Rethinking the continuum between public and private actors in electricity policy in the context of the uk energy transition
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At the turn of the 1990s, a very large part of UK energy utilities was transferred from the public sector into private ownership. When analysing the era of privatisation, recent research on public policy has concluded that public authorities’ ability to influence or shape national energy choices has been substantially weakened. Since the mid-2000s, however, tight cooperation between private investors and UK public regulators and policy-makers has emerged as a critical factor to meet the challenges posed by the energy transition. How have the British public authorities tried to get private actors on board and to involve them not only in the delivery and funding of energy services, as has been the case with public-private partnerships, but also in the decision-making process? This article identifies various schemes spearheaded by the UK government to breed or revive innovation in the privately-owned renewable and nuclear energy industries. This analysis explores the various strategies used to facilitate ‘decompartmentalising’ initiatives and ensure a smooth transition towards a neo-corporatist revival of the Triple Helix involving industry, academia, and government. It shows how these hybrid processes offer valuable insight for analysing and reconceptualising the boundary between the public and the private sectors. Based on this case study, this analysis ultimately demonstrates how the public/private dichotomy should be reassessed using the concepts of hybrid roles and responsibilities.
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