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Research article2012Peer reviewedOpen access

The Nordic welfare model providing energy transition? A political geography approach to the EU RES directive

Westholm, Erik; Beland Lindahl, Karin


The EU Renewable Energy Strategy (RES) Directive requires that each member state obtain 20% of its energy supply from renewable sources by 2020. If fully implemented, this implies major changes in institutions, infrastructure, land use, and natural resource flows. This study applies a political geography perspective to explore the transition to renewable energy use in the heating and cooling segment of the Swedish energy system, 1980–2010. The Nordic welfare model, which developed mainly after the Second World War, required relatively uniform, standardized local and regional authorities functioning as implementation agents for national politics. Since 1980, the welfare orientation has gradually been complemented by competition politics promoting technological change, innovation, and entrepreneurship. This combination of welfare state organization and competition politics provided the dynamics necessary for energy transition, which occurred in a semi-public sphere of actors at various geographical scales. However, our analysis, suggest that this was partly an unintended policy outcome, since it was based on a welfare model with no significant energy aims. Our case study suggests that state organization plays a significant role, and that the EU RES Directive implementation will be uneven across Europe, reflecting various welfare models with different institutional pre-requisites for energy transition.

Published in

Energy Policy
2012, Volume: 50, pages: 328-335

      SLU Authors

    • Associated SLU-program

      SLU Future Forests

      Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG7 Affordable and clean energy
      SDG9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
      Forest Science

      Publication identifier


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