Preserving Decentralised Laboratories for Experimentation under Adverse Framework Conditions - Why Local Initiatives as a Driving Force for Germany’s Renewable Energy Expansion Must Reinvent Themselves
This paper analyses the enabling conditions, barriers and future prospects of decentralised experimentation with renewable energy sources (RES) in the German energy transition, with a specific focus on the multi-level governance framework. It investigates why, and under which conditions, decentralised experiments have served as a major driving force in the development of RES in Germany, highlighting the instrumental role local governments and the national support scheme for RES have played in supporting and protecting decentralised RES initiatives. Looking at the impact of decentralised experimentation, this paper argues that the scope of decentralised renewable energy development is now such that there is an obvious need for multi-level governance coordination to address the emerging challenges of temporal and spatial disparities between power generation and demand, as well as distributional and land-use conflicts. The authors observe that many local and regional governments have not yet sufficiently considered the coordination required to make their own efforts compatible with overall energy system transition needs. They may lose their function as important facilitators for RES experimentation if they do not start engaging in new approaches to stakeholder participation, coordinated regional energy flows and system integration of RES. Moreover, bottom-up experimentation with decentralised energy system structures is also threatened by recent changes in the political framework condi-tions at the European and national level which have led to a reform of the German support scheme for RES, including, amongst others, a phase-out of the feed-in tariff scheme and its replacement by an auction scheme. Against the backdrop of these adverse political framework conditions, the paper concludes by discussing strategies to preserve the dynamics of decentralised experimentation as a vigorous driver of the German energy transition.