The theoretical question addressed in this research is “How and why do policies change?”. In order to investigate this question empirically, we choose to look at the RES-E policy changes that have recently been implemented in five European countries. Looking at the RES-E policy changes will help us to better understand the policy change process: validating/invalidating hypotheses on the causes of policy changes and, eventually, discussing the grounds for a more general explanatory framework for policy changes. The first section of this chapter clarifies what we mean by “policy change” and how our definition relates to the literature (the “how” question). In addition, we will show how to operationalise our definition in the empirical investigation about RES-E policies. In the second section of this chapter, we propose a theoretical framework and formulate hypotheses about the causes of policy changes, and we apply them to the particular case of RES-E policy changes in Europe (the “why” question) Since the first call for the “policy sciences” from Lerner and Lasswell in the 1950s (Lerner and Lasswell, 1951), the literature and research on public policy have developed in different directions. One must distinguish two different dimensions of the public policy analysis: the knowledge “of” and knowledge “in” the public decision process (Lerner and Lasswell, 1951). The second dimension (knowledge “in”, or knowledge “for”) refers to a more operational approach of the policy analysis which seeks to use the knowledge on policy for political or professional purposes (Bobrow and Dryzek, 1987). Policy analysis aims at providing policy actors (public or private) with advice on and recipes for the “right” policies to adopt in order to achieve the “right” goals. The first dimension (knowledge “of”) is concerned with explanation rather than prescription. It refers to the scientific understanding of the causes and consequences of public policy. This research participates in the first dimension since our purpose is scientific and not political. Even if political prescriptions might certainly be drawn from the conclusion of the research, this is another job.
How and Why Do Policies Change? How and why do policies change? The author addresses this question by examining the renewable electricity policies of five European countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK) over the last thirty years. Employing a comparative approach that is qualitative yet consistent and rigorous, she describes how these countries' policies changed over time, whether incrementally or comprehensively, and shows how those changes may be explained, citing political, economic, social, and technological factors.