Regions are expected to play a key role in realizing international, European, and national climate and energy goals. Also regions in the Netherlands are working toward these goals, taking initiatives toward an energy-neutral built environment by 2050. However, it remains unclear how such efforts and other socially innovative activities can best be described and how variation between them in terms of governance can be explained. In this article, we develop a framework for analyzing the governance of regional energy-neutral housing initiatives. We ask what factors shape regional climate and energy governance, particularly regional efforts to increase the efficiency of urban dwellings. We answer this question using a subnational comparative method and a most similar case design, focusing on three Dutch regions: Utrecht, Noord-Brabant and Drenthe. Based on document analysis and 24 semi-structured interviews, we find that the regional governance of energy-neutral housing initiatives is primarily driven by existing social networks in the regions, and less determined by local characteristics of the built environment. Thus, regional governance seems to have generated solutions that are supported by regional actors. Nonetheless, as these solutions are not entirely tailored to the regional situation, functionally speaking, a key question for future research is how effective these solutions will be.
- climate and energy governance
- energy-neutral housing
- most similar case design
- regional governance
- social innovation
- social networks
- subnational comparative method