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Questioning the UK state capacity to govern controversial technologies such as nuclear power

Lucie de Carvalho
p. 65-81

Résumé

This paper focusses on recent UK nuclear power policies in an attempt to test and question the widespread theories over a possible “hollowing out” of the state as a result of the recent changes in governance structure and dynamics that occurred in the British electricity sector over the 1990s. Our purpose is to defend the idea that the UK state remains a dominant player in UK energy policies, having shown strong adaptability to the challenges raised by the rapidly changing energy context, without necessarily returning to a traditional “command and control” approach to policy-making.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 Finon, D., Staropoli, C., ‘The Performing Interaction between Institutions and Technology in the Fr (...)
  • 2 Helm, D., (ed), The Energy Paradigm, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.

1Nuclear power can be considered a rather unconventional if not problematic case of public policies. Developing such a large-scale technology requires tremendous initial capital investments, entails long-term commitments and major infrastructure transformations, while being constrained by highly-restrictive regulation in terms of security and safety at both the national and international levels. Based on an average investment of £ 16 billion, UK nuclear power facilities have on average taken 12 years to become operational and have a functioning life of 60 years. Now electricity – the product in itself – does not fit the definition of a traditional tradable commodity either : as opposed to fossil fuels it cannot be stored in large quantities and for a long period of time, and any interruption in supply may therefore have higher immediate consequences for the consumers than for the producers. For both those reasons, a large body of literature supports the idea that only strong state involvement through state ownership and a concentrated electricity industry can ensure the most favourable environment for a successful nuclear venture, often citing the French example in that respect.1 Yet with only 17 per cent of its energy production based on nuclear power and its overall atomised and mostly privately-owned nuclear industry, the UK power sector now shares few common features with its French counterpart. Over the past decades, the UK nuclear industry has moreover been greatly overlooked and suffered from a lack of consistency from the central government whose decisions regarding the energy sector were mostly reactive and pragmatic in nature, favouring “picking the winners”, such as the gas industry, rather than providing a steady strong state support to the electricity industry as a whole. With the privatisation process of the sector and thus the transfer of the major electricity utilities under private ownership at the beginning of the 1990s, Dieter Helm argues that the UK is one of the states with the weakest influence over its energy balance.2

  • 3 DTI, The Energy Challenge: Energy Review Report, Cm 6887, London, TSO, July 2006.
  • 4 Baker, K., Stoker, G., ‘Meta-Governance and the UK Nuclear Industry: a Limiting Case’, in, European (...)
  • 5 Nodality refers to the State’s central and strategic position within the decision-making process an (...)
  • 6 Hood, C., The Tools of Government. Chatham (NJ), Chatham House, 1986.
  • 7 Skocpol, T., States and Social Revolutions: a Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China, Cam (...)
  • 8 Migdal, J.S. (ed), Strong Societies and Weak States, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1988.
  • 9 Rothstein, B., Teorell, J., ‘Defining and Measuring Quality of Government’, in Holmberg, S., Rothst (...)
  • 10 Fukuyama, F., ‘What is Governance?’, Governance: an International Journal of Policy, Administration (...)

2The tide in the government’s interest however turned in 2004/06 when the Blair government resolved to rekindle their involvement in the energy sector in the 2006 Energy Review, by launching a vast programme of new nuclear build3 to tackle emerging issues in the country’s supply balance. Such step seemingly embodies policy-makers’ attempts to drive policy changes in the energy sector, a role they had previously relinquished. In 2009, Keith Baker4 looked into this apparent paradoxical situation to assess the UK state’s capacity to control its private nuclear energy sector. To do so, he used the NATO (Nodality-Authority-Treasure-Organisation5) framework, a theoretical taxonomy designed by Hood6 in the 1980s to designate the toolkit or resources states traditionally have at their disposal to influence national policies. Such work falls in line with the flourishing literature of public policy studies of governance and the dichotomous – yet fairly simplistic - divide between “strong state” and “weak state”, notions which emerged alongside several concepts ranging from “state power”7, “state strength”8 to “government effectiveness”9 and “state capacity”10. Embracing the society-centred theories which tend to support the belief that the state’s capacities to efficiently weigh in policy changes have greatly shrunk due to the new forms of governance that emerged since the 1990s, Baker believes that the gap has now become too wide between the state’s goals and its actuals means to achieve them. He therefore concludes that the prospects for the current nuclear programme are very bleak. In his view, the UK government can no longer use the NATO tools in a market-based sector, and is hence incapable of commanding, controlling or steering ; let alone dominating policy choices made in its own domestic electricity sector.

