Local governance of energy initiatives: struggles in assembling value
Tingey, Margaret Ruth Rose
Local Authorities are increasingly expected to meet UK 2050 net zero climate goals. However, they struggle to assemble investment for local energy and carbon saving projects. In this thesis I examine how valuation devices that local authorities use to support decision making, shape the development of energy projects. I first develop a conceptual model bridging economic sociology of valuation and programmes of governing. I then use this model to examine valuation practices in local energy across 40 local authority case studies. I demonstrate that the value of local energy initiatives is not pre determined, but is assembled through processes of ‘value-in-the-making’. Local authorities are required to follow formal processes at key junctures in project development. I analyse three such formal valuation processes through my conceptual model: Best Value, the business case model and public procurement. Although governments advise that all three valuation processes provide a balanced evaluation of local investment options, in practice this proves more difficult to achieve, at least for energy projects. I found that energy projects were subjected to diverse processes of economisation which marginalised social value and public goods. It was during the application of these formal valuation devices that the parameters of value shifted. Each device was customised to circumstances and susceptible to different interpretations by officers from across the council throughout project development. This sometimes opens up discrete spheres of influence. Thus, interpretative flexibility, negotiation and contestation ultimately shape the success, scale and scope of energy initiatives. I conclude that the current structures governing valuation practices in local authority energy projects constrains their systematic contribution to a clean energy society.
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