Softening the surface but hardening the core? Governing renewable energy in the EU, authors: Jonas J. Schoenefeld and Michèle Knodt

Soft law and governance captured the attention of scholars in the 2000s, and new policy challenges and the novel introduction of ‘harder’ elements now drive a (re)turn to these discussions. This article explores the extent to which dynamics leading towards ‘harder soft governance’ (HSG) appear in the EU’s renewable energy governance by comparing the 2020 and 2030 Renewable Energy Directives. Document analysis and interviews reveal a surface-level softening because the new 2030 directive contains no binding national targets for the Member States. An entrepreneurial Commission has been seeking to introduce ‘harder elements’ at the core by focusing on implementation, allowing for potentially deeper influence on the national energy mixes though the Energy Union. Two main factors drive these changes: the evolving international context of climate change governance, as well as re-configurations of the actors in the EU. Future research should explore the effectiveness of emerging HSG in detail.

Schoenefeld, Jonas J.; Knodt, Michèle (2020): Softening the surface but hardening the core? Governing renewable energy in the EU, in: West European Politics, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2020.1761732