  • 11 Rhodes, R.A.W, Understanding Governance: Policy Networks, Governance, Reflexivity and Accountabilit (...)

3However we believe that the NATO framework is too rigid, and possibly too outdated, to fully grasp the transformations emerging in the current state of affairs, thus potentially distorting their analysis. Contrary to Baker or other good governance theorists who argue that the state has been in practice “hollowed out”11, our point in this article will not be to assess or predict the possible failure or success of the current nuclear enterprise but rather to delve in its complexity. Our goal is to understand how the UK state has tried to pragmatically respond to its limitations or to strike a balance between the “weak state” in a market-based model and a return to a state monopoly system. To do so, we shall first discuss how the UK state has come to be regarded as having weak leverage in its energy policies since the 1990s. After exploring why the 2000s can be considered the backdrop to a change in energy paradigm, we shall then turn to recent developments in order to shed light on the extent to which the current nuclear programme has given the UK state an opportunity to reclaim some of its capacity on this very specific case of public policy since the mid-2000s.

1990-2005 : the UK State’s retreat from nuclear power policies

Privatising, liberalising, devolving

4 Since the 1990s the state has been a rather timid player in the UK energy sector mainly due to two major successive yet unrelated events : the privatisation of the electricity utilities and services, and the devolution process.

5 Firstly, the electricity sector underwent a major overhaul of its internal structure and workings when the Thatcher and Major governments decided upon the liberalisation of the energy markets through the Electricity Act of 1989, which was implemented during the first half of the 1990s. Transferring the country’s energy assets under private ownership was mainly encouraged by the rather stable situation the country had achieved in terms of its energy balance of supplies. The rather comfortable situation was mostly engendered by the discovery and harnessing of significant domestic oil and gas resources in the North Sea, known today as the Dash for Gas, which enabled the UK to join the safe grounds of energy independence as illustrated by the following graph :

Figure 1. UK Energy Dependency, 1970-2012

(source : DECC, Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2013, Statistical Press Release, 2013/078, 25 July 2013, p. 3).

6 The nuclear industry was the last to be privatised, only the old Magnox power stations, a legacy of the very first nuclear power programme of the 1950s, remained under public ownership. As the issue of energy security drifted down the government’s priority list over that period, the energy sector was therefore deemed viable on its own and fit to be left under the control of market forces. Such belief emerged as early as the 1980s, as illustrated by the speech delivered by the then Secretary of State for Energy, Nigel Lawson, outlining the Conservative privatisation project back in 1982 :

I do not see the government’s task as being to try to plan the future shape of energy production and consumption. It is not even primarily to try to balance UK demand and supply for energy. Our task is rather to set a framework which will ensure that the market operates in the energy sector with a minimum of distortion.

7 As evidence of the receding interest in the state’s planning and steering role, the Department of Energy, created in 1974, was abolished in 1992 while some of the functions previous allotted to the secretary of State for Energy were transferred and incorporated into the Department for Trade and Industry. Without going into further details about the privatisation process, three major consequences need to be underlined :

  • 12 At first, the UK state retained 40 per cent of the assets of those various companies before selling (...)

8 First, the privatisation of the state-owned asset for England and Wales, the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) which had been set up in 1957, led to the vertical fragmentation of the energy sector as the CEGB was split into four different companies : the transmission body (the National Grid), and three generators : Powergen, Innogy and Nuclear Electric in 1990-199112, the latter later purchased by international power companies (as illustrated in figure 2).

Figure 2. The atomisation of the electricity generating sector

9 Second, the privatisation process also went hand in hand with the state’s withdrawal of direct financial support to the Research & Development sector. As the graph illustrates (figure 3), even though the share of government spending on nuclear fusion and fission research started to plummet in 1985, the decrease was seemingly hastened by privatisation.

Figure 3. Government expenditure on energy R&D 1974-2004.

(source : UKERC, Research Atlas : an Overview, 12 September, 2014, url : http://ukerc.rl.ac.uk/​ERA002.html).

10 Major research projects, including the Fast-Breeder Reactor at Dounreay (Scotland), were cancelled in 1994. According to the ONS, if public R&D including energy research13 was further reduced by 19 per cent over that period, government funding of UK business R&D increased by 37 per cent. Those new forms of public-private partnerships in research, including the Energy Technology Institute recently launched between the UK government and a group of energy companies in 200714, embody a gradual move towards a pooling of responsibility between public and private stakeholders, further evidence of the state’s waning direct influence over the energy industries. Moreover, an increasing share of nuclear R&D has been taken on by private companies, seeking partnerships with major UK universities.

11 Thirdly, the introduction of competition in the electricity market yielded a significant impact on the industrial choices made during the context of excess capacity of the 1990s : private energy companies became less willing to make moves towards risky industrial development, first among which nuclear power, for the reasons outlined in our introduction, and preferred to indulge in short-term decisions and invest in efficiency-based projects, such as gas power stations or CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) technologies, facilities which are believed to guarantee quicker returns on investment.

12 Moreover the thus vertically-deintegrated nuclear sector was further atomised with the devolution process thanks to which Scotland in particular gained extra sway over its own energy policy, while Northern Ireland got permanently connected to the Irish grid. Even though energy - and thus nuclear power - did not feature among the devolved powers transferred to regional authorities, Holyrood is nevertheless in charge of infrastructure planning and environment policies north of the Hadrian Wall. When the SNP took over the Scottish government, their energy platform hinged on developing green energies within a low-carbon economy. After the Blair government greenlit the nuclear power programme in 2006, the Salmond government quite forcefully opposed the programme and on 17 January 2008 their stance was endorsed by the Scottish parliament which voted by a narrow margin (63-58) against the building of any new nuclear power stations in Scotland, barring Hunterston and Torness – two operational nuclear power stations - from featuring among the sites earmarked for future nuclear build.

  • 15 Held & al., Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999, (...)
  • 16 Rhodes, R.A.W, ‘The New Governance: Governing Without Government’, Political Studies, 1996, 44 (4) (...)

13 All in all, those various transformations entailed critical changes in the way the UK nuclear industry was organized and governed ; the limits between the state’s and private stakeholders’ powers came to be significantly blurred. As Held puts it, “power [became increasingly] shared, bartered and struggled over by diverse forces and agencies at national, regional and global levels”.15 It turns out that over the turn of the 21st century, the traditional top-down, rigid, vertical and hierarchical decision-making system centred on the state had given way to a fuzzier, more diffuse and atomised system in which private actors, mainly the industrial partners and energy generators were “governing without government”16, as Rhodes has argued, therefore fuelling several commentators’ assessment that the UK state’s governing capacity had been drastically yet willingly pruned.

2000s : the changing energy paradigm

  • 17 The UKCS, Economic Report 2011 : url: < http://www.oilandgasuk.co.uk/economic_report/reserves.cfm >
  • 18 DECC, Summary of UK Recoverable Hydrocarbon Resources, 2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/ (...)
  • 19 International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2007, Paris, OECD / IEA, 2007.
  • 20 The UK is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
  • 21 Ofgem, Report to Government: Gas Security of Supply Report, London, November 2012.

14 Since the 2000s however, the energy matter has come back high on the UK political agenda as a set of converging factors began to rekindle major concerns over energy supply diversity and security. They also conjured up the spectre of an impending major energy crisis linked to the finite nature of fossil fuels, the world’s current major energy resources. In the UK several debates started to emerge over the possible depletion of North Sea oil and gas resources which had experienced a high-octane period over the 1990s. In 2004, the UK became a net importer of LNG and today, less than half of the gas burnt in the UK comes from domestic gas fields. Several reports supporting this assessment mushroomed, although no consensus emerged on the scale of the reserves still left to tap into by 2050. For instance, according to the UK’s Continental Shelf, the industry company, between 14-24 billion barrels oil equivalent (boe) can still be recovered17, while government forecasts tend to be less optimistic, looking at 11.1-21 billion boe18. Nonetheless, all agree domestic production is very likely to carry on diminishing over the next 30 years. Besides, many projections predict that the world oil production will most likely reach its peak by 203019. Although much debate and scepticism still surround those forecasts, British discussions coalesced with more geopolitical concerns over political instability in the oil and gas producing countries, including the Middle-East and most importantly Russia, on which the UK will become increasingly dependent in terms of supplies. To cap it all, the UK’s environmental commitments to decreasing the country’s carbon emissions made in the wake of the 1997 Kyoto protocol led to a stronger drop in domestic coal production20. All in all increased reliance on gas, oil and coal imports as outlined in the 2003 Energy White Paper “Our Energy Future : Creating a Low Carbon Economy”, translated into the reversal of the UK imports dependency balance in 2006 (figure 1) against the backdrop of a global shift in energy paradigm. Such mounting concerns over the security of the UK energy mix became palpable for consumers during the winter of 2008 when major power cuts took place across the country. A similar catastrophe was averted in March 2013 as a rather late wave of cold weather hit the UK, forcing UK electricity generators to scrap the bottom of their long-range gas storage tanks and a Qatari gas tankers had to be rerouted. According to the energy regulator, OFGEM, the UK only has for the time being the capacity to store fourteen days’ supply.21

  • 22 Energy and Climate Change Committee, The UK’s Energy Supply: Security or Independence?, 8th Report (...)
  • 23 HSE, Major Hazard Safety Performance Indicators, in Great Britain’s Onshore Gas and Pipeline Indust (...)

15 Moreover as recalled in a report from the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, security of supply does not only imply “potential interruptions of supply” but also involves sound and safe infrastructure development.22 Concerns also started to emerge as to the latter as for instance, the yearly number of accidents on gas pipelines (including leakage, fires, system failures but also vandalism) peaked at 340 in 2005.23 Besides, considering that the last nuclear power programme dates back to the 1980s, the UK nuclear fleet is rather old and growingly obsolete as all but one nuclear power plants will be closed down and entering decommissioning by 2023.

16 All in all, by 2006, this increasingly unstable energy situation pushed the Blair government to take a more active role in domestic energy policies and call for a revival of nuclear power by endorsing a most daring project of new nuclear build, publicly defended as the most viable solution to “keep the lights on”.

The current nuclear programme : a return to planning and indirect interventionism

  • 24 Giddens, A., The Politics of Climate Change, Cambridge, Polity Press, second edition, 2011, p. 71.

17 We now look into recent developments to analyse how the UK state has been pushed into becoming a strategic steward in energy policies again, embodying what Anthony Giddens called “the ensuring state”, shifting from a reactive to a more proactive yet indirect role.24

  • 25 Webb, T., ‘The Government Opens Bidding for Nuclear Sites’, The Guardian, 1 March, 2009.
  • 26 Great Britain: National Audit Office, The Sale of the Government’s Interest in British Energy, HC 2 (...)

18 At the inception of the nuclear programme, the UK state was seemingly still intent on remaining a distant player in nuclear policies as private investors were called upon to manage, organise and implement the project of new nuclear build. In 2009, the state’s influence was even further geared down when the government decided to sell the lands that had been singled out for the future nuclear power stations at auction to the three private companies (EDF Energy, RWE and E.ON) that had come forth to take part in the undertaking25, after having sold 44.5 per cent of their remaining assets in British Energy in May 2007.26 When the Coalition Government came to power in May 2010, they forcefully committed not to provide any public subsidy to the nuclear venture and stated “that there [would] be no levy, direct payment or market support for electricity supplied or capacity provided by a private sector new nuclear operator, unless similar support is also made available more widely to other types of generation,” as Chris Huhne, the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, explained in a Written Ministerial Statement on energy policy on 18 October 2010.

  • 27 The three companies still active in the nuclear project are EDF Energy (Hinkley Point and Sizewell) (...)
  • 28 Environmental Audit Committee, Keeping the lights on: Nuclear, renewables and climate Change, 6th r (...)
  • 29 Moreover, the UK state institutionally claimed a new role in energy and environmental matters by cr (...)

19 Nonetheless, the Nuclear Renaissance suffered major setbacks when two energy consortia, reluctant to commit to such a large-scale project without strong guarantees from the UK government, decided to pull back. They mostly feared a change of heart from future political leaders as it was estimated that each reactor would roughly take 10 years to build, including 4 years of planning. As a result, the UK state had to resort to two of its traditional tools to provide incentives for the companies still in the nuclear game27 to invest, thereby sending strong signals to the industry to show how determined the UK government was to see the project through. According to views expressed in a 2006 House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, state intervention is deemed necessary when markets imperatives for economic efficiency and low costs no longer tally with contemporary energy imperatives, such as tackling climate change or securing a stable energy supply system.28 The Coalition Government embraced such views, using climate change29 and supply security as rationales for state intervention. The two main instruments brought into play were regulation and taxation.

  • 30 The regulatory framework encompasses onsite nuclear safety and security, transportation and safegua (...)

20 Firstly, the regulation framework surrounding nuclear power plant building was greatly transformed through the removal of bureaucratic barriers and a streamlining process that resulted in the creation of the Office for Nuclear Development (OND) in 2008 : this independent body can be seen as a Walmart for nuclear power investors, gathering under one authority all the various steps they need to go through during the four-year planning procedure30.

  • 31 Reed, S., Scott, M., ‘In Europe, Paid Permits for Pollution are Fizzling’, the New York Times, Apri (...)
  • 32 The difference between the carbon price under the ETS and the UK target will be henceforth paid to (...)
  • 33 Ares, E., Carbon Floor Price, Science and Environment Section, SN/SC/5927, London, House of Commons (...)

21 Secondly, major changes to foster fuel switching to low-carbon energies were carried out in the taxation system as market-based instruments, which not directly but indirectly benefitted nuclear power, were implemented as part of climate change mitigation policies. In the wake of the taxes on carbon emissions from fossil fuel energy sources (Fossil Fuel Levy (1989), Climate Change Levy (2001)), the UK also took part of the European Union Emissions Trading System (ETS) launched in 2005, still clinging onto the idea that markets would sort things out, while encapsulating the “polluter pays” principle. However, when the ETS turned out to be a failure as too many pollution allowances were at first issued thus leading prices to crash, and the system turned out to be plagued by fraud and corruption31, more hands-on measures on the carbon market had to be taken by the UK government to bolster the ETS : in September 2009, the Office for Nuclear Development (OND) - the institution focused on market regulation, whose task is to remove barriers to nuclear investment and secure markets - promised nuclear companies that the price of carbon under the ETS would never fall below £ 16 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent and would rise to a minimum of £ 70 by 2030. This commitment was later consolidated through the Carbon Price Floor (to be revised every two years), introduced by George Osborne on 1 April 201332. Those successive measures although originally designed to entail a shift to low-carbon energies, more practically and indirectly improved nuclear economics as they mostly targeted fossil fuel energy producers. It therefore comes as no surprise that the major nuclear generators, first among which EDF Energy, were strong advocates for the carbon price.33

  • 34 Announced on in July 2012, the UK Guarantees Scheme and the Infrastructure Pipeline Plan provide of (...)

22 Even though the Coalition Government unremittingly repeated their pledge not to subsidise the new nuclear power plants and let the private investors foot the bill and control the energy pricing scheme, two new measures taken in 2013 tend to suggest otherwise : on the one hand, the 2013 Energy Act reintroduced without naming it the Grandfathering Principle, a tool traditionally applied to renewables which guarantees that no retrospective change will be made to already existing policy incentives including the Feed-in Contracts which, as opposed to the carbon taxes, aren’t based on taxing the polluters but on guaranteeing lower prices for non-fossil-fuel energies. In November 2013, a landmark deal dispelled any doubts over whether such form of guarantee could be applied to nuclear power as well, since the government officially agreed to a 35-year “Strike Price”, a guaranteed minimum price (£ 9.25 per KWh) to the electricity generated by the two units to be built by EDF Energy. As for many such a measure is a subsidy in all but name, the EU is currently investigating if the so-called Strike Price for EDF Energy is not an unlawful form of state aid. Interestingly enough, the EU therefore stands as a limiting body to state leverage at the supranational level. Besides as part of the Coalition Government’s highly ambitious 2013 Infrastructure Pipeline Plan34, the two generators which have already passed the first steps of the regulation procedure, EDF Energy and Hitachi, have each been granted multi-billion loan guarantees from the UK Treasury, the former on 27 June 2013 and the latter in December 2013.

  • 35 Salomon, L. M. (ed.), The Tools of Government: a Guide to the New Governance, Oxford, Oxford Univer (...)

23 2013 therefore stands as a turning point in nuclear policies as state strategy shifted from penalising through taxation to providing compelling forms of financial insurance. In other words, state leverage through taxation has thus morphed into clear intervention on electricity prices, thereby reactivating the UK state’s bargaining power. Those instruments are however based on indirect means of action and rely on “third parties” including commercial banks or financial entities, to implement the state’s policies.35

  • 36 BERR, Meeting the Energy Challenge : a White Paper on Nuclear Power, Cm 7296, London, TSO, January (...)

24 Interestingly, this gamut of state strategies has been underpinned and made possible thanks to an enduring change in discourse which enabled the UK state to renationalise the energy issue, while simultaneously encouraging the liberalisation of markets, thereby redefining the limits of its own duties and responsibilities. The reframing of the official nuclear discourses has been two-facetted : on the one hand, energy was publicly reframed as a matter of national security and discursively constructed as one of the solutions to cope with the major generation gap the UK energy sector is expected to experience. On the other hand, nuclear power was rebranded a green energy : in official discourses, energy sources are no longer divided between renewables and the rest, but between low-carbon energies and fossil fuels. This is shown for instance in the 2008 Energy Review on nuclear power, which the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown introduced with the phrase “nuclear power should have a role to play in the generation of electricity, alongside other low-carbon technologies […] and will make a real contribution to meeting our commitments to limit damaging climate change.”36 Nuclear power thus came to qualify for the several forms of facilitating mechanisms allotted to renewables, even taking advantage of European directives, and such as the Directive 2001/77/EC which required member states to increase the share of renewables in their total energy consumption from 12 per cent to 22,1 per cent. On 11 January 2014, the British government won a strong case to allow EU members to decide how best to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, this hence being no longer limited to renewables only.

Conclusion

  • 37 Robinson, C., ‘From Nationalisation to State Control: the Return of Centralised Energy Planning’, I (...)

25 Nuclear power undoubtedly remains a very slippery slope for nuclear investors. The recent changes in nuclear power policies can be considered as symptomatic of not only the strong resilience and adaptability of the UK state, but also a slow return from the market-based model prevalent throughout the 1990s. Such a gradual departure from the previous laissez-faire approach has been carried out by adapting some of the state’s traditional instruments, such as taxation and regulation - ownership excepted - while also using more modern policy tools, such as loan guarantees. The end result is that the UK government has increasingly been pushed to seek control over the price, the delivery and the choice of energies, whilst remaining in a market-based context. This approach was coupled with a renewed interest in scenario- building and more importantly planning, since nuclear development certainly benefited from the convergence of climate change and supply security concerns. However, the pace at which the measures presented here were implemented hints at a decision-making process which is highly reactive, rather than a long-term strategy. As Robinson argued, “there has been a tendency to pile up measure on measure in the hope that something will work”37. In other words, the state’s revived involvement as both a catalyst and facilitator appears to be less the result of an ideological reflection on the role a state should play within society, and more a knee-jerk reaction to the inability of the private sector to deliver on the promised Nuclear Renaissance.

  • 38 Matthews, F., ‘Governance and State Capacity’, in Levi-Faur, D. (ed), Oxford Handbook of Governance(...)

26 From a historical perspective, cycles of state involvement in nuclear policies can be clearly identified, although they turn out to be more disconnected from partisan politics than one may have assumed. Contrary to Baker’s forecasts, we believe 2010-2013 to be a turning-point in those dynamics : the UK state seems to be entering a new cycle in nuclear policies, by reactivating some of its previously-relinquished prerogatives, despite being increasingly hindered from below (by Scotland mostly), and from above – by the EU for instance. All in all, in the light of what has been said, if we agree that the boundary between the state’s sphere of influence and the private sector has been significantly blurred over the past three decades, it does remain highly elastic and malleable, liable to tighten or expand, depending on circumstance. Recent nuclear power policies therefore encourage us to depart from the normative theories of governance : the state has neither really been “hollowed out” nor “filled in”38, but is pragmatically transcending this dichotomy.

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Bibliographie

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Notes

1 Finon, D., Staropoli, C., ‘The Performing Interaction between Institutions and Technology in the French Electronuclear Industry’, Industry and Innovation, January 2001, 8 (2): 179-199.

2 Helm, D., (ed), The Energy Paradigm, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.

3 DTI, The Energy Challenge: Energy Review Report, Cm 6887, London, TSO, July 2006.

4 Baker, K., Stoker, G., ‘Meta-Governance and the UK Nuclear Industry: a Limiting Case’, in, European Consortium for Political Research, 5th General Conference, Potsdam, 10 - 12 September 2009.

5 Nodality refers to the State’s central and strategic position within the decision-making process and Authority to the State’s traditional definition, as found in Weber, that political domination is based on the state’s legitimacy to possess and use legal power to implement their political agenda. Treasure describes the State’s financial resources both in terms of taxation and investment potential. Organisation finally encompasses the human and intellectual resources that make state expertise.

6 Hood, C., The Tools of Government. Chatham (NJ), Chatham House, 1986.

7 Skocpol, T., States and Social Revolutions: a Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979.

8 Migdal, J.S. (ed), Strong Societies and Weak States, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1988.

9 Rothstein, B., Teorell, J., ‘Defining and Measuring Quality of Government’, in Holmberg, S., Rothstein, B. (eds), Good Government: the Relevance of Political Science, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 2012, p. 13-40.

10 Fukuyama, F., ‘What is Governance?’, Governance: an International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions, 2013, 26 (2) : 347-362.

11 Rhodes, R.A.W, Understanding Governance: Policy Networks, Governance, Reflexivity and Accountability, Buckingham, Open University Press, 1997.

12 At first, the UK state retained 40 per cent of the assets of those various companies before selling them out in 1995.

13 The ONS defines public R&D as research carried out by public research institutions linked to either government departments or Research Councils.

14 See http://www.energytechnologies.co.uk (accessed 23 June 2013)

15 Held & al., Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999, p. 447.

16 Rhodes, R.A.W, ‘The New Governance: Governing Without Government’, Political Studies, 1996, 44 (4) :652-667.

17 The UKCS, Economic Report 2011 : url: < http://www.oilandgasuk.co.uk/economic_report/reserves.cfm >

18 DECC, Summary of UK Recoverable Hydrocarbon Resources, 2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/328095/Summary_of_UK_Recoverable_Hydrocarbon_Resources_2014.pdf#page=3

19 International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2007, Paris, OECD / IEA, 2007.

20 The UK is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

21 Ofgem, Report to Government: Gas Security of Supply Report, London, November 2012.

22 Energy and Climate Change Committee, The UK’s Energy Supply: Security or Independence?, 8th Report of session 2010-2012, House of Commons, London, the Stationary Office Limited, October 2011.

23 HSE, Major Hazard Safety Performance Indicators, in Great Britain’s Onshore Gas and Pipeline Industry, Annual Report 2012/2013, Hazardous Installations Directorate Gas & Pipelines Unit, 2013.

24 Giddens, A., The Politics of Climate Change, Cambridge, Polity Press, second edition, 2011, p. 71.

25 Webb, T., ‘The Government Opens Bidding for Nuclear Sites’, The Guardian, 1 March, 2009.

26 Great Britain: National Audit Office, The Sale of the Government’s Interest in British Energy, HC 215, Session 2009-2010, London, TSO, 22 January, 2010, p. 16.

27 The three companies still active in the nuclear project are EDF Energy (Hinkley Point and Sizewell), and the two consortia NuGen (Sellafield) and Horizon (Wylfa and Oldbury).

28 Environmental Audit Committee, Keeping the lights on: Nuclear, renewables and climate Change, 6th report of session 2005/06, HC 584-II, London, 2005.

29 Moreover, the UK state institutionally claimed a new role in energy and environmental matters by creating the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in 2008, officially joining those two policies at the hip.

30 The regulatory framework encompasses onsite nuclear safety and security, transportation and safeguarding of radioactive materials. The ONR also makes sure licensees for future sites comply with the UK facilities standards.

31 Reed, S., Scott, M., ‘In Europe, Paid Permits for Pollution are Fizzling’, the New York Times, April 21, 2013.

32 The difference between the carbon price under the ETS and the UK target will be henceforth paid to the UK Treasury.

33 Ares, E., Carbon Floor Price, Science and Environment Section, SN/SC/5927, London, House of Commons Library, 14 May 2014.

34 Announced on in July 2012, the UK Guarantees Scheme and the Infrastructure Pipeline Plan provide official financial support to infrastructure projects considered of national interest. 49% of the projects will be set in the energy sector, attracting 58% of public and private investments (219 out of £377 billion).

35 Salomon, L. M. (ed.), The Tools of Government: a Guide to the New Governance, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 2.

36 BERR, Meeting the Energy Challenge : a White Paper on Nuclear Power, Cm 7296, London, TSO, January 2008, p. 3. Our emphasis.

37 Robinson, C., ‘From Nationalisation to State Control: the Return of Centralised Energy Planning’, Institute of Economic Affairs, University of Surrey, December 2013.

38 Matthews, F., ‘Governance and State Capacity’, in Levi-Faur, D. (ed), Oxford Handbook of Governance, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1. UK Energy Dependency, 1970-2012
Crédits (source : DECC, Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2013, Statistical Press Release, 2013/078, 25 July 2013, p. 3).
URL http://osb.revues.org/docannexe/image/1721/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 34k
Légende Figure 2. The atomisation of the electricity generating sector
URL http://osb.revues.org/docannexe/image/1721/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 152k
Légende Figure 3. Government expenditure on energy R&D 1974-2004.
Crédits (source : UKERC, Research Atlas : an Overview, 12 September, 2014, url : http://ukerc.rl.ac.uk/​ERA002.html).
URL http://osb.revues.org/docannexe/image/1721/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 110k
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Lucie de Carvalho, « Questioning the UK state capacity to govern controversial technologies such as nuclear power  », Observatoire de la société britannique, 16 | 2014, 65-81.

Référence électronique

Lucie de Carvalho, « Questioning the UK state capacity to govern controversial technologies such as nuclear power  », Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 16 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2015, consulté le 23 mars 2017. URL : http://osb.revues.org/1721 ; DOI : 10.4000/osb.1721

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Auteur

Lucie de Carvalho

Doctorante à l'Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3

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Droits d’auteur

Observatoire de la société britannique

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