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Community energy is emerging as an intriguing new way of organizing the energy system. It fits very well to discourses on sustainability, but also to more neo-liberal ideas of self-reliance and independence. At the same time, its development challenges existing (energy) structures and raises questions about the (self-) governance of community energy. In this practice brief, we identify challenges and provide recommendations for initiators of community energy projects and for (local) governments, businesses and third sector organisations. Abstract: Community energy is emerging as an intriguing new way of organizing the energy system. It fits very well to discourses on sustainability, but also to more neo-liberal ideas of self-reliance and independence. At the same time, its development challenges existing (energy) structures and raises questions about the (self-)governance of community energy. In this practice brief, we identify challenges and provide recommendations for initiators of community energy projects and for (local) governments, businesses and third sector organisations.
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PRACTICE
BRIEF
The (Self-)Governance of
Community Energy
February 2014
Community energy is emerging as an intriguing new way of
organizing the energy system. It fits very well to discourses on
sustainability, but also to more neo-liberal ideas of self-reliance and
independence. At the same time, its development challenges
existing (energy) structures and raises questions about the (self-)
governance of community energy. In this practice brief, we identify
challenges and provide recommendations for initiators of community
energy projects and for (local) governments, businesses and third
sector organisations.
Authors
Flor Avelino Jesse Hoffman
Rick Bosman Geerte Paradies
Niki Frantzeskaki Bonno Pel
Sanne Akerboom Daniel Scholten
Philip Boontje Julia Wittmayer
Challenges & Prospects
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 0
Title:
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy:
Challenges & Prospects.
Authors:
Flor Avelino, Rick Bosman, Niki Frantzeskaki
Sanne Akerboom, Philip Boontje, Jesse Hoffman
Geerte Paradies, Bonno Pel, Daniel Scholten,
Julia Wittmayer
Practice brief number:
PB 2014.01
Keywords:
Community Energy, Self-governance, Self-organisation, Multi-actor
Abstract:
Community energy is emerging as an intriguing new way of organizing the energy system. It fits very
well to discourses on sustainability, but also to more neo-liberal ideas of self-reliance and
independence. At the same time, its development challenges existing (energy) structures and raises
questions about the (self-)governance of community energy. In this practice brief, we identify
challenges and provide recommendations for initiators of community energy projects and for (local)
governments, businesses and third sector organisations.
Rotterdam, 12th of January 2014
Reference:
Avelino, F., Bosman, R. , Frantzeskaki, N., Akerboom, S., Boontje, P., Hoffman, J., Paradies, G., Pel, B.
Scholten, D., and Wittmayer, J. (2014) The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy: Challenges &
Prospects. DRIFT PRACTICE BRIEF nr. PB 2014.01, Rotterdam: DRIFT
This practice brief is an outcome of the research project “The self-organization of infrastructure by
civil society”, conducted by DRIFT en made possible by the research programme Next Generation
Infrastructures. For more information, see: http://www.drift.eur.nl/?p=2802.
Do you want to know more about community energy? Are you interested in research, advice,
training or education on community energy, self-organisation or energy transitions more generally?
Please contact Rick Bosman, bosman@drift.eur.nl or check our website: http://www.drift.eur.nl/.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0
Unported License. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
De (on)macht van bottom-up en top-down in de
energietransitie
E 2013.02
Tot voor kort was het energiesysteem overzichtelijk georganiseerd met een
aantal grote (nuts)bedrijven. Tussen overheid en markt beginnen nu
burgers hun rol in het energiedomein op te eisen. Overheden en
marktspelers vragen zich af: ‘Als de burger het zelf kan, wat is dan nog mijn
rol?’ Bij het beantwoorden van deze vraag wordt één ding overduidelijk: de
burger kan het niet alleen.
Dutch Research Institute For Transitions (DRIFT)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam
The Netherlands
tel.: +31 (0)10 408 8746
e-mail: drift@fsw.eur.nl
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 1
Practice Brief Summary
The field of Community Energy
In this practice brief we address both the prospects and challenges of the (self-)governance of
community energy initiatives from an interdisciplinary perspective. With ‘community energy’ we
refer to energy projects “where communities (of place or interest) exhibit a high degree of ownership
and control, as well as benefiting collectively from the outcomes” (Walker & Devine-Wright 2008). In
section 2 of this practice brief, we discuss the field of community energy, which includes a wide
variety of initiatives with different motivations and diverse arrangements.
Challenges for the Self-Governance of Community Energy
We distinguish four categories of challenges that community energy initiatives are faced with: (1)
economic & financial issues, (2) legal barriers, (3) socio-cultural conditions and (4) micro-political
struggles and conflict. Underlying these challenges are three overarching themes that are essential
for initiating and sustaining a community energy initiative: trust, motivation and continuity. In
section 3, we discuss these challenges and overarching themes, and we discuss what these
challenges mean for the (self-)governance of community energy. A main challenge of ‘self-
governance’, is that it is often unclear who exactly the ‘self’ or the ‘other’ is, and that it is thus
unclear which actors are responsible for which aspects. This is why in this practice brief, we have
used a multi-actor perspective that helps to specify the different actor roles involved in the (self)-
governance of community energy.
