Governance studies have taken an interpretative turn. There is value in this development which emphasises how, through the construction of narrative and meaning, the processes of governance can be given direction. A study of Britain's privatised energy industry, embedded in a complex set of international networks and market conditions, is used to illustrate the argument. Government cannot command an expansion of nuclear power to meet future energy needs but is seeking to deliver it through a governance narrative that is collaborative and decentred. To judge the likely success of this governance stance requires stepping beyond an interpretative frame and complementing it with insights from a historical institutional perspective. The British government is severely hampered in achieving its objectives by institutional and structural constraints.