control over their local environment play a role.

In October 2013 Policy Studies organized a workshop on social innovation within the energy sector. About 20 participants from the science, consultancy and government domain dis-cussed motives and behavior of individual and collective energy initiatives and the role of the government in these. Aim of the workshop was to formulate knowledge gaps related to (future) policies on local energy projects. Several issues were raised including: should authorities step back and allow more room for bottom-up initiatives? Should they keep up the financial incentives and facilitate without setting policy targets? Should government adjust the incumbent energy sector, grid and market? Or should they continue with the current top-down strategy, assuming that this trend of social innovation will prove insignificant?

Together with stakeholders, researchers from the Unit Policy Studies will further reflect on these questions and define priorities. Also scientific partners are invited to discuss cooperation on this subject.

Check for more information the report of the workshop (in Dutch)
Contact: Jessanne Mastop


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Category: Corporate, Policy Studies