Two steps forward, one step back: Renewable energy transitions in Bulgaria and Romania

AuthorSimona Davidescu,Tomas Maltby,Ralitsa Hiteva
Date01 September 2018
Published date01 September 2018
Two steps forward, one step back: Renewable
energy transitions in Bulgaria and Romania
Simona Davidescu
| Ralitsa Hiteva
| Tomas Maltby
EU Asia Institute, ESSCA, Graduate School of
Management, Angers, France and Department
of Politics, University of York, York, UK
Science Policy Research Unit, University of
Sussex, Brighton, UK
Department of Political Economy, Kings
College London, London, UK
Ralitsa Hiteva, Science Policy Research Unit,
University of Sussex, BMEc, Jubilee Building,
Brighton BN1 9RH, UK.
This article examines renewable energy policy in Bulgaria and
Romania (200717) and the reasons behind the unexpected rapid
growth in renewables followed by a policy reversal. While we find
strong formal compliance with EU legislation regarding targets for
renewable energy, an examination of institutional change and
policy dismantling in both countries finds that this was not sup-
ported by a paradigmatic policy change or a transformation of the
energy system. Veto players worked to dismantle renewable
energy policy once targets were reached. We use insights from the
intersection of socio-technical systems and historical institutionalist
literatures to explain policy dismantling in the energy sector. In
doing so, we develop a socio-technical account of renewable policy
in Romania and Bulgaria. We show that this is related to the histori-
cally conditioned, path-dependent processes of institutional
change, where energy materiality shapes the parameters of political
possibility and the costs of policy implementation.
For Bulgaria and Romania, EU accession in 2007 was accompanied by limited renewable energy transitions which
have challenged domestic power relations. While both countries met and exceeded their 2020 EU renewable targets
by 2013, the period 2011 to 2017 has been characterized by policy dismantling, involving the removal or reduction
in policy incentives, the lack of implementation and enforcement of legislation, and/or retrospective changes to legis-
lation. The research question we address is why initial (over)compliance was followed by a reversal, exposing a lim-
ited renewable energy transition? We examine the dynamics, drivers and barriers to change within the renewables
sector in Bulgaria and Romania. The overall picture is one of early boombut shallow compliance, followed by a bust
period. This raises questions regarding future compliance with the EUs non-binding (at the national level) 2030
renewable targets, providing insights into barriers to climate and energy policy development. A similar pattern of
renewable energy policy over-compliance and then reversal has also been seen in Spain and the Czech Republic
(Lockwood et al. 2017). We argue that to explain the pace and extent of policy change it is necessary to look at the
underlying socio-technical and institutional factors.
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12522
Public Administration. 2018;96:611625. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd 611

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