Rapid environmental degradation and consumption of natural resources is a growing global concern, leading to the awareness that environmental sustainability is a critical new strategic objective. Municipalities are important actors when it comes to energy efficiency and improve environmental sustainability. One important tool to promote this work is implementing a local energy and/or climate strategy. How such local strategies are and could be designed in order to make a difference and promote sustainable energy solutions will be in focus for this paper. In order to promote strategic energy work at the local level, the, Swedish Energy Agency initiated a program called Sustainable Municipalities. As a part of this program participating municipalities were mandated to develop local energy and climate strategies.
This paper aims at creating a general overview of approaches to, and uses of, local energy strategies among the participants in the Sustainable Municipalities program. This overview includes: analyzes of whether energy plans or strategies are present, which issues these plans address, what actors that are included, and whether follow-up is pursued.
We will elucidate local energy strategies from a management perspective, and discuss if and how the composition of actors influence suggested goals and measures, if there were plans for implementation and follow-ups. Our theoretical ambitions are to integrate theories on how to manage an efficient energy strategic planning and on how to achieve successful stakeholder participation. This in order to discuss weaknesses and strengths in existing municipal energy planning practices and how to improve energy planning in relation to those theories.
Document studies and structured telephone interviews with representatives from 60 municipalities were used to collect data. Around 75 percent of the municipalities in the study had adopted local energy strategies. This figure is surprisingly low; given that participation in the sustainable Municipalities program required energy strategies. In general, processes to develop a strategy included different parts of the municipality, and resulted in concrete measures. There were no correlations between included actors, and measures suggested and themes in the strategies. Most commonly occurring were strategies related to public buildings and other buildings owned by municipality owned companies. The most commonly suggested measures were related to transports. Almost all respondents claimed that they performed follow-ups and that this was planned for already in the set-up phase.
Ten out of sixty respondents, who mainly were managers or strategists, meant that they were they alone were the main driving actors in strategic energy issues.
The studied municipalities had not adopted energy plans or strategies to a higher degree compared to other Swedish municipalities. Cooperation is often broad within the municipalities but limited when it comes to external actors. The content of the energy plans do not always reflect the content of the measures and goals. The rather limited participation in the process could affect the impact and legitimacy of the strategies in the organizations.
Greening of Industry Network Conference (GIN 2012), 21-24 October 2012, Linköping, Sweden