Anna Herranz-Surrallés, Israel Solorio, and Jenny Fairbrass (eds.), Renegotiating Authority in EU Energy and Climate Policy (Abington/New York: Routledge, 2022)

The collection of articles originally published in a Special Issue of the Journal of European Integration brought together in book form by Anna-Herranz Surrallés, Israel Solorio, and Jenny Fairbrass asks important questions about the nature of authority in EU energy and climate policy. For both political scientists and those broadly interested in EU policymaking, the book assembles a series of articles on the question of how we should understand the simultaneous and contradictory integration and disintegration tendencies within EU energy and climate policy.  The diversity of cases and standpoints on authority contestation allows the reader to peruse the book one chapter at a time, synthesizing the first chapter’s analytical framework into each further case with ease.

At its core, the book problematizes the nature of authority, asking when, why, and by whom is EU authority in energy and climate policy conferred and contested?  Further, what strategies are used to manage authority conflicts and what impact do those strategies have? Throughout each chapter, the underlying message is that EU governance is becoming more complex over time, implying that there will be more conflicts and hybrid institutional arrangements to come. This begs the question: how should we understand these arrangements and how that changes the negotiation of authority in the EU broadly? To answer these questions, Herranz-Surrallés, Solorio, and Fairbrass (Chapter 1) develop an analytical framework to consider different dimensions of authority, strategies used, and how to measure changes in authority, focusing on the case of the EU’s Energy Union. Here, authority is understood using a sociological approach – suggesting that authority is in constant flux and that through the lenses of conferral, contestation, and management – we can better explain the nuances of EU governance.

The editors and contributors for this book hail from a variety of different locations and carry with them unique expertise. Herranz-Surrallés is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Maastricht and is known for her work on EU external energy policy and global energy governance, Israel Solorio is an Associate Professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and has published widely on energy policy, climate policy, and environmental policy, and Jenny Fairbrass is an Associate Professor in Business and Management at the Norwich Business School in the University of East Anglia with expertise in EU public policy, governance, and regulation.

The substantive book chapters address the concurrent dynamics of authority conferral, contestation, and management in EU energy policy. The first case study of the book (Chapter 2), written by Jale Tosun and Mile Mišić explores an interesting paradox of EU authority in energy security and climate policy – namely, why are citizens willing to confer authority to the EU in making energy policy priorities?  The authors argue that Europeans are broadly in favor of a common energy policy but that there are some divergences between Western and Central Eastern Europeans who disagree on prioritizing energy security and promoting renewable energy. Pierre Bocquillon and Tomas Maltby follow this with an examination of the concept of embedded intergovernmentalism to the European Union – that member states are jealous of their national prerogatives, but their cooperation and contestation is deeply entrenched in the EU institutional framework (Chapter 3). By offering the reader essential theoretical grounding in authority and governmentalism literature, both chapters set the stage for the incoming case studies.

In the next series of chapters (4-6), the authors cover the evolution of different aspects of EU energy policy: the role of private energy transmission operators, EU renewable energy, and EU efficiency policies. Understanding the role of transmission system operators is analyzed by looking at how private actors’ authority in this space has evolved over time with a particular focus on depoliticization as a way of managing authority conflicts. Sandra Eckert and Burkard Eberlein (Chapter 4) argue that there are three routes that this occurs in, an escape route (closing regulatory gaps via delegated private authority), a political route (political control), and a technical route (status quo orientation endorses private authority). Israel Solorio and Helge Jörgens (Chapter 5) conduct a comparative study of renewable energy policies in ten EU member states. The authors utilize a circular view of policy change and Europeanization to illustrate that member states tend to displace authority upwards to the EU due to functional needs and a need to promote the EU’s international leadership on climate change. Rather than using a comparative approach, Claire Dupont (Chapter 6) examines three strategies that are used to manage contestations in the field of EU efficiency policies. In doing so, she shows how the EU has gained significant authority over time through framing, justification, and pre-emption strategies. By delving into deep case knowledge, each of these chapters convincingly adds significantly to the broader conversation of how the EU governs energy and climate, making them important additions to the field.

Throughout the final three chapters (7-9), each author addresses some element of how foreign policy and exogenous circumstance plays an important role in authority renegotiation. Andreas Goldthau and Nick Sitter (chapter 7) begin the discussion by discussing the real policy dilemma faced by the European Union to either take a broad approach to regulation (Regulatory Power) or use regulatory tools for geopolitical purposes (Market Power). They conclude that only the regulatory power approach is compatible with the EU’s long-standing grand strategy but that the conversation raises important normative questions about trade-offs. Moving from a larger discussion about the EU’s approach to regulation, Anke Schmidt-Felzmann (chapter 8) asks what the effects of dispersed authority are in the EU – particularly how the EU handles authority challenges from Russia and the United States. Using Nord Stream 2 as an illustrative case study, she suggests that the nature of the EU’s dispersed authority allows external actors to challenge the EU’s authority across different hierarchical levels and national boundaries. In the final chapter, Richard Young (chapter 9) argues that foreign and security policy concerns can intensify contestation but that it can also dampen it as in the case of security of supply, climate security, and wider security challenges. These final three chapters do much to expand the discussion not only to the internal aspects of EU energy and climate policy but also supranationally to the question of how foreign policy engages with authority.

The strongest contribution of this book is the diversity of different applications of this analytical framework of authority within each chapter. The combination and thinking through authority relationally whether, through public opinion, regulation, external transnational actors, and the internal-external dimension provide the reader with multiple venues through which to think about this concept. Considering authority theoretically, through internal case studies, while also engaging with the role of foreign policy strengthens the argument of the book. An updated edition of this book would benefit from a concluding chapter that summarized the overarching message of the book for the reader and suggest future research avenues, gaps in existing research, or how this work could be exported to perhaps other elements of EU policy.

Renegotiating Authority in EU Energy and Climate Policy acts as a wonderful introductory piece for those not fully immersed in European Union politics and piques the interest of readers who might both want to know more about conceptualizations of authority as well as the key role that climate and energy policy plays in simultaneous integration and disintegration tendencies. The book is unquestionably a great combination: a broad overview of EU energy and climate policy for the newly interested, and a deep dive into case specifics for those already deeply engaged in this exciting field.

About Gabriella Gricius

Gabriella Gricius is a Ph.D. Student in Political Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO where she also acts as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and was recently selected as an InTERFEWS Trainee. She is also a Graduate Fellow at the North American and Arctic Security and Defense Network (NAADSN). Gabriella’s research focuses on Russian studies, Arctic politics, securitization, and ontological security theory. In her spare time, she writes for a variety of online publications including Foreign Policy, Responsible Statecraft, and Modern War Institute amongst many others. She also co-produces the podcast Disrupt, which aims to introduce audiences to the critical school of theories in International Relations. She received her MA in International Security from the University of Groningen, her BA in International Relations from Boston University, and a Certificate in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Gabriella is fluent in German and English and working towards fluency in Russian and Dutch.