Multi-actor Recommendations
The multi-actor perspective distinguishes between four different sectors: (1) the state, (2) the
market, (3) the community, and (4) the Third Sector. The latter is an intermediary sector in between
the other three. In each of these sectors, there are a variety of relevant actor roles. When we talk
about ‘the state’, for instance, it is not only about the role of ‘the government’, but also about the
role of citizens and organisations as subjects to the law and as political supporters. As such, the state
is shaped by a multiplicity of actors. The same can be said about the market, the community and the
Third Sector. Taking such a multi-actor perspective to look at the phenomena of community energy
means that we acknowledge the multiplicity of actor roles involved in the development and (self-)
governance of community energy. Based on the multi-actor perspective, we identify practice
recommendations directed at different actors for dealing with the identified challenges of
community energy.
A summary of the multi-actor recommendations can be found in table 1 on the next page. More
information about the multi-actor perspective can be found in section 4, as well as a more in-depth
discussion of each of the recommendations mentioned in the table.
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 2
SECTOR
actor-specific recommendations
on how to deal with the challenges of community energy (CE)
STATE
Government officials:
simplify laws and/or provide better information & education on laws
shift attitude: approach CE as opportunity for new, improved regulations
distinguish between support needs of market, Third Sector or communities
Citizens and organisations (i.e. legal entities / subjects to the law):
acknowledge need for bureaucracy and regulations (rather than only ridiculing it)
engage in a constructive dialogue on how to improve regulations
engage in political debate about energy, through lobbying, voting and public debate
Advisors & commentators (from variety of knowledge institutes):
feed the political debate with socially relevant CE research
identify and analyse the potential side effects of the self-organisation of CE
outline the broader spectrum of macro-trends that take place in the energy sector
MARKET
Business Entrepreneurs, Banks, Financial Investors:
develop complementary services for CE initiatives
address CE as platform representing interests of energy consumers or ‘prosumers’
Consumers and ‘prosumers’:
articulate your collective demand for sustainable and local energy
support community energy initiatives
challenge incumbent energy companies (e.g. by switching energy provider)
‘Social entrepreneurs’ in CE:
(re)position yourself in the energy market through new business models
provide clear propositions to (future) members, articulating economic self-interest
design ‘market strategy’ based on interdisciplinary market research
‘Public bidders’/ ‘public clients’ (i.e. government):
procure sustainable and participatory energy
revisit business models of public, collective energy arrangements
COMMUNITY
Initiators & members of CE:
be prepared for moments of volunteer fatigue and processes of formalisation
search for information and support from experienced individuals and organisations,
Community support professionals (from government, business and NGOs):
develop with community and/or support what has been developed by community,
rather than develop for community
THIRD
SECTOR
Non-profit professionals:
provide platforms for initiators of community energy to unite
provide supporting structures to mediate legal, financial, socio-political challenges
act as intermediary broker between the state, the market and the community
Researchers, teachers, artists, writers, volunteers, activists:
inform public opinion, by sharing information, narratives and images on CE
development, including critical and constructive reflection
use interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to CE
‘Funders’ (from government, business and NGOs):
ensure legal and financial support and opportunity for Third Sector organisations
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 3
Content
1 Introduction .................................................................................................................................... 4
2 The field of Community Energy ...................................................................................................... 5
3 Challenges for Self-organising Community Energy ........................................................................ 9
Overarching Challenges: Trust, Motivation and Continuity .................................................... 9 3.1
Economic and Financial Issues .............................................................................................. 10 3.2
(Perceived) legal Barriers....................................................................................................... 11 3.3
Socio-cultural Context ........................................................................................................... 12 3.4
Micro-political Struggle and Conflict ..................................................................................... 14 3.5
The Challenge of (Self-)Governance ...................................................................................... 15 3.6
4 Multi-actor Recommendations .................................................................................................... 18
Introducing the Multi-actor Perspective ............................................................................... 18 4.1
A Multi-actor Perspective on Community Energy ................................................................. 19 4.2
State Logic Recommendations .............................................................................................. 20 4.3
Market Logic Recommendations ........................................................................................... 23 4.4
Community Logic Recommendations .................................................................................... 24 4.5
Third Sector Logic Recommendations ................................................................................... 25 4.6
5 Conclusion ..................................................................................................................................... 27
6 Appendix: Overview of Case studies ............................................................................................ 29
7 Information about Authors .......................................................................................................... 30
8 Sources .......................................................................................................................................... 32
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 4
1 Introduction
While in the US a shale gas revolution appears to be underway, on this side of the Atlantic we see
one after the other local sustainable energy initiative popping up, be it collective purchasing of solar
panels or cooperatively developed wind projects. These community energy initiatives form part of
what has been coined the ‘Energetic Society’
1
or ‘Participation Society’
2
, a development in which
citizens increasingly self-organise systems of provision, such as energy, food and health care, which
were previously the domain of market or government structures. This development challenges
governments and traditional businesses. In response, they start to ask themselves the question: If
citizens can do it themselves, then what is our role? Considering the complexity of energy
infrastructure, however, it is very difficult to imagine that citizens will be able to manage the entire
energy system (including production, supply, distribution and maintenance). Citizens, on their part,
ask themselves what role they can play in making their energy supply more sustainable.
