Foto: Matthias Friel
Energy Policy: instruments for deep decarbonisation
Johan Lilliestam, University of Potsdam, Summer Semester 2023
Overview and setting of the course
Climate change is one of the big political challenges of our time. It has been on the political agenda for some 30 years, in an increasing number of countries. With the Paris Agreement, almost all countries in the world have committed themselves to contributing their share to limiting the global temperature to well below 2 degrees, implying a commitment to a fully carbon-neutral global economy by mid-century. This is a huge challenge – economically and technologically, for sure, but especially also societally and politically.
In terms of emission reductions, one cannot say that it has gone well: globally, GHG emissions are still increasing. To the largest extent, this is caused by economic growth and industrial development in emerging countries, causing a hunger for energy that is often fed with fossil energy, including oil for the growing transport systems and coal or gas power for the power grids.
In the industrialised world, however, emissions generally decrease. In Europe, for example, GHG emissions have decreased by some 20% compared to 1990, and the European Union met its 2020 climate target. Evidently, it is possible to bend the emissions curve. Particularly the energy sector – responsible for some 2/3 of global greenhouse gas emissions – starts seeing radical changes, both through the rise of renewable energy technologies and efficiency measures. In Europe, at least some policy efforts appear to have worked: emissions and energy demand are decreasing, and European (together with a handful of other countries’) policies have contributed to making renewables technologically and economically viable, putting Europe and all other countries in a position where complete energy system decarbonisation may be feasible.
In this course, we will explore the instrumentation of climate policy in the energy sector, especially on the European and national levels. The course will centre on historical and prospective policy analysis of energy policy instruments, drawing on concepts, theories and evaluation frameworks from various disciplines, including political science and environmental, behavioural and evolutionary economics. We will go far beyond the conventional description of “climate policy” as global treaties and carbon pricing, and look at the broad set of policy instruments that affect the chances to decarbonise energy, with a focus on the European context. In this course, we will
- investigate different types of energy policy instruments, their theoretical roots and expected effects;
- analyse the actual performance of these instruments through case studies of both successful and failed historical cases, in order to understand how instrument design affects success chances, but also how instruments differ in both scope and aim;
- learn how instruments interact in a policy mix, each performing a specific task and contributing to a successful energy transition;
- create policy solutions to take us from today’s fossil-based system to a carbon-neutral energy future in Europe.
Students understand the breadth of the climate and energy policy field, the diversity of instruments, and know how the main instrument types work and interact. They are able to identify a policy and allocate it to the appropriate theoretical roots. Students are able to evaluate whether a policy is likely to achieve its aims, informed by knowledge of the functioning, efficiency and effectiveness of similar policies elsewhere or in the past, and can suggest alternative or complementing policies for achieving a particular energy policy goal. Students are able to generalise and combine knowledge about the barriers to decarbonisation in various energy sectors and the barriers addressed by specific policy instruments as applied in cases discussed in class, in order to create own suggestions for decarbonisation of any energy sector or geographic context.
The course is designed in a flipped classroom approach, with extensive preparations needed – both reading and watching the input presentations for each class (see below) – and strongly interaction-based meetings in class. In the class meetings, we will be working together and in groups to solve case problems taken from real-world situations in European energy policy, from heat decarbonisation in Finland to wind power deployment in France, from electric car chargers in Berlin to building bikelanes in Amsterdam.
The main input format for each seminar day will be presentations by students, for each block 4-5 presentations (depending on the number of students) of 15-20 minutes each, focusing either on the theoretical embedding of the class or on describing and evaluating real-world cases in which the instrument has been implemented. The presentations will be graded, forming the base for a pass/fail or, if you also write a semester thesis, making up a part of your final grade. All will receive written feedback from me, as I believe this is essential for learning and improving presentation skills.
These presentations will be recorded by the students and the videos made available on the University’s media portal (MediaUP) via Moodle, at least 3 days before each class day. Instead of sitting through 1.5 hours of presentations on each seminar day, which would be tiring for all, we “shift” this time to before the actual meeting, so that the 180 minutes of seminar each physical meeting will instead be around 120 minutes, so from 9-1130 (including coffee and buffer time). It does not reduce the workload or teaching time, but it does increase the flexibility in preparing for class.
Every student will need to view and contemplate these videos in preparation of each seminar, together with the set of mandatory readings. The students presenting will also need to read the mandatory readings, but their presentations must go well beyond that, focusing on theory (1 of the 4/5 presentations) or case studies (the rest).
Each meeting will start with a Q&A session and a brief feedback to the students who presented. The feedback will be prepared by the group presenting next week, which will give extra incentive to be friendly, constructive and supportive: they will know that they will receive the same feedback next time.
Following this, we will have focused discussions centred around two different case studies. This will typically be started with a short input from me, ending in the presentation of the cases, followed by discussions about the cases in smaller groups in class. There will be an opportunity to get coffee, and then we resolve and talk about the case solutions together.
Preparing the input presentations
Just as in most courses at our faculty, student presentations are a central element in this seminar. It is also the requirement (Prüfungsnebenleistung) for a graded and an ungraded pass/fail Schein. Every student must prepare, record, and upload one presentation. There are many ways to make a video, and it can even be done directly in Powerpoint.
Because of the centrality of these presentations not only to the presenting students, but to the course as a whole, I will coordinate with each group of students in good time - at least two weeks before – “their” class (or as early as possible). At this appointment, which will either happen in Zoom or after class, students should have a rough idea about their presentation. We will then discuss the key messages, and coordinate among all students presenting, to enable each group to do a great job – which is both in their own interest and in the interest of the class.
