UK devolution and divergence in energy efficiency policies: Scotland and England

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This seminar examines diverging energy efficiency policy commitments, instruments and financing in England and Scotland, consequent on UK devolved government. Drawing on institutional theory, it analyses the political dynamics associated with the mix of relevant powers, and the scope for interpretative flexibility to enable differential policy formation. Differing political-economic commitments in UK Conservative-led, and Scottish SNP-led, governments have sustained a motive for Scottish policy divergence. UK governments have prioritised short-term energy prices in liberalised markets, reducing ‘green levies’ on energy tariffs, and minimising public funding for energy efficiency. In contrast Scottish policy has centred on a social market model, cultivating distinctive institutions to legitimise economically consequential commitments to universal retrofit of building stock. Lacking powers over energy supply, Scottish policy-makers have taken a whole systems approach to reducing carbon emissions, constituting demand-side policies as political opportunities for economic and welfare gains, rather than as cost burdens.

The result is a more planned approach, with specific policy instruments and financial commitments, in Scotland than England. The material impacts of diverging policy remain uncertain.