The diverse and often contradictory developments in the energy system are difficult to interpret,
both for outsiders and well-informed energy-experts. What is directly observable in this mass of
complex and seemingly random developments is that the energy system is undergoing fundamental
change. One of these constitutive trends is community energy. Although it is not the only driver for
the energy transition, and even though its contribution to the share of sustainable energy in the
energy mix remains marginal, the explosive growth of community energy initiatives has become a
societal movement that indicates rapidly growing societal demand for sustainable and self-owned
energy, with (potentially) significant impacts on the larger energy system.
In this practice brief, we will address both the prospects and challenges of self-organised community
energy, by investigating community energy from a multi- and interdisciplinary angle. This practice
brief is the result of a seminar organised in November 2013. During that seminar, we brought
together researchers from different interdisciplinary perspectives on community energy, including:
legal studies, psychology, economics, engineering, sociology, policy and political science. All
researchers that took part in the seminar have conducted empirical research on community energy
initiatives and/or other examples of self-organisation. We used various methods, ranging from in-
depth case studies and interviews to document reviews and surveys. A list of participating
researchers and the cases that have been empirically studied, are provided in Appendix A and B.
While the majority of the case studies are located in the Netherlands, we have also investigated
cases in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. During the seminar, researchers were
stimulated to go beyond the critical analysis of challenges and to formulate constructive
1
Hajer, M. (2011) see references
2
Sterk, E., Specht, M., & Walraven, G. (2013)
“The society of the top-down decisions, of big corporations telling citizens what to do,
is coming to an end. I am convinced that the only sustainable solution for the future
is a future in which people have more power over energy.”
(Pedro Ballesteros, DG Energy European Commission, RESCOOP 2011)
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 5
recommendations regarding the future of community energy. These recommendations are not only
directed at policy makers, but towards other actors that play an important role in the emerging field
of community energy, such as citizens, businesses, and intermediaries
3
.
For this reason, the result is not a “policy brief”, but rather a practice brief, directed at all types of
practitioners that are interested in further developing community energy. The brief is structured as
follows. We will start with an overview of the general field of community energy, what do we
understand by community energy and why is this an interesting development to investigate? These
questions will be illustrated with a few examples of community energy initiatives. In section 3, the
challenges for self-organising community energy are pinpointed. In section 4, we provide practice
recommendations on how to deal with these challenges, directed towards various actors involved in
the practice of community energy.
2 The field of Community Energy
Community energy initiatives seem to be part of a broader self-organisation trend. Citizens and
‘social entrepreneurs’ (entrepreneurs with a societal goal) play an increasingly important role in the
‘self-organisation’ of services and products. Health care, child-care, education, food supply,
construction and energy … in numerous domains citizens and social entrepreneurs are taking matters
into their own hands. While doing so, they often make use of specific legal constructions and
business models, like crowd funding, cooperatives and complementary currencies.
4
This leads to
consumers also becoming producers, activists also acting as (social) entrepreneurs, and citizens
sometimes taking on tasks that traditionally have been associated with civil servants.
With “community energy” as an emergent driver for energy transitions, some simple questions arise
about what constitutes the community in question, why is it different from the current state of
affairs and why it would be vital to stay clear from current unsustainability. Put simply: what is
community energy? A community has (at least to some extent) a shared matter of concern and
shared problem or mission, whether or not its constitutive members understand it in a similar way.
In that sense, communities form an important building block for societies: collectively we do more,
and more efficiently, than we might individually. But also: communities are important for people’s
identity construction, sense of place
5
, and their idea of collective action. Social processes facilitate
the creation and the operation of a community, but might also obstruct change when cultural
identity is too strongly based on existing communities and/or averse to change. In this brief we refer
to community energy as “those projects where communities (of place or interest) exhibit a high
degree of ownership and control, as well as benefiting collectively from the outcomes.”
6
3
Intermediaries are organisations that operate in the interface of local administration and community with the
role to facilitate and enable the development and smooth operation/set-up of community initiatives See e.g.
Community Energy Scotland www.communityenergyscotland.org.uk
4
Avelino, F. (2012)
5
Tidball, K, and Stedman, R, (2012), and Devine-Wright, P., (2013)
6
Walker Devine-Wright, 2008
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 6
For this practice brief, we start off from the premise that community energy is an important element
in transition processes towards more sustainable energy systems
7
, which include fundamental shifts
in dominant modes of production and consumption, including social-material and political roles as
consumers, producers, citizens, and scientists. Within community energy initiatives, people
experiment with such new modes and roles and learn about how (parts of) the future energy system
could take shape. Although the impact of community energy on the energy system at large is still
rather limited in most countries, developments in Germany provide an interesting example of its
potential impacts. In Germany, close to 30% of electricity is provided by renewable energy. Over half
of the newly installed renewable energy production capacity is owned by citizens, farmers and
energy cooperatives (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Renewables in the hands of the People (Source: Trend Research, 2011)
Although the share of renewables in the Dutch energy supply cannot live up to the German example,
close to 500 energy cooperatives are active in the Netherlands today.
