(University of Geneva)
Examining the results of the network industries modernisation: the case of urban water services in Europe.
Speaker : Thomas Bolognesi (University of Geneva)
Thomas Bolognesi is Scientific collaborator at UNIGE in the group POLiltics, Environment, Territories (POLET), working on the Water Education & Knowledge project. He has completed his PhD in Economics in 2013 at the University of Grenoble, PACTE-EDDEN lab, under the direction of Pr. Patrick Criqui, assisted by Yvan Renou. His PhD thesis is entitled Modernisation and Sustainability of Urban Water Systems in Europe: a neoinstitutionalist approach of resource regimes. His researches focus on the New Institutional Economics framework and its application to environmental concerns and to network industries (urban water in Europe).
Abstract : Since 1980’s, the European Union favours regulatory reforms in network industries and the water sector appears to be the latest to be included in this. We deal with this issue while questioning the concept of “modernisation of the Urban Water Systems in Europe” (UWSE). This modernisation of UWSE begins in the second middle of 1990 and the Water framework directive (2000) constitutes its main element. Three core principles provide the basis for the modernisation of UWSEs: 1/ a rationalisation of the public command; 2/ an increasing use of market mechanisms; 3/ the identification of sustainable development goals. The leading principles of such modernization have now been written into national law in the various Member States. The initial deadlines for its implementation have passed. Many UWSEs fall short of expectations. We propose an analysis of the modernization of UWSEs in order to better understand their operating mechanisms, impacts and why past targets have proved so difficult to achieve. In this paper, it is argue that modernization entails a change in the modalities of coordinating urban water systems, while intensifying and polarizing the problems of sustainability around economic issues. At an organizational level, modernization tends to depoliticize urban water systems and increase socio-institutional resilience. These two phenomena are mainly the result of hybridization of institutional arrangements in favour of the market. With respect to sustainability potential, the lack of coherence in the development of urban-water-system re-regulation explains the relatively gloomy outlook.