Are concepts like Europeanisation and multi-level governance still useful in thinking about energy policy in Europe?

Reflections on the inaugural UACES CRN EU Energy Policy workshop by Ralitsa Hiteva


I was lucky enough to take part of the UACES (The academic association for contemporary European Studies) Collaborative Research Network’s (CRN) inaugural EU Energy Policy workshop on the 25-26 June 2015 at the University of East Anglia. The workshop covered a wide range of topics: Energy and Climate Policy: Engaging internal actors and external partners; the challenges for multilevel governance; EU Renewable Energy Policy: Greening energy in Europe and abroad, and the EU energy market. The CRN is funded by UACES and runs from 2015 to 2018, with Dr. Jenny Fairbrass (Norwich Business School, UEA), Anna Herranz-Surralles (Department of Political Science, Maastricht University) and Israel Solorio Sandoval (Environmental Policy Research Centre, Freie Universität Berlin) as network coordinators.

The CRN network on EU energy policy aims to examine the tensions and ambiguities affecting energy policy in the EU from a multi-disciplinary perspective by bringing together scholars from different disciplines working on energy policy in the EU and focusing on a number of emerging and horizontal issues:

  • The complexity of the European energy policy given its cross-cutting nature. The relation and tension between the different goals of the European energy policy (competitiveness, environmental protection and the fight against climate change, and energy security).
  • The internal-external nexus of all the dimensions of EU energy policy, often requiring the coordination of internal policies with relevant external actors and the EU’s active role in the institutions of global energy governance.

The discussion during the 2-day workshop kept coming back to the same two concepts: Europeanisation and multi-level governance. Both concepts were part of the intellectual landscape that preceded the implementation of the EU RES directives. And why are so many young scholars from all over Europe turning towards concepts developed in the 1990s and early 2000s?

To me the concepts of Europeanisation and multi-level governance seem to be irrevocably linked.  Multi-level governance explains the cross cutting nature of EU energy policy and why, in order to be effective, governance actors have to be able to operate across different scales. Europeanisation, captures the multidirectional transformations from above, below and horizontally, within Member States, between Member States and within the EU. But these two concepts are essentially useful tools for locating the nation-state in the web of interlinked transformations in EU energy policy.

Rather than thinking in terms of whether there is a larger or lesser role for states in EU energy policy, the questions underpinning this renewed interest, is how exactly nation states fit within current energy policy transformations in the EU. Especially vis-à-vis sub-national scales: municipalities, cities, local communities, buildings and households.

While our understanding of Europeanisation and multi-level governance have so far evolved with the inclusion of non-governmental and business actors and municipalities, these are now being challenged by macro-scales like households, buildings and communities. With an increased policy focus on individual action, decentralisation, and enabling technologies like smart-grids and the internet of things, macro-scales seem to be here to stay.  Demanding a rethink of the multiple dimensions of EU energy policy and the processes through which it is transformed.

This leads me to my next, almost inevitable question, why do we need another collaborative network on EU Energy Policy? Well the value of this one clearly lies with the providing a fairly nurturing but yet challenging platform for thinking across disciplinary silos. It brought together a range of people, far from the usual suspects, from politics, economics, geography, international relations to history, covering topics beyond the EU, and bringing together scholarship on the core and periphery (not only in terms of topics but also in terms of countries and regions within Europe). It is only when one witnesses such wide range of empirical work being done across the EU that one can start asking the interesting conceptual questions: Why Europeanisation? And why now?

The network has a series of planned activities including a second workshop at the National Distance Education University (UNED) in Madrid in 2016, and 6 panels on the European Energy Policy at the UACES 45th annual meeting in Bilbao 7th-9th September.

For further information on the CRN please visit:

Follow CRN Energy Policy on twitter: @CRN_EU_Energy


Rali 2Ralitsa is part of a team in the International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF) which investigates changes to the business model of infrastructure delivery and operation at national and urban scales. She is working on developing comparative case studies between sectors and countries.
Previously, Ralitsa was part of the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC) and worked on governance and regulation related to interdependencies between UK Infrastructures for the energy, water, transport, waste and ICT sectors.
Ralitsa’s research focuses on development of low carbon energy infrastructure, particularly smart grids and low carbon vehicles; connection and transmission of renewable electricity and natural gas; and smart cities. Ralitsa is a member of the Sussex Energy Group.


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