Public-private or private-private energy partnerships? Toward good energy governance in regional and local green gas projects

Michiel A. Heldeweg, Maurits Sanders, Marc Harmsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
119 Downloads (Pure)


Background: An important avenue toward a proper ‘energy transition’ through regional and local projects is for government to collaborate with private sector organizations. In the energy sector, these latter organizations are often already involved in private-private partnerships for collaboration toward energy transition. This article focuses on the energy governance question whether in fact some of these forms of collaboration actually are about public governance, as they effectively lean on government involvement. This seems to be the case in the construction of biogas infrastructures for the production and distribution of green gas. This contribution discusses, on the basis of the case ‘Biogas grid Noordoost Fryslân’, if such collaboration should in fact be labeled as public-private partnership (PPP). In the energy governance discourse, this issue is important because in the organization of PPP, the public interest of energy transition comes with specific normative safeguards, originating in public law.
Methods: This article provides a legal normative assessment on the basis of a specific case, the Biogas grid Noordoost Fryslân. The relevant empirical data on this case is gathered by a document study, including research reports, policy plans, project documents, and by interviews. Experts from the Dutch energy sector were face-to-face interviewed by a semi-structured questionnaire. The analysis uses the concept of PPP in relation to public authority.

Results: On the basis of a confrontation between the results from literature and from the results of empirical case study of a biogas grid in the Dutch region Noordoost Fryslân, we conclude that governmental influence can take a ‘disguised’ form by ‘quasi’ private organizations, with major normative consequences for the mode of sustainable energy governance.

Conclusions: Administrative law in particular poses (binding) criteria for safeguarding public interests, such as on transparency, relevant also to the mode of governance applied in the promotion of renewable energy. Public standards for governance of renewable energy projects have to be sufficiently safeguarded, as regards their form and content of steering, while at the same time retaining the advantages, which ensue from private party involvement within PPP
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy, sustainability and society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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