Interest Groups & Advocacy

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 30–58

Multilevel ‘venue shopping’: The case of EU’s Renewables Directive

  • Inga Margrete Ydersbond
Original Article


Lobbying has traditionally been an enterprise of national interest organizations, which chiefly seek to influence national actors, especially governments. However, studies find that national interest organizations increasingly also target the European Union (EU). As the EU agenda has increased in depth and scope, interest organizations at national and EU political levels might be expected to align in coalitions in order to influence EU legislation. Such strategies potentially increase interest organizations’ political leverage significantly; despite that, lobbying coalitions consisting of organizations aligned to different political levels have been scantily studied in the literature on EU lobbying. Therefore, the first aim of the article is to illustrate a case where coalition lobbying is highly likely: the lobbying strategies employed by the interest organizations of Germany’s energy industries in the process leading up to the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive. These industries are represented by several organizations at both the national and the European level. The second aim of the article is an investigation into how the Renewables Directive came about, as the outcome has profound impact on power production and consumption, and future prospects for EUs mitigation of greenhouse gases. Large controversy was connected to the legal proscriptions of support mechanisms for enhancing renewable energy production in particular. Two of the organizations that would be the most severely affected by the Renewables Directive were the European utilities industry and renewables industry, together constituting all power producers and their affiliates in Europe. The utilities and renewables industries disagreed deeply on core issues, such as legislation on support mechanisms for expanding production of renewable energy in the EU. The utilities industry favored an EU-wide green certificate scheme, whereas the renewables industry pressed for national choice of support mechanisms. Because the stakes were high, both had large incentives to invest substantial resources into lobbying on this legislation. The third aim of the article is to discuss what such multilevel lobbying reveals about perceptions of where real decision-making power is located in the EU. Energy policy is traditionally a strong national domain, which makes the governance theory of liberal intergovernmentalism (LI) relevant to use. However, as the EU is increasingly expanding its legislation on energy issues, the multilevel governance theory (MLG) also might describe how interest organizations perceive power to be located when EU legislation is formulated.The results indicate that despite all lobbying that organizations targeted toward the German government, which played a key role in the negotiations, the observations of the lobbying behavior is still better described by MLG than LI; the limited leverage of LI is illustrated by three points. First, all the German interest organizations lobbied institutions at both the national and at the EU levels. Second, national and European interest organizations participated in informal multilevel political coalitions consisting of a broad church of actors, as regards the renewables industry in particular. By coordinating political positions, pooling resources and developing common strategies, the interest organizations probably increased their leverage substantially, not the least because these coalitions also were backed by governments in key member states and members of the European Parliament. Third, all the EU-level interest organizations lobbied both the core EU institutions and central national governments. Summing up, these findings suggest that multilevel strategies should be considered for inclusion in analyses of national and European-level interest organizations’ lobbying of EU legislation. The interest organizations themselves seem to see power as distributed across multiple levels of governance, and lobby accordingly. In order to grasp momentum of the lobbying process, it is moreover often probably relevant to assess coordination of strategies between interest organizations at different levels in complex multilevel advocacy coalitions. By demonstrating that all organizations covered, regardless of sizes and resources, lobbied at multiple governance levels, this study also nuances the picture of which actors participate in EU policymaking. When legislation on crucial issues is created, small national interest organizations might also target EU institutions. Finally, at least one national interest organization cooperated with private companies to share tasks and enhance lobbying strength. Such cooperation between an interest organization and its private members is a relevant topic of research in future studies on interest organizations.


coalition lobbying interest organizations political strategies European Union EU governance EU energy and climate policy 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inga Margrete Ydersbond
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.The Fridtjof Nansen InstituteLysakerNorway

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