Stronger regional plans may increase the regional influence of counties

12. January 2018 | News

Norwegian regional reform will create larger counties suited for broader responsibilities. For energy, stronger regional plans will be more appropriate than a transfer of tasks from states and municipalities to the county level.

Norwegian regional reform will reduce the number of counties in Norway from 19 to 11. As bigger units, the counties can take on broader responsibilities and more tasks. An expert task force, set to deliver its recommendations in the beginning of 2018, is currently assessing appropriate tasks and responsibilities for the new counties. The current counties submitted their opinions to the expert committee last summer.

On behalf of Kraftfylka, THEMA has made an assessment of possible energy-related tasks that could be considered for transfer from states and municipalities to the new counties.

Possible tasks that could be transferred have been identified from the counties’ written input to the task force and through interviews with representatives from the counties and County Governors (state representatives at county level). The main suggestions identified and discussed in the project include:

  1. Should tasks within environmental protection be transferred from the County Governor to the counties?
  2. Should the licensing authority for small hydropower plants (1-10 MW) be transferred from the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) to the counties?
  3. The counties prepare regional plans as part of the basis for regional decision-making, for example for the licensing of power plants. Could the influence of the counties be ensured by giving regional plans a more significant role in such processes?

We argue that more committed and formal cooperation between the County Governor and the county is more appropriate than a transfer of responsibility. The role of the County Governor requires knowledge and competence within the energy field. Also, a cooperative relationship will not imply a duplication of effort as the county and County Governor have different perspectives.
A transfer of the licensing authority for small hydropower plants to the counties without a transfer of the necessary competence is unlikely to represent a real transfer of authority.
A more appropriate approach would therefore be to involve regional plans in decisions affecting the utilization of local energy resources to a greater extent, thereby ensuring the counties’ regional influence.
Both municipalities and state representatives are obliged to participate in the design of regional plans. Whether regional plans could be strengthened through the increased participation of municipal and state representatives in designing the regional plans should be considered.

Download the report here (in Norwegian):

THEMA Rapport 2017-28 >> Regional energiplanlegging

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Eivind Magnus
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