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Local public utilities in Grenoble and Metz : partially appropriate urban energy tools

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French

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Abstract

Public action, like research, is becoming increasingly interested in the relationship between cities and energy. This thesis focuses on the ways in which energy network operators participate in the development and implementation of local energy policies and in the capacity of urban political stakeholders to drive these operators in this sense. The question is approached through local public utilities (LPU) as alternative energy distribution stakeholders in France. These companies have ensured supply and distribution of electricity and sometimes gas and heat in the areas where they are present for over one hundred years. They appear today to be innovative levers to action available to cities to develop urban energy policies. Centred on urban operators, this thesis examines the cases of GEG in Grenoble and UEM in Metz. Despite their local roots, LPUs have only in recent years granted an important place in their business strategies to the urban scale. The sectoral and centralised organisation of the electricity public services have for a long time limited the capacities of the LPUs, impeding the emergence of approaches specific to their particular areas. Reconfigurations of the economic model which impose liberalisation cause the ELDs to constantly search for new growth sources. Seizing opportunities from emerging energy-climate policies, they are proving their great adaptability and have devised new strategies valorising to a greater extent their urban roots. These urban roots alone are not enough to make the LPUs governmental tools for urban energy policy, which supposes a capacity for initiative and control by the political stakeholders of their own objectives. Through analysis of the Grenoble and Metz examples, we demonstrate that presenting energy as a local political issue is both progressive and heterogeneous, calling into question an approach to LPU control which until now has been essentially economic and industrial. Politicisation is being hindered by the lack of energy expertise in the communes, which only very infrequently manage to integrate their energy-climate concerns into strategic plans for their local businesses. In contrast, changes in operational plans are much greater in projects which involve partnerships around energy issues: regional climate-energy plans, responses to national and European calls for public tenders, coordination of distribution networks…The analysis of an alternative regional energy model from the LPUs proposed in this thesis demonstrates that the local status of operators is insufficient for the development of urban energy governance, which also operates in the politicisation of energy issues and the development of specially adapted expertise within urban political and administrative systems

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