Are climate boards the future rather than water boards? An analysis of the contributions of the water boards to the energy transition

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The Netherlands is on the eve of a drastic change in energy management. Water boards are all the more aware of the consequences of climate change, but the solution that is within reach is not yet fully exploited: energy transition. In conjunction with my graduation internship for WSP, this study attempts to answer the following central question: “How do the water boards in the Netherlands experience the possibilities and limitations at the macro-, meso- and micro levels to contribute to the energy transition?” This central question will be answered using the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) of van Geels (2000), looking at three different levels: macro (landscape), meso (regime) and micro (niche). The macro-level will focus on major trends, particularly climate change and sustainability. The water boards are placed in the most critical group, the meso-level. The partnerships with other water boards at different scales and third parties will be examined here. Financial, professional and regulatory resources will also be considered. Finally, the routines and habits will be discussed—the micro-level looks at niche innovations that have been developed by or in collaboration with water boards. The method used is qualitative and quantitative research. Ten semi-structured interviews were conducted at four different water boards for the qualitative part. These water boards were used as case studies: water board Limburg, Wetterskip Fryslân and Rivierenland. In addition, for the quantitative part, surveys were conducted at 18 various water boards to create an overall picture of the role of the water boards in the energy transition. The significant trends have caused changes within the regime as the niches. The water boards are implementing measures due to climate change and sustainability. To start with, the water boards' objective has set themselves to be energy-neutral by 2025. Furthermore, niche innovations also take trends into account, such as installing solar and wind parks to reduce co2 emissions. This is also an obstacle, as the focus on biodiversity has also created implementation problems. The niches also influence the regime, as they allow the water boards to accelerate the energy transition when a pilot study is successful and profitable. The limitation within the niches has to do with participation and support from citizens. Residents must be more involved in pilot studies in the future because it has been shown that this improves implementation. Various findings have been made at the meso-level. For example, there are sufficient opportunities in cooperation, financial and professional resources. However, all three are location-specific, which means differences between the three case studies. The most significant limitations are experienced in the regulatory resources. Both the dilemma of the strict laws and regulations surrounding the installation of wind and solar parks and the fact that they are not allowed to supply electricity to citizens. The former hinders the water boards in their energy transition. The second ensures that there can be a regime change when a non-profit government body changes to a profit organisation that supplies the electricity. Another finding that should be mentioned in the discussion is whether the term 'water board' is still comprehensive enough and whether it would not be better to call it a 'climate board' in the future. This is because of the ever-increasing range of tasks for the water boards with the advent of climate change and sustainability. This could cause a regime change for the water boards. An important counterargument is that the core tasks would be neglected precisely because of the broader range of functions. To gain more insight into the role of the water boards within the energy transition, it is essential to involve other parties in the study by conducting interviews with the water boards' key partners or with people from the Union of Water Boards. Because people with different functions were interviewed in this study, it was sometimes difficult to make direct comparisons. It is also essential to keep in mind the differences between the water boards in terms of financial, professional and regulatory resources. These differ from one water board to another and underlie the speed of the energy transition. To gain a complete picture of the energy transition in the Netherlands, further research can be done into the influence of the same contextual factors on other levels of government, such as central government, provinces and municipalities. Keywords: water boards, climate boards, energy transition, multi-level perspective, regime
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen