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Brussels Offshore? Explaining the Largely National Politics of Europe's Experiment with Marine Renewables

Brendan Flynn

Since the Lisbon Treaty, the salience of EU level actors in determining energy policy outcomes is increasingly assumed. However, what if the reality is actually much more complex, such that national, local and private corporate actors turn out to be much more influential as regards the details of energy policy change, and the EU's role actually more limited? This paper critically examines the role of the EU as regards marine renewables, an important sector within the wider European turn towards renewables, and a critical renewable technology for a few countries who have heavily invested in it, notably Germany, Denmark, and the UK. Using theoretical insights from IR perspectives, notably the literature on neo-medievalism/EU as Empire, augmented by specific case studies, it is argued we should actually expect considerable divergence, differentiation, and fragmentation as regards the adoption of marine renewables across Europe. The most important locus for key decision-making on marine renewables remains at the national level. In large part this is because the details of fiscal incentives continue to be mostly decided under national budget rules, while the favourability of local planning laws remains an issue which the EU only shapes in broad terms, not in detail.

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