Regional partnerships for a transition to a sustainable energy society - A comparative case study of regional partnerships in Germany between 2000-2010
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A transition of society to more sustainable energy solutions appears necessary because traditional energy supply is endangered and the use of traditional energy sources has negative impacts on the environment. Partnerships are collaborative arrangements through which actors can strive for sustainability. The literature review reveals that regional partnerships in the sustainable energy field compose a new focus of research on partnership and governance. This research aims to analyse in what way and to what extent regional partnerships may contribute to solving the problem of a transition to a sustainable energy society. An analytical model is derived from a theoretical framework based on partnership, capacity and network theory. On the basis of both the theoretical framework and the analytical model three cases are selected. All cases are located in urban areas, have an objective that relates to sustainable energy related issues and involve actors from at least two spheres of society. Germany is chosen as the context of the regional partnerships due to the quite favourable environment for renewable energies. In a comparative case study the selected regional partnerships are analysed by means of a document review and semi-structured interviews. The analysis is guided by the predefined analytical model. It assumes that the package deals made, the actors involved, their relations, partnership capacities and the context in which regional partnerships are embedded shape regional partnerships' contribution to solving the transition problem. Relation capacity is studied by employing a network analysis tool. The regional partnerships take different approaches to the transition problem. In Hanover region, a regional climate protection agency promotes the development of sustainable technologies and a change in behaviour of citizens. An energy region association with a focus on business development, research projects and networking implicitly aims for a structural change in Nuremberg region. In Munich, an alliance for climate protection facilitates network building and activates business and civil society to implement measures for climate protection. The analysis shows that regional partnerships facilitate particularly information exchange and embrace a pragmatic network strategy. Hence, they often fulfil a function of information provision and dissemination. The objective of the regional partnerships studied is strongly shaped by economic interests. Moreover, regional partnerships remain dependent on state actors which often take on an important role. Thus, the contribution of regional partnerships to solving the problem of a transition to a sustainable energy society is perceived as small. Despite the mixed feelings, the policy strategy of regional partnerships is not discarded and further research on the effects of regional partnerships is recommended.