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4.1.2. Adaptation actors in the energy system

The energy system in Europe consists of a wide range of actors. These includes policy makers at different levels, government agencies and other regulators, public and private infrastructure providers and utilities, and ‘innovative actors’ such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and energy-cooperatives. The role of these stakeholders, including the division between public and private actors, differs across European countries reflecting different national energy models (Dallamaggiore et al., 2016; IEA, 2016b; Russel et al., 2018).

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Figure 4‑1 provides a mapping of the key stakeholders across the four components of the energy system (see Section 1.2.1), which distinguishes ‘key influencers’ and ‘key actors’.

Figure 4‑1 Energy System Stakeholders

Source: Adapted from (Dallamaggiore et al., 2016)

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Key influencers are integral to determining how the energy system operates in practice. These enable the creation of policy and its conversion into regulation in practice. They can overcome regional and/or organisational boundaries and help to recalibrate the relationship among actors (Backhaus, 2010). In summary, the key influencers and their roles are as follows:

  • EU, public authorities (national, regional and local government) and regulators are responsible for setting the policy and market frameworks for the European energy system. The public sector also takes a role in fostering innovation in the energy sector, for example through making funding available for research, development and innovation.
  • Academics, NGOs, media and think-tanks can influence the energy system through their support of certain narratives, movements and policy positions. They can also influence the energy system through capacity building and sharing information.
  • Finance and insurance covers all public and private institutions involved in investing in or insuring the energy sector.
  • Manufacturers of energy consuming goods can impact the energy system through the products and technologies they offer. This can influence the pace of adoption of new technologies whilst also influencing consumer choices.
  • Installers and retailers of energy consuming goods and appliances can impact the choices that are made by consumers, through garnering knowledge on consumer preferences.
  • Builders and others in the construction sector have an important role in guiding and implementing choices for buildings that have a strong influence on energy use and the climate-proofing of infrastructure.

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Key actors are accountable for one or several activities in the energy system. One actor can be responsible for one or more components of the energy system, depending on the regulatory framework and the level of vertical integration in the energy sector (MacArthur, 2016). Given the characteristics of the current European energy system, transmission system operators and distribution system operators (whether public or private) have a key role in implementing physical adaptation actions. In summary, the key actors and their roles are:

  • Producers and generators produce the power, fuel or heat to be transported to consumers. This may include producers that also operate energy storage facilities, such as pumped hydro plants;
  • Transmission system operators (TSOs) operate the national and regional grids, pipelines and networks for distributing power, fuel and/or heat. They are involved in the transport of energy across large distances for local distribution. They can also be involved in energy storage;
  • Distribution system operators (DSOs) operate the local grids, pipelines and networks for distributing power, fuel and/or heat. They can be involved in energy storage but are primarily involved in the final transport of energy to consumers;
  • Retailers play an important role in this system bridging from the producer, TSOs and DSOs to the consumer;
  • Consumers influence overall energy demand through changes in consumption patterns, including those resulting from climate change. Consumers also have an important role in the market (especially in non-regulated markets), which is important when costs of adaptation measures taken by the energy sector are passed on;
  • Prosumers are actors that both produce and consume electricity (e.g. a home fitted with PV panels that supplies power to the grid during the day and consumes power from the grid on the evening). Prosumers represent an increasingly important role in achieving the energy transition (Sajn, 2016). While many local initiatives have arisen in recent years, clear views on their efficient integration into the European energy system as a whole are lacking (EC, 2017f).

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