The term transition is a key term of the fourth national environmental policy plan (NMP4, 2001), which put forward transition management (Rotmans et al, 2000) as a new policy approach for dealing with persistent and highly complex societal problems such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, overexploitation of resources and health risks related to the use of dangerous, non-natural substances. The NMP4 selected the energy supply, mobility, agriculture and the use of biodiversity and natural resources as priorities for developing transition management activities. The Ministry of Economic Affairs (holding responsibility over energy and innovation policy) has since the NMP4 been the leading actor in the so-called ‘energy-transition’. Several activities have been undertaken, based on the basic principles underlying transition management; long term visions as framework for short-term action, a multi-actor approach and a focus on learning and experiments. The approach has stimulated the involvement of a large number of stakeholders and led to the developments of shared visions, ambitions and strategies, experiments and projects. Besides, the approach itself has generated questions regarding regular policies, for example innovation and technology policies, and led to debates on policy integration and barriers in existing regulations. This discussion has been actively picked up by the Ministry and governmental advisory boards for energy and environment (Energieraad and VROM-raad 2004). It is an example of policy learning in which it was believed that sustainability requires some fundamental changes in functional systems, which in turn require policy-innovation. In this paper we will look at why the Ministry was interested in fostering an energy transition (where we will see that economic reasons, notably the willingness to create green energy business, was an important consideration). The paper will describe the policies and stakeholder process, which will be assessed from a transition management perspective. This means that the paper uses the multi-level, multi-phase transition management framework (Loorbach 2004b) to evaluate the energy-transition approach as developed by the ministry of Economic Affairs, in terms of content (what types of visions and experiments are developed?) and in terms of process (what kind of actors are involved, what instruments are used?). Special attention will be given to the nature of the policies developed and their difference with and implications for ‘regular’ policies. We will compare the difference with past policies and the changes in the system of governance. The paper will also seek to answer a more speculative issue: What are the prospects of the Dutch approach to achieve a transition and a flourishing sustainable energy business?

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Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT)
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Loorbach, D., & Kemp, R. (2005). Innovation policy for the Dutch energy transition Operationalising transition management?. Retrieved from