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Energy policymaking: processes, insights, and innovations

There are a multitude of challenges that are confronting governments today, including the pressing need to create a more sustainable future. One way in which governments can strive to achieve this is through developing greener energy processes. As energy underpins every facet of economic and social activity and profoundly influences economic development, human health, international security and natural resource management, it is key for governments to shape the future of the energy sector.

This is where the role of Policy Makers step in to address these issues by creating and amending rules and regulations around energy production, distribution, and consumption. Policy Makers can be anyone involved in this process, including government officials, politicians, and people from wider communities who feed into consultations (such as NGO’s and others working in industry). However, the process behind policymaking can be complex; find out more about what is involved below.


The stages in energy policymaking

Energy policies are created and enforced at local, national, and international levels to help tackle a variety of different problems. As a result of this, there are contrasting frameworks and theories with different approaches to the policymaking process. Despite this, broadly speaking we can narrow down the process to five primary stages:

  1. Issue identification / agenda setting
    The start of a policymaking process often starts with the identification of an issue. This could cover a breadth of different challenges such as reducing emissions or increasing the volume of renewable energy sources. The issues can cover a wide range of different disciplines and specialisms and may require collaboration with both private and public partners such as councils, governments, researchers, industries, project managers, civil society organisations and other stakeholders.
  2. Policy analysis
    After identifying an issue, there may be several different ways to address the problem, and these solutions must be analysed. For example, the emissions produced by personal vehicles need to be reduced, so policies such as increasing congestion zones, using tax breaks for electric cars, or increasing park and ride availability could be used. By analysing these different options, the most effective and politically feasible policy can then be carried forward to the next stage.
  3. Policy formulation
    The policy will then need to be refined. At this stage, meetings with key stakeholders will be vital to ensure that the policy is formed correctly and effectively.
  4. Adoption and implementation
    The next stage is to adopt the policy. Adoption often involves legislatures being taken on by relevant institutions. Once adopted, they move into the next phase of the policy process, implementation.Implementation usually involves the executive arm of government or specialist agencies. It must be carefully articulated and communicated to the relevant stakeholders to ensure its successful implementation. Whether this is on a local, national, or global scale, the correct resources will need to be organised, with a series of activities carried out in the correct order to achieve the original goal of solving the initial problem outlined in stage 1.
  5. Policy evaluation and feedback
    The final stage in the process is to review the policy. There are a range of different ways to analyze and evaluate policy, however there is often a process of using different research methods and data collection. This is then used to determine its success and further improvements to bring additional benefits to key stakeholders.


Bold ambitions for the future of energy policymaking

There is a challenge to meet the requirements outlined in the International Paris Agreement and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The policies behind the transition to a more sustainable world must be scientific, technological, cultural, and economic to create a positive and long-lasting impact. Through this multidimensional lens, only then can action become truly innovative and ground-breaking. The IFG succinctly summarise the need to be forward-thinking when creating new energy policies:

“Bold ambition – such as the prime minister’s desire to make the UK ‘the Saudi Arabia of wind power’ – can be delivered only with effective policies. As the UK strives to reach its target of net zero carbon emissions in the coming decades, its energy policies will need to become even more ambitious and more complex. Policy making must therefore be set up to achieve the best chance of success.”
Institute for Government, 2020


Influence policymaking yourself

If you are interested in finding out more about policymaking processes and how you could make a change towards building a brighter, more sustainable future, take a look at our Energy Policy MSc (online). The course focuses on contemporary global issues. It uses the latest scientific research and takes an interdisciplinary approach. It is delivered by leading academics that are advising governments and organisations across the world. Read more on the course page.