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Spatial planning, energy and sustainable development: A view on Austrian regional governance structures

Open Panel

Abstract

Resource scarcity is strongly connected with land use and its organisation and management. Since we cannot use renewable energy resources endlessly it is even more important to put efforts on reducing energy demand and on using resources in the most sustainable way possible. Spatial planning institutions take a crucial role in deciding where land can be used for which resources and for what purposes. Especially in Austria, local and regional authorities have the main power to designate land leading to unfavourable decisions about sustainable land use. This results in a competition between different energy sources, land use for food or energy crops, siting decisions for power plants and agricultural versus living use. The paper wants to explore what are the crucial aspects in regard to scarcity of land and their impacts on a sustainable development. In that light it wants to investigate the influence and the possibilities of spatial planning authorities on energy supply and demand and it also addresses the regional dimension of governance structures. Based on a backcasting scenario approach combined with expert interviews the projects’ results give light on the specific Austrian spatial planning institutions within regional governance structures and their possibilities to lower energy demand. Critical issues are region-specific energy use, settlement structures and transport system, which all have a determining influence on energy demand. Combining the knowledge of extensive energy use with available energy resources in spatial planning decisions is a main challenge towards a long term sustainable energy system.