Subnational governance for the low carbon energy transition: Mapping the UK’s ‘Energy Constitution’

Muinzer Thomas, Geraint Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
479 Downloads (Pure)


The UK has a ‘national’ strategy to decarbonise its energy sector, yet the transfer of key responsibilities to its Devolved Administrations has meant that they control many of the powers that determine the rate and extent of the decarbonisation process. This reflects an asymmetrical distribution of legal responsibilities that has cast a complex range of powers ‘downward’ from the national sphere to subnational scales and which plays a crucial role in shaping the agency at different levels of the UK’s energy governance. This paper provides a detailed exploration of the UK’s ‘Energy Constitution’ as a means of examining the way in which the complex legal framework of devolution shapes the spatial organisation of the UK’s low carbon transition. Previous research on the low carbon transition has remained largely ‘lawless’ and as such has tended to overlook how the legal regimes governing energy both produce space and are shaped by its geographic context. The paper therefore develops a more nuanced understanding of the spatiality, territorialisation and scaling of UK energy governance to highlight a nexus of ambiguity and partial power allocation distributed across a plurality of overlapping ‘legal’ jurisdictions. This raises fundamental questions over how UK constitutional arrangements reify the territoriality of energy governance and structure the relationships between national and subnational multi-level decarbonisation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1176
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Issue number7
Early online date02 Feb 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 02 Feb 2017


  • climate change
  • energy law
  • Devolution
  • legal geography
  • scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy(all)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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