8
There are different ways to
categorize such community energy initiatives, depending on the perspective. First, from a
technological perspective a distinction can be made between initiatives that are aimed at the supply
side of energy, such as solar and wind projects, and those which are aimed at the demand side, such
7
Verbong & Loorbach (2012)
8
HIERopgewekt (2013) Initiatieven. Available online: http://www.hieropgewekt.nl/initiatieven
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 7
as energy conservation, retrofitting of houses and businesses and awareness raising initiatives.
9
Second, from a socio-cultural perspective, we can distinguish 1) initiatives led by citizens, such as
energy cooperatives or businesses and collective procurement (mostly solar); and 2) initiatives with
citizens, such as participative area development and government initiatives.
10
Third, from a
psychological perspective a distinction can be made based on the main driving motivations of
initiators, ranging from commercial initiatives to grassroots, idealistic initiatives. Often, commercial
initiatives focus more on the economic gains involved. For these initiatives, main drivers are keeping
a lid on energy costs, boosting the local economy, experimenting with new technology and to play
into the possibilities that the liberalization of the energy market in Europe provides.
Many grassroots initiatives, at the same time, are driven by more idealistic non-profit motivations.
For these initiatives, climate change and the environment in general form important drivers, often
connected to stimulating a sense of local community and autonomy, which sometimes emanates
from rebelling against the current large-scale centralized energy sector.
Many community energy initiatives combine both economic self-interest and idealistic motivations,
and therein the distinction between self-interest and idealism is often not that clear cut. The point
however, is to acknowledge that community energy includes a rather wide variety of initiatives with
a different mix of motivations for their actions. In Box 1 on page 8, we highlight four distinct
examples of community energy initiatives.
9
Seyfang et al. (2013)
10
Schwenke, A. (2012) Energieke BottomUp in Lage Landen. AS I-Search.
“We want to produce energy ourselves… Independent of coal fired power plants in the
Eemshaven and instable regions such as the Middle East or Russia. Tens of millions of euros
flow out of the towns of the municipality of Castricum into large energy companies abroad. It
supports the local economy if we can keep a part of that money within Castricum.”
(Calorie, 2013)
“We increasingly talk about money and local economy,
more than about kilowatt hours, emissions and environment”
(interview with Ecopower, 13th of March 2013, Avelino et al. 2013)
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 8
Box. 1. Four Examples of Community Energy Initiatives
Texel Energy (The Netherlands) is an energy cooperative with 3.000 members and 4.000
customer connections on the Dutch island Texel in the Wadden Sea (North Sea), which
harbours 13.000 citizens spread over seven villages. One can become a member for 50 euros a
year, for which one receives a share in the company, a discount on the energy price, and a vote
in the annual assembly (one member one vote, independent of the amount of shares). Texel
Energie was initiated by three islanders and formally founded in 2007. Initially, the main
business was to buy and resell renewable energy, but in recent years it also started producing
renewable energy (projects in e.g. solar energy, bio-mass and ‘anaerobic digestion’), and is
working towards also investing in wind, geothermal and tidal energy. One of the main drivers
concerns the local culture; Texel has a very strong local identity and an exceptionally strong
historical strive for ‘being independent’. (Frantzeskaki et al. 2013, Avelino et al. 2013)
Energy cooperative Ecopower (Antwerp, Belgium) aims ‘to collect funds for renewable energy
projects from as many members as possible’. Founded in 1991, it has grown to an organization
with 36.855 members at the end of 2011 with an average of 4,3 shares per individual member
(one share costs 250 euro) (one member one vote, independent of the amount of shares).
Since 2003, Ecopower also sells energy to its members (electricity and heating). In 2011
Ecopower produced nearly 30 million kWh of renewable energy, owing a total of 11 wind
turbines, 3 hydroelectricity stations, 1 biomass installation and 270 solar cell installations
(Ecopower 2012). The Ecopower organisation plays an active role in the ‘co-operative
movement’ (e.g. a board member of Ecopower is also a board member of the organization
Rescoop Europe). (Avelino et al. 2013)
Schönau EWS (Elektrizitätswerke Schönau, Germany) is a renewable energy provider (99,6%
renewables and 0,4% cogeneration in 2010) that serves 130.000 electricity users and 8300 gas
users across Germany, and has subsidized a total of 1950 electricity production equipment
units, including solar units, cogeneration units, biogas and hydraulic power units. 1,000
shareholders, who receive small annual dividends, own the cooperative. The rest of the profits
are re-invested in renewable energy. Schönau EWS has particular historical roots. In the
aftermath of Chernobyl in 1986, in the small town of Schönau, a parents’ initiative emerged to
protest against nuclear energy. After 10 years of protest and debate with the local grid
operators, the citizens in 1997 ‘took over’ the grid and Schönau’s community’s supply, and
when the energy market was liberalized a few years later, it started supplying energy to
households across Germany. (Avelino et al. 2013, Bosman et al. 2013)
Energiegenossenschaft Odenwald eG (Erbach, Germany) is an energy cooperative in Germany
which started in 2009 with over 2.000 members. The regional government and the cooperative
Volksbank founded the cooperative. During its first years, the cooperative bank paid the energy
cooperative employees. It has invested over €35 million, with €8 million in member shares. The
cooperative owns 5 MWp of PV and two windmills and is developing 80 windmills. The
cooperative is selling electricity through an external partner under the name EGO-Naturstrom.
