Regulating for sustainable electricity market outcomes in Britain: asking the law question

Aileen McHarg

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Making the transition to sustainable electricity regulation poses formidable challenges, particularly in jurisdictions that have been strongly wedded to the market paradigm. In particular, overcoming the barriers to investment in sustainable technologies requires substantial regulatory commitment, but such commitment is difficult to secure. Using British electricity regulation as an example of a regime in transition, this article focuses on the meta-regulatory role of law in helping to reorient regulators towards sustainability objectives. It focuses on five techniques: institutional reform; statutory duties; legally- binding targets; statutory guidance; and legal protection against regulatory change. The article argues that the law performs important functions in terms of reinforcing and maintaining political commitment to sustainable electricity markets; coordinating dispersed regulatory capacities; and balancing competing requirements of regulatory certainty and flexibility. Moreover, the symbolic, institutional and procedural capacities of law are more important than judicial intervention in promoting regulatory change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-302
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental and Planning Law Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2013


  • sustainable energy regulation
  • electricity markets
  • British energy market


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