Swedish municipalities have traditionally had significant powers and played a major role in implementing national energy strategies. Since 1977, Swedish law has obliged municipalities to prepare municipal energy plans, and many municipalities are owners of, or own stakes in, local energy and property companies. This means municipalities exert significant influence over both energy supply and demand.
Increased focus on climate and energy issues have led to the adoption of national targets and the launch of initiatives such as the EU Covenant of Mayors, which aims to reduce energy consumption and climate impacts. In Sweden, a number of municipalities have participated in the Swedish Energy Agency’s Sustainable Municipality programme, in which they have developed local climate and energy strategies.
The project “Sustainable Energy and Climate Strategies: lessons and development potential“ has assessed factors influencing the organisational structures and processes used by five municipalities to develop their energy and climate strategies and planned implementation and monitoring activities.
This paper presents findings from this project, which makes contributes to research on municipalities and sustainable development, and to practitioners in the field of municipal energy planning. The paper describes the factors influencing development of municipal climate and energy plans in five Swedish municipalities and assesses the relevance and importance of these factors from theoretical and practical perspectives. This will help answers the research questions: what are the characteristics of municipal climate and energy planning processes in the five Swedish municipalities; how do municipalities include stakeholders in the process and in what ways do stakeholders influence outcomes; and, what lessons can be learnt from these cases which may be applicable to other municipalities in Sweden and the EU?
The analysis will make use of theories concerning public policy and management and organisational theory.
Results from the project suggest that a number of key factors influence the development of municipal climate and energy strategies and their content.
These include – but are not limited – to aspects such as the importance of a clear, shared vision and engaged politicians; the size and organisational structure of the municipality and its willingness and capability to act; the organisation of the process and extent to which stakeholders have been involved and feel included; the need for clarity about financial aspects, such as planned financing of implementation; the need for greater clarity concerning selection of targets and their relevance to global climate and energy trends.
By illustrating the characteristics of the municipal climate and energy planning processes in five Swedish municipalities, the study makes a contribution to the research on local governments and sustainable development in general, and specifically to the growing literature on municipal climate and energy planning. The study and its results may be used to inform policy-makers on the national and local levels about the factors influencing municipal energy planning and the importance of involving stakeholders and citizens in the strategic work to reduce climate impacts and energy consumption.