It plans to take over the role of electricity supplier by itself when it reaches over 1.000
customers. The cooperative is developing a heating grid in the city of Erbach. The ‘House of
Energy’ is being built in a former brewery, which will function as a nexus for energy related
enterprises. (Boontje 2013).
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 9
3 Challenges for Self-organising Community Energy
The development of community energy faces several challenges. First, challenges arise as community
energy is a relatively new development that is often at odds with the dominant culture, structure and
practices of the current energy system. This means that community energy initiatives have to deal
with barriers resulting from institutional logic, rules and business models that have evolved over
decades around a centrally organized, large-scale fossil fuel energy system. Second, community
energy is a social affair, meaning that initiators have to deal with different kinds of people,
worldviews and levels of commitment. Third, and connected to the second challenge, every
community is different, meaning that there are neither one-size-fits-all solutions nor universal
operation-models to imitate or apply.
In order to structure our discussion on the challenges facing community energy, we start with three
overarching challenges that were identified as essential for initiating and sustaining a community
energy initiative: trust, motivation and continuity. Then we move on to four dimensions from which
challenges to community energy initiatives arise: 1) economic & financial issues, 2) legal barriers, 3)
socio-cultural conditions and 4) micro-political struggle & conflict. We then synthesize the insights
about challenges across the four dimensions by discussing what these challenges mean for (self)-
governance of community energy.
Overarching Challenges: Trust, Motivation and Continuity 3.1
A fundamental issue in the success or failure of community energy is trust. Generally, citizens hold
governments and/or large energy companies responsible for solving energy related environmental
problems. However, there is an increasing sensation amongst citizens that these institutions have so
far not been able to put the energy system on a more sustainable track. Therefore, participants in
community energy initiatives often have more trust in their own initiative to contribute to
sustainable energy, than in government or energy companies. However, not everybody shares that
trust. Since energy security is vital for the functioning of society, there needs to be trust that
initiatives deliver on their mission and objectives; or put simply, trust that these new alternatives
work. The more people trust such initiatives, the higher chances are that they will participate as a
consumer or as a volunteer. Also for legal and institutional adaptations to support community
energy, decision makers need to have a certain level of trust in citizens’ initiatives. As such, many of
the specific challenges that we will discuss in this section, whether they are financial, legal, or
organisational, in the end all come down to trust.
Energy co-operatives represent a sustainable way of producing and distributing energy. In an
energy market which is heavily dominated by a few, huge players and where suspicion prevails,
energy co-operatives can help rebuild a trust relationship by involving people in decision making. It
is extremely important to rebuild the idea of ‘we’. Co-operatives can give a great contribution to
this. With its democratic governance, the co-operative business model strengthens social
integration and cohesion and helps mutually beneficial achievement of goals”.
(Nikos Chrysogelos, Member of the European Parliament, RESCOOP 2011)
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 10
Furthermore, community energy relies on motivation of people to 1) switch energy provider, and 2)
invest free time and other resources in helping to build up a new energy system. Motivation is a very
precarious issue. Some people are starting or joining community energy initiatives, while others do
not. Insights into the motivation behind such decisions, lead to a better understanding of how and
why the system is changing. An especially challenging issue is keeping people motivated to invest
their (often voluntary) time and resources in community energy initiatives over longer periods of
time, and to keep doing so even when the road gets tough.
Thinking about sustaining motivation over longer periods of time leads us to the third overarching
issue of continuity. Currently, community energy may receive attention from politicians, businesses
and citizens and attracts passionate proponents. But new technologies become old, or even worse:
standard. Moreover, communities can change over time because of migration, changing values, or
simply because the next generation replaces the existing one. Is self-governance viable and desirable
once the parties no longer have a sense of community or the will to actively participate? Doesn’t low
participation delegitimise representatives and their decisions? Under what conditions can a party
leave the community energy initiative without harming itself or the community? This poses questions
of ‘how to maintain trust?’, ‘how to sustain interest from members and volunteers?’, ‘how to
sustainably run a voluntary organisation?’ and ‘how to keep a community together?’
Economic and Financial Issues 3.2
When zooming in on the economic and financial challenges of community energy, several issues
become apparent. First, community energy often represents a very complex contractual
arrangement between a great variety of heterogeneous individuals, companies, governmental
institutions (municipalities and provinces), and non-profit organizations. In light of the diverging
interests amongst involved parties and coordination required to establish, implement, and enforce
any agreement between them, the entrapments of incomplete contracting lurk. Further complicating
matters is the interpersonal relationships between the parties involved in community energy. A
strong sense of community seems a prerequisite for successful collective entrepreneurship, as does
the presence of a ‘champion’ who mobilizes the community, also in rough times
11
. Yet the risk of free
riding behaviour and an unequal division of the costs and benefits will test any community: even
good friendships can fail when money issues enter the picture.
11
Westley, F. R., O. Tjornbo, L. Schultz, P. Olsson, C. Folke, B. Crona and Ö. Bodin. (2013).
Motivation to join a community energy initiative
“I went to one of these anti-nuclear power events and there I met people from Schönau EWS.
I am very impressed by their independence and courage to organize themselves and do what
feels good for themselves. It feels very good to get electricity from them and not from a
corrupt company that sells cheap energy.” (interview with participant in Freiburg co-housing,
24th of May 2012, Avelino et al. 2013).
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 11
Second, several community energy initiatives are struggling with their business models. On the one
hand, this is due to strong competition in the energy field and volatile investment regimes due to
changing government regulations and uncertain investment horizons. On the other hand, these
initiatives often have a multiple bottom-line, in which not only monetary costs, but also
environmental and social performance play a role. This is further complicated by members having
different ideas on where the optimum between these performance indicators may be. The fact that
all members have a say in where it should lie, can lead to lengthy discussions on which business
strategy to follow and where revenues should land.
Third, community energy initiatives are relatively new, which makes experience with different
business models scarce. Lack of experience sometimes makes it difficult to get projects funded by
banks and institutional investors, especially when the initiative has not yet been able to prove that it
has the organisational capacity to carry out capital-intensive projects in a professional manner.
(Perceived) legal Barriers 3.3
It is often argued that energy laws and regulations raise several constraints on community energy. All
initiators of community energy projects face legal challenges, at least to some extent, as they are
subject to laws and regulations such as the Electricity and Gas Act in the Netherlands.
12
In this
section, some apparent legal restrictions are examined as well as the perception of legal constraints.
We find that at times, the latter form a larger barrier than actual legal restrictions.
One of the main legal barriers for community energy is that energy suppliers are obliged to acquire a
license of supply.
13
In order to get such a license, the applicant needs to create a financial and
administrative system for the different financial and energy flows. The license also holds an
obligation to provide energy to anyone who requests so, regardless of the size of the production-unit
or source. In the traditional energy system, which knows a strict division between supplier and
consumer, such a provision makes sense. However, now that consumers increasingly start to produce
12
Elektriciteitswet 1998 and Gaswet
13
S. Akerboom, G. Buist, A. Huygen, A. Ottow en S. Pront, Smart grid pilots. Handvatten voor toepassing van
wet- en regelgeving, deel 1 en , Amsterdam, Centrum voor Energievraagstukken, september 2011.
Financial challenges in practice
[Our business model] was new we were one of the first of this type of initiatives in NL we
really had to invent everything ourselves. (…) [as such a barrier is] financing, especially for
production the banks are very hesitant. We need half a million, that is so much money…
you cannot finance that with 3000 members. (…) It is especially the banks that create
difficulties for us because they don’t know our model we have a very high risk profile
(translated from interview Texel Energie, 14th of May 2012, Avelino et al. 2013).
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 12
energy themselves, and wish to exchange this within the community, the conditions of the license
create a problematic threshold for community energy initiatives.
Next to apparent legal constraints, such as the license of supply, it is striking that initiators of
community energy initiatives sometimes believe they are not allowed to undertake particular
activities, while in fact the law does not restrict these. These perceived legal restrictions and lacunae
in legal knowledge amongst initiators might constitute an obstacle for the progress of the project.
The reason for these perceived legal constraints might be found in the history of energy regulation.
Community energy initiatives are a relative new party to the market. When energy regulation was
drafted, this development had not been foreseen, leading to restrictions and/or to legal gaps that
may cause perceptions of legal restrictions.
While legal gaps sometimes provide opportunities to initiators, empirical research shows that
amongst community energy initiatives these gaps can also create confusion and (perceived)
restrictions. Contributing to the confusion is the often rather limited legal explanation by
administrators, which reads something like “since a certain project or initiative is not envisaged, it is
not possible”. In most cases our legal system actually works the other way around: if an activity is not
envisaged, it is actually allowed.
Socio-cultural Context 3.4
Community energy initiatives are highly dependent on socio-cultural factors. This includes intrinsic
motivation at the individual level, as well as the relationship between the parties involved and their
surroundings. A strong sense of community seems to be a prerequisite for successful collective
entrepreneurship, as does the presence of a ‘champion’ who mobilizes the community in rough
times. Case studies of local energy cooperatives show that people who start a cooperative have
strong personal drivers which stem from values and beliefs, but also from relevant professional
knowledge and skills. This means that they are high on ‘self-efficacy’: knowing what to do and how to
(Perceived) legal barriers in practice
“There is a lot of talk about getting rid of laws and regulations. We do have a lot of laws and
regulations, but they are not there for nothing. We should deal with those laws and
regulations more creatively … and be careful not to blame everything on regulations. We
should particularly be careful to say that we need to get rid of legal barriers. You should
check out this whole discussion about the electricity law there are endless discussions
about everything. It is very difficult to pinpoint what are the exact legal barriers that can be
abolished. Rather we should stop thinking in terms of barriers and think more in terms of
opportunities. We [Dutch] think in terms of limitations and not in terms of possibilities. If you
ask a farmer how high his barn will be he will ask “how high is it allowed to be” and then if
one says 6 meters, the farmer will say he wants 6,5 meters”. (translated from interview
Texel Energie, 14th of May 2012, Avelino et al. 2013).
