Central-Local Relations in French Energy Policy-Making: Towards a New Pattern of Territorial Governance



After a long period of centralization, local authorities have been taking a new place in the French energy sector. This revival began in the 1990s with the process of deregulation, which gave them new room for manoeuvre. This continued into the 2000s, when energy efficiency and climate change issues were set on the political agenda. This process led many practitioners and academic researchers to consider these two last decades as a turning point, which initiates a new model of governance, one that is far more decentralized than in the past. Here, we discuss this hypothesis and show that this recent ‘activism’ at local level associated with a change in State intervention has been leading to a new pattern of territorial governance in France that is not at odds with the past but rather is in continuity with it. Using the neo-institutional approach developed by James Mahoney and Kathleen Thelen, we focus on three main dimensions that play a ‘homeostatic’ role: the production structure, ideas and institutional arrangements. This leads us to develop an interpretation of ongoing changes in terms of an ‘aggiornamento’ of the former pattern of governance, rather than any real breakdown. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment