Twinning the Transitions? Missing Legal Frameworks for Digitalization and Decarbonization

Giuseppe Bellantuono (Università degli studi di Trento)


This paper adopts a Comparative Law and Economics perspective to argue that a real convergence between the digital and the low-carbon transitions is much harder to achieve than assumed so far. Drawing on examples from the EU and the USA, we point out that several convergence strategies are needed to ensure that potential synergies are fully exploited. Whether such strategies are implemented and what their contents should be largely depends on the possibility to adapt existing legal regimes. More specifically, I focus on the legal regime for electricity networks and the legal regime for digital technologies (AI systems, Internet of Things, cloud computing, digital twins) that could be deployed to support the decarbonization process. We discuss the interplay between decarbonization and digitalization with regard to different types of interventions: R&D subsidies to digitalize electricity networks; standard-setting strategies aimed at ensuring interoperability of digital technologies; regulatory incentives fostering the uptake of digital technologies in the energy sector; and regulatory incentives aimed at reducing GHG emissions connected to digital technologies. Additionally, we consider the management of data flows generated by the digitalization of the grids. From a methodological point of view, the twinning of the transitions is a useful example of a recurring theme in the Law and Economics literature: how to disentangle the complex causal relationships among economic, technological and legal drivers of institutional reforms.

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