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close this bookSustainable Energy Strategies - Materials for Decision-makers (SEED - UNDP, 2000, 208 p.)
close this folderChapter 6. Promoting Institutional Change for Sustainable Energy
View the document(introduction...)
View the document6.1. Introduction
View the document6.2. Liberalising the energy sector
View the document6.3. Making it happen
View the document6.4. Conclusions

6.1. Introduction

Energy is an essential component of development. Society needs not energy per se, but rather the services that energy can provide, such as heating, cooling, manufacturing goods, pumping or purifying water, etc. The widespread availability of energy services is needed for sustainable development.

The main features of a sustainable energy system are well known: high efficiency in energy transformation and final uses; much greater utilisation of renewable energy sources; and clean and effective utilisation of fossil fuels.

The introduction of these changes faces both barriers and opportunities. Some of these are of a technical nature: for instance, some of the technologies for renewable sources of energy or for improved energy efficiency are less mature than conventional technologies, have not been adapted to the specific conditions of the place, or their cost may still compare unfavourably with those of more traditional solutions.

However, the widespread adoption of more sustainable energy systems is also influenced by non-technical factors, particularly the institutional environment, such as norms, regulations, incentives, taxation, etc. In many countries, these factors have evolved and become consolidated over a long period during which the role of energy has not been sufficiently understood and the concept of sustainability has been unknown. As a consequence, these factors often represent powerful barriers against the introduction and diffusion of the energy systems required for sustainable development. The energy policies of many developing countries-when such policies are explicitly stated-often do not take into due account the possibilities offered by new technology, and, sometimes, with the best of intentions, actually discourage their adoption.

In the following sections, we consider all the non-technical factors that depend on the action of governments (both central and local), including legislation.

It should be noted from the start that technical and non-technical factors are only formally independent, since they actually interact with each other. Legislation may orient technology one way or the other. Many examples are known, for instance, of well-meant laws or norms which have slowed down the development of technologies or turned them towards less effective solutions. Positive examples can also be found. Conversely, new technical solutions open opportunities that can be taken up by the legislator. Therefore, discussion of institutional problems cannot be entirely separated from technological considerations.