Transitioning to a low carbon energy system is likely to require significant changes to social, political and economic structures, as well as technological changes. This raises a number of questions regarding the role of different actors and organisations, including various levels of the state. This chapter explores the, often under under-represented, role of cities in the energy transition through analysis of their role in the development of heat networks. Based on research in the UK the chapter suggests a number of local authorities are challenging their traditional ‘enabling’ role in the energy system and seeking to take a role in the ownership and delivery of heat networks. This provides evidence of the energy transition offering opportunities for new configurations of state-market interrelations, with sub-national public sector actors using the development of local-scale energy infrastructure to deliver multiple priorities. Although there is limited debate, at the central government level, of this changing role for local government there is evidence that the broader devolution agenda in the UK may, in part, have empowered local governments to re-evaluate their role in the energy sector. This move towards local governments taking a more central role in the energy system may therefore demonstrate how broader governance and decentralisation trends are interlinked with the progress of the energy transition.
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