What is Energy Policy?
Countries around the world create and implement a wide variety of energy policies based primarily on their national interests. For example, some countries may be interested in decarbonization, system reliability, resource diversification, technology export potential, economic costs, or electricity access. In short, the issues and interests of nations define the direction they take their energy policy.
However, energy policy is also often shaped by international agreements towards common goals. For example, the Paris Agreement aligns nations on the decarbonization of energy systems 1 and the Sustainable Development Goals work towards ensuring affordable and reliable clean energy access. 2 But ultimately, international agreements have no binding authority and countries may (and often do) diverge from previous commitments or abandon them all together.
An interesting aspect of setting energy policy is the impact that it often has on other sectors. If we take policies pertaining to decarbonization as an example, we may quickly realize that we must also make major changes to building codes, invest in public transportation, incentivize new home appliances (i.e. Energy Star certified), adjust electricity prices, develop new technologies, or tax carbon emissions.
A great example that illustrates the international and national complexities of implementing energy policies can be found in Canada. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, Canada has agreed to reduce its emissions 30% by 2030 and to have a net-zero emission economy by 2050. 3 This international commitment has greatly shaped energy policy within the country. Canada is currently implementing a national carbon tax, is creating net-zero building codes, and has mandated that 100% of light-duty vehicle sales are zero-emission vehicles by 2040. 4
However, implementing such policies is not so easy. In Canada, as is the case in many countries, individual provinces and territories (or states) have power to create their own policies and may reject or even take legal action against federal attempts to implement policy. This is why the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is so important – it’s an agreement between provinces to work together to implement important energy policy because the federal government alone has minimal power to do so.
One of the easiest ways for citizens to engage in energy policy decisions is to support industry associations related to the issues that they most care about. For example, many countries have associations for various renewable and clean energy sources, energy efficiency, net-zero buildings, and various other special interests. These organizations often do a great job at engaging policy makers and letting you know when your support is needed for feedback or activism via petitions or political votes.
Another way to get involved is to directly participate in the energy policy-making process. Each country has a unique way of collecting public feedback on policy decisions, but public hearings and workshops are common. You can visit the website for your country’s Ministry of Energy (or equivalent) to find out more about the process that applies to you.