Long-Term Horizons vs. Short Term Thinking: The Dutch Energy Agreement

By Ingeborg de Koningh

The Dutch Energy Agreement (Energieakkoord) was initiated in 2013 to “lay a basis for a widely supported, robust and future-proof energy- and climate policy and more sustainable economic growth.” To achieve these goals, the 2015 Progress Report notes a necessity for a long-term vision. Yet, Pierson (2004) states that institutional design may be limited exactly for reasons short-term horizons of those creating the institution.  

It is worthwhile noting that Trouw has recently called a “Code Orange” for the Energy Agreement, as two of the five main goals will not be met already with the current developments. One of them is the goal to generate 14 percent of all electricity through renewable energy by 2020.  The only way to achieve this objective would be through the construction of wind energy parks; yet plans meet much resistance and postponement. As a reason for this delay, Greenpeace’s Joris Thijssen points towards the VNO-NCW for blocking policies due to its representation of companies with invested interests in the current fossil energy provisions. Or in Pierson’s words, many of those involved have dedicated assets specific to those institutions perpetuating fossil fuel exploitation. As these assets cannot be reallocated to renewable energies, they incentivize the actors to remain at the status-quo, contributing to the resilience of the ‘non-green’ institutions..

So where the design of the Energy Agreement calls for a long-term vision, the conditions in which the institutions it wishes to change are vested seem very resilient due to the assets of the stakeholders the Agreement directs itself to. Here, those actors operate under a short-term vision instead, mostly concerned with the short-term impacts of transitioning to renewable energy. Ironically, whilst the Energy Agreement was constructed by actors with a long-term horizon, it is limited in its implementation by actors acting on short-term basis.

N.B picture from the 2015 Progress Report of the Dutch Energy Agreement. Bubbles say: “Energy policy requires a long term vision” and “...but do not forget the short term!”