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 13
do it, applying knowledge and skills they have acquired earlier on. Self-efficacy is also an important
driver for people who join a cooperative as a member, consumer or volunteer. In this regard, there is
still ample room for improvement, as many people still doubt their capacity to contribute to local
energy. Participation can be broadened and deepened by spreading knowledge of the “how”, for
example by showing successful examples of community energy, or by other forms of education.
Moral responsibility and environmental awareness are also related to participation; albeit less than
many would expect. Initiators of community energy are often environmentally conscious, but seem
more driven by the belief they have the right skills to actually contribute to shaping their
environment.
14
Besides the availability of a community ‘champion’ with a high level of self-efficacy and certain skills
to mobilize his/her environment, the spreading of knowledge and skills is for a large part also
dependent on the social context in which participants operate. Many successful cases of community
energy seem to be driven by strong embedment in a socio-cultural context that favours a
cooperative, citizen-led approach
15
:
Cooperative energy company Texel Energie on the Dutch Waddenisland Texel is embedded in a
culture that is historically prone to strive for islanders’ independence from the mainland
Community led heat company Thermo Bello is embedded in the eco-community of Eva-
Lanxmeer, for which self-sufficiency lies at the core of its raison d’être
The Belgian energy cooperative Ecopower is intertwined with the transnational cooperative
movement, which has strong agenda regarding socio-economic sustainability
The Scottish community wind projects of Udny and Urgha are embedded in a network of
community energy initiatives, as well as in Scotland’s historical culture of self-reliance and
independence
The German energy company Schönau EWS has originally sprouted in an anti-nuclear
movement, which in Germany is strongly intertwined with the civil environmental movement.
Not only do these ‘socio-cultural contexts’ provide participants with knowledge and skills, they also
feed a certain ‘desire’ to somehow distinguish themselves from the mainstream, dominant way of
doing things, as well as encouraging them to think and act differently. Deviating from the
mainstream norm comes with much hassle and risk, and as such it requires a very strong motivation
and supportive environment. This is what the socio-cultural contexts provide: whether it is an island,
a town, an eco-district, a network or a social movement, what they have in common is a strive for
independence and self-sufficiency, and/or a strong social critique of established governmental and
commercial arrangements. Moreover, the sub-cultural context also provides the initiative with a
sense of ‘community’ and/or a sense of place, which in turn help participants to persist and insist
despite of many institutional barriers, unexpected events and disappointing let-downs. The
importance of such socio-cultural context also raises a challenge: such a context cannot be created or
planned, and often takes decades to develop. Moreover, these socio-cultural contexts also come
with micro-political conflict and struggle, as we will discuss in the next subsection.
14
Paradies et al. 2013
15
Avelino et al. 2013
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 14
Micro-political Struggle and Conflict 3.5
While emphasising the importance and positive value of a strong ‘community’, we should not close
our eyes to the fact that communities are sites of (micro-)politics, thus including struggle and
conflict. The risk of free riding behaviour and an unequal division of the costs and benefits will test
any community. Biogas projects have suffered from farmers having family quarrels that go back ages
in time, impeding them to achieve agreement in current projects. This is also ‘community’. Besides
such tensions in the ‘history’ of existing communities, we also find tensions in the creation of ‘new
communities’, which inherently comprises conflict and struggle. However, perhaps the main
challenge here is not the struggle in itself, but rather the idea that such tensions are problematic and
should be avoided. Conflict and struggle can also be viewed as being ‘productive’.
Many “community energy” projects bring together new groups of people. Discussion and organizing
energy is new for many people, especially with regard to the community in which they engage. The
organization around energy problems develops interesting tensions with the inherited customs of
communities and the sense of citizenship borrowed from communities in which energy (e.g. through
the universal electricity sockets) is almost entirely taken for granted, and citizens are simply
consumers. Through exploring ‘self-organisation’, citizens start to access new issues like grid
regulations, ownership, relations to energy companies, and to explore the meanings of these in
relation to their lives. Community energy initiatives can also enable dialogues about broader
challenges such as environmental protection and lifestyles. For this, the initiators of the community
energy can create discussions and learning events where not only energy but broader topics can be
debated, reframed and learnt.
