Black gold to green gold: regional energy policy and the rehabilitation of coal in response to climate change

Energy production has come under increasing scrutiny as concerns about energy security and climate change have risen. In the UK changes in government structure and privatisation of the electricity industry have led to the emergence of multi-level governance. This means that decisions on how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity-generating sector should no longer be solely a national policy decision. Previous studies have sought to explore how renewable energy may develop under multi-level governance, but this paper pays attention to a traditional fossil fuel source, coal, which is still an important means of electricity generation. Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel and advocates argue that carbon capture and storage techniques could make coal ‘clean’, paving the way for a long-term, secure and low emission way to produce energy. This study focuses on the Yorkshire and Humber Region, which has had a long association with coal mining and looks at the implications of this as the region seeks to develop a climate change action plan and an energy strategy within the new regional governance structures. The paper argues that the regional networks developed to address climate change are influenced by existing social power structures and alliances. The region as a territorial structure becomes a useful device in promoting national priorities.