Each presentation will be recorded by the students themselves, uploaded to MediaUP and the link posted on the course’s moodle page. Every student is responsible for uploading it at least 72 hours before the seminar starts, i.e. before 9.00 on the Tuesday before the seminar is scheduled. Not uploading a video, or uploading it late without a very (!) good reason, will result in a fail grade. Hence, this is not at all different from a “regular” seminar, but it requires you to plan ahead.
The presentations must be minimum 15 minutes and maximum 20 minutes long. This gives you some leeway, and there is no reason for not meeting this requirement: after all, you will know that your video is too long/short before uploading it.
Your presentation will not be evaluated based on the technical quality of your video, but it must of course be good enough for all to see, hear and understand, and it is important that your slides are easily readable. To verify your identity, I must be able to see your face, so please do not record merely the presentation slides, but include your face in the presenter window. Everything else is up to you: do it in whatever way you think is best. Your laptop or tablet camera will suffice. If you do not have a camera and have no reasonable way of accessing one in time, please contact me well in advance – months, not days.
In general, beyond general criteria such as clarity and brevity, the key to a good grade and seminar input (for which not only your grade sheet will thank you) is to synthesise and focus on causality. Hence, a presentation with the message “Finland has much renewable power” or “these are all the details about the Finnish renewables support” will receive bad grades. Instead, good presentations draw together and make sense of a variety of sources about the theory or specific cases: “here are the important aspects of how Finnish support scheme works, and here are the main explanations for why Finland has so much renewable power: especially X and Y enabled this tremendous success”. The aim of the presentations is to serve as input for the seminars and allow us to a) understand how instruments work, b) why they have been (un)successful, so that we can c) generalise causal mechanisms and apply insights for instrumentation to other cases and sectors.
Preparing for classes (students not presenting)
All students must come well prepared, having read the mandatory reading and viewed the presentation videos – and having reflected on what you have seen and read. Without this, the seminar makes no sense and you will not be able to contribute or learn anything meaningful. Because there is a lot to read for each class (double the “normal” amount, as we have double seminars), it is important to plan ahead.
There will be space for questions and discussion related to the videos and the literature in class. If you have specific questions, I am happy to receive them before class, which will increase the chance of an intelligent answer.
There will be substantial reading required in preparation of each class, consisting both of academic literature and of primary policy texts. A book (M. Grubb: Planetary Economics) will accompany us throughout the semester. This book is available at the library and as an open access ebook. The full list of mandatory readings will be available on moodle.
Course plan and schedule
The course will be meeting every two weeks, for 180 minutes but with the first 60 minutes (the input presentations) taking place individually before class. The actual presence time in Griebnitzsee is 9.00-11.45 each seminar day. Classes take place every two weeks. Note that the meeting rhythm is somewhat different around Ascension Day.
In every session (classes 2-6), we focus on a particular type of instrument, both investigating its theoretical roots and how it has played out in practice illustrated by case studies for a particular energy sector. We will then explore and generalise lessons learned from practice, and seek to apply these lessons to develop policy proposals for other energy sectors and/or contexts. In the last session, we will pull it all together and create policy proposals for decarbonisation of a European country, based on the goals and instruments presented in a national energy strategy, such as a National Energy and Climate Plan.
Students presenting will need to go beyond the mandatory reading, especially regarding the case studies. Each student will contribute a presentation (15-20 min) on either the underlying theory or a case study. These presentations will also be the foundation of each session, together with the mandatory reading for the day. Hence, students presenting must coordinate their presentations, to avoid repetition and ensure that key messages are made clear. To this end, the lecturer and the group of students presenting will meet well before each class to plan the set of presentations, and to help finding relevant literature for the preparations.
Each student will receive an individual grade and feedback for the presentation, but that grade will also consist (25%) of the performance of the group of presentations of each session as a whole.
Students requiring a pass/fail grade must only do and pass the presentation. Students who want to do the module examination or require a grade for the course must additionally write a semester thesis. The thesis will contribute 2/3 of the final grade, with the other 1/3 being the presentation grade.
Any student allowed to enrol in the respective modules can take part in the course. Having attended the Climate and Energy Transition Policy seminar (winter semester) will be beneficial but is not necessary participating in this course. Having taken this Policy Instruments course will equally prepare you well for the winter course.
Course outline (subject to updates, esp. regarding the cases). Note that the 26 May is outside of the regular schedule, so that we keep Ascension Day free.
What will we do in this class – how and why?
Step into the world of energy policy, theoretical basics and policy evaluation criteria
Paying for emissions
Carbon pricing: cap and trade systems, carbon taxes. Theory and carbon pricing experiences from the EU, Scandinavia, the UK, and the Kyoto protocol.
Bridging the technological valley of death
Market introduction instruments. Theory and cases for renewable electricity support in Germany, Sweden/Norway, the UK.
Sticks and carrots
Standards and subsidies. Theory and cases from energy efficiency policies in Europe, including the Building Directive, Ecodesign, national renovation policies.
Command and control
Phase-out policies. Theory and cases from nuclear, petroleum car and coal phase-out policies in France, Spain, Germany, Sweden.
Breaking and reshaping the regime
Infrastructure policies. Theory and cases from bike system and city reconfiguration in the Netherlands, Denmark and Berlin, and for electric cars infrastructure in Norway, the Netherlands and Germany.
Pulling it all together
Very likely applying our knowledge to the National Energy and Climate Plan of a European country: what should this country do now to reach its goals? [case to be determined]
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