The Provision of Public Services in Europe

The Provision of Public Services in Europe

Between State, Local Government and Market

Edited by Hellmut Wollmann and Gérard Marcou

The book is the first of its kind to provide a comparative analysis of the provision of social and public services in France, Italy, Germany, the UK and Norway.

Chapter 8: From Public Service to Commodity: The Demunicipalization (or Remunicipalization) of Energy Provision in Germany, Italy, France, the UK and Norway

Hellmut Wollmann, Harald Baldersheim, Giulio Citroni, John McEldowney and Gérard Marcou

Subjects: economics and finance, services, politics and public policy, european politics and policy, public policy


8. From public service to commodity: the demunicipalization (or remunicipalization?) of energy provision in Germany, Italy, France, the UK and Norway1 Hellmut Wollmann, Harald Baldersheim, Giulio Citroni, Gérard Marcou and John McEldowney INTRODUCTION In the five European countries under discussion, the provision of energy started out as a core function of municipalities but has gradually been demunicipalized. This chapter outlines how the transformation was achieved and discusses the implications for the scientific study of public administration. There were three components of demunicipalization: (1) the creation of a national electricity system made possible by the establishment of national grids; (2) the functional and organizational separation (‘unbundling’) of generation, transmission and distribution; and (3) the transformation of electricity from a local service into a commodity. Another common development is the return of municipalities in the regulation of energy consumption. From being active producers and purveyors of energy, municipalities are becoming overseers of its use and conservation. The converging paths of these countries are highly surprising given the different starting conditions and historical backgrounds to municipal involvement in the supply of energy, especially electricity, with which this chapter is mainly concerned. From the point of view of historical institutionalism, a dominant theoretical position in the study of public administration, such an outcome would appear highly unlikely. Instead, path-dependency could be expected to keep these countries on different, perhaps even diverging, tracks. In order to account for change, 168 Energy provision: from public service to commodity 169 historical institutionalism has often resorted to...

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