Table of contents

4.1.3. Role of governments

Building climate resilience in the energy system inevitably raises the question who is eventually responsible for delivering adaptation actions. The question on the role of role of governments, public authorities and regulators is particularly relevant where critical (energy) infrastructure is owned and/or operated by the private sector. The debate on public and private responsibilities for adaptation in the energy sector has been interpreted somewhat differently within Europe. For example, the German adaptation strategy states that ‘adaptation to climate change in the energy sector is essentially a task for the energy industry itself’, entailing that ‘federal and Länder authorities may be able to provide assistance, contribute knowledge and set new regulatory trends’ (Government of Germany, 2008, p. 33). In other countries (e.g. Denmark and the United Kingdom), a stronger role is foreseen for public authorities in fostering, facilitating and monitoring adaptation by private actors (Russel et al., 2018, section 6.3).

comments (3)

Private infrastructure providers have a self-interest in protecting their infrastructure and in providing secure services to customers. However, some unique characteristics of the energy system need to be considered here. First, essential components of the energy system, such as electricity transmission and distributions networks, are necessarily (quasi) monopolistic, i.e. there are no competitive markets. Second, the functioning of the energy system in general, and the electricity system in particular, requires the efficient cooperation of many (private and public) infrastructure providers across borders. Hence, an individual actor does not necessarily have the information, or incentives, to manage its infrastructure in a way that ensures the stability of the whole system. Finally, because a stable energy supply is essential for almost all aspects of modern life, the social costs of blackouts or other disturbances can be up to 50 times higher than the direct costs to the energy company (Küfeoğlu, 2015; Growitsch et al., 2015; Wolf and Wenzel, 2016; Gündüz et al., 2017). Considering these factors, various studies have concluded that public actors at different levels have a strong role in, or even ultimate responsibility for, ensuring a secure (as well as affordable and sustainable) energy supply now and in the future. This includes building climate resilience in the current and future energy system (Schneider, 2014; Cortekar and Groth, 2015; Russel et al., 2018, section 6.3).

comments (2)

The IEA has conducted extensive work on improving the climate resilience of the energy system (see Section 4.4.1). Its reports conclude that although businesses are the key actors in the design and implementation of resilience-building measures in the energy sector, governments have a central role. They can and should facilitate such actions through a variety of measures (see Figure 4‑2) (IEA, 2015, 2016b). Governments can influence private providers of critical infrastructure through a wide range of approaches, from facilitating voluntary self-regulation through enforced-self-regulation, negotiation, delegation to an agency, to command and control (Schneider, 2014). Policy influence on non-state actors has also been distinguished between regulatory policies, which are seen as most suitable for incremental adaptation, and developmental or enabling policies, which foster the experimentation required for transformational adaptation (Russel et al., 2018, section 6.3).

comments (2)

Figure 4‑2 Role of governments in enhancing energy sector resilience

Source: Reproduced from (IEA, 2016b).

comments (0)

It is not always necessary for public actors to develop new policy approaches. Existing energy policies and regulations include opportunities for synergies with required adaptation measures. One example where such synergies have been taken into consideration is in the Offshore Safety Directive (EU, 2013a). This Directive requires that risk assessments concerning offshore oil and gas activities must consider environmental hazards, including the impacts of climate change. Another example of synergies between energy policy and climate change adaptation requirements is the transposition into national law of the Directive ‘concerning measures to safeguard security of electricity supply and infrastructure investment’ (EC, 2006). Careful consideration of such synergies can help public authorities find the most efficient policy approach for mainstreaming adaptation action in key sectoral policies (Capriolo, 2016, section 3.2.5).

comments (1)

National governments are also responsible for reporting adaptation activities to the European Union under the Monitoring Mechanism Regulations (EU, 2013b), superseded by the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action (EU, 2018d), and through National Communications to the UNFCCC (see Sections 4.1.4 and 4.3 for further details).

comments (0)