How might we co-design energy transition policy in old industrial regions?

Silver Sillak*, Madis Vasser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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There has been growing interest in collaborative approaches such as co-creation and co-design for strategic energy planning and energy policy design. However, existing analyses have conceptualized collaboration in rather vague terms, have focused primarily on the involvement of industrial actors and have been set in Western Europe. In this paper, we assess an inclusive energy transition policy co-design experiment in Ida-Virumaa, a region in Estonia historically dominated by the oil shale industry and with scarce experience of cross-sector collaboration to date. The experiment had a twofold purpose: (1) to establish a network of people interested in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the region, (2) to develop and validate proposals for policies that could accelerate the energy transition. We found that expectation alignment, social learning, resource mobilization and developmental evaluation can be used to create synergy among participants and can lead to innovative policy proposals. However, collaboration increases the time needed for policy development, the existence of alternative venues can undermine the collaborative process, fluid roles can create confusion around implementation and there might not be many resources to build on in old industrial regions. We conclude that it is still relatively easy to co-design energy policy or a strategic energy plan even in a setting that does not enjoy a well-developed collaborative culture but it is much more challenging to co-create a strong network of committed actors with clear roles in the implementation of policies and plans.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Material resources were mobilized through patronage: the policy co‐design process was financed by a grant from the European Climate Initiative (EUKI), which enabled the commissioning of the services of professional facilitators. However, as renewable energy policy is a new area of development for most of the municipalities in Ida‐Virumaa, the further implementation of the proposals will depend on the mobilization of additional finances from different sources. For instance, the municipalities may be supported by the three pillars of the just transition mechanism: the just transition fund, the InvestEU “Just Transition” scheme, and the new public sector loan facility (European Commission, 2019 ). The decisions regarding the use of these funds will also depend on the parallel Ida‐Viru action plan coordinated by the national government. Additional financial support can be applied for from numerous other European funds like LIFE, Interreg, and Horizon. At the same time, the private sector in Ida‐Virumaa has a much larger capacity for investment in comparison to the municipalities. Therefore, several of the policy proposals focused on removing the barriers to private investment in renewable energy projects by, for instance, introducing state‐guaranteed financial instruments for small and medium‐sized enterprises and local governments or improving access to capital for households and communities. Hence, the co‐design process represented a first step in promoting the combination and coordination of private and public sector investments into the energy transition. 6

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the Association of Ida‐Virumaa Municipalities, Ida‐Viru Enterprise Center, Estonian Fund for Nature, Environmental Law Center, DD Stratlab, Social Innovation Lab, Institute of Baltic Studies and all the other participants for making the policy co‐design experiment possible. The authors also appreciate the very helpful feedback from Maris Jõgeva, Martin Noorkõiv, Karl Sperling, Kristian Borch, Geraint Ellis and the three anonymous reviewers to previous drafts of the paper. This work was funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska‐Curie actions grant agreement MISTRAL (Multi‐sectoral approaches to Innovative Skills Training for Renewable energy And sociaL acceptance) No. 813837.

Funding Information:
European Climate Initaitive (EUKI), Grant/Award Number: 18_033/81230562; Marie Skłodowska‐Curie, Grant/Award Number: 813837; European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program Funding information

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Environmental Policy and Governance published by ERP Environment and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • co-design
  • collaborative governance
  • energy policy
  • energy transitions
  • social learning


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