By re-thinking energy, people come to revalue what their community and their cultural identities are
about. Through community energy, people involved think beyond their current community ties; a
space opens up in which they can deny their existing community memberships. As such, ‘community
energy’ provides an undetermined space through which communities and cultures might become
objects of contestation and renegotiation. Community energy stands for culture as a process, rather
than culture as a possession. One does not ‘have’ a predetermined culture, rather one is involved in
constantly (re)creating it: a process in which heritages of identities and practices are redefined in
light of new goals and challenges.
Successful initiatives manage to use community energy as an undetermined practice for
experimenting and critically rethinking existing structures. Less successful ones try to copy a
generalised ideal of what an ‘energy community’ should looked like, without critically questioning to
what extent existing community structures and members actually (want to) fit that ideal. As such, we
should be careful not to generalize a community energy culture. This is not some generic set of
habits and practices, but rather a place in which people reinvent and reconstruct their community
and its relation to energy, which unavoidably involves conflict and struggle.
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 15
The Challenge of (Self-)Governance 3.6
Energy provision has become a matter of extensive technological infrastructures, large investments,
and coordination issues on national, supra-national and even global scale. Arguably, centralized
control is needed to keep energy provision efficient, reliable and affordable to all. Besides some
obvious advantages, centralized control has disadvantages too both in terms of control and
inclusion, and in terms of its results and sustainability performance. It tends to leave citizens and
communities as rather passive consumers, with little control over energy production and with limited
opportunities to change it towards a more sustainable and desirable practice. Therefore, self-
governance by communities is often hailed as a desirable way forward. It is often associated with
lofty democratic ideals, referring to an individual or group of people that exercise control over
oneself or themselves. In the context of community energy systems, it refers to “a high degree of
involvement of local people in the planning, setting up and, potentially, the running of the project”
and to the local collective distribution of benefits.
16
While noble, the practical reality is that self-governance essentially represents a very complex
arrangement between a great variety of stakeholders. The success of community energy initiatives in
turn depends to a great extent on the ability of the community to govern not only the project, but
also its members. The main challenge of (self-)governance of community energy is essentially to find
modes of organization and to design proper organizational principles and policies that help deal with
the challenges as described in sections 3.1 3.5. These challenges are not unique to the case of
community energy, but also apply to other cases of self-governance (see the traffic safety example of
Shared Space in text box 2). The challenges described include technical issues of legal arrangement
and business models, but also more intangible issues around socio-cultural identities, trust and
power struggles. Can these dilemmas be dealt with by self-governance, or do they also require other
forms of more top-down governance? And what exactly do we mean by ‘self-governance’? In this last
section we aim to synthesize the challenges for (self-)governance.
First, in how far does a community possess the necessary abilities and know-how to self-govern the
establishment and execution of a community energy initiative? While the managerial skills might be
challenging enough to acquire, it is even more questionable in how far the common operation of an
energy network is a possibility. Much literature on self-governance comes from Ostrom’s Nobel price
work on common pool resources that builds on empirical cases with successful management of
public goods. Conceptualising renewable energy as a public good, similar governance challenges to
common pool resources are of concern. Can we always ensure that individuals behave responsibly?
Who ensures that performance criteria (availability, affordability, and sustainability) are upheld? If a
network company operates the system in name of the community, is it still self-governance?
Moreover, the party who operates the network holds an information and strategic advantage. Will a
community be able to regulate it in order to avoid abuse?
16
Pp. 498 of Walker, G., & Devine-Wright, P. (2008). Community renewable energy: What should it mean?.
Energy policy, 36(2), 497-500.
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 16
Another important factor of self-governance of community energy is the interpersonal relationship
between the parties involved. The challenges involved in community building as discussed in the
previous sections raise various questions, such as a) how can unwanted behaviour be prevented;
and b) how can it be punished/disciplined? Monitoring and bonding are two strategies that help
here, but require extra effort by the communities’ members. In addition, how to handle parties of a
community that are simply unwilling to cooperate but whose participation (or territory) is
instrumental for the success of the initiative (as was the case in biogas initiatives introduced earlier
which suffered from farmers having family quarrels going back ages, impeding on achieving any
agreement)?
The third challenge of ‘self-organisation’ and ‘self-governance’, is that it is often unclear who exactly
the ‘self’ or the ‘other’ is. Blurring boundaries between different sectors (market, state, community)
means that it is not that clear anymore what is ‘bottom-up’ or ‘top-down’, the ‘self’ or the ‘other’.
Citizens seem to become bureaucrats, consumers become producers, and activists become
entrepreneurs. The ‘self’ in self-organisation ranges from ‘self-reliant citizens’ and ‘self-serving
consumers’, to ‘self-governing municipalities’ and ‘self-employed social entrepreneurs’. None of
these ‘selves’ fit within the prevailing socio-political categories, hence many public and academic
debates revolve around (re)defining social and political categories. This is why in the next section, we
start with a multi-actor perspective that helps to specify the different actors involved in the (self)-
governance of community energy.
Text Box. 2. The Challenges of Self-governance in the example of Shared Space: lessons
from the field of traffic management for community energy (Pel, 2012)
Shared Space is an initiative towards community involvement in the management of traffic
and public space. According to the Shared Space view, current traffic order is characterized
by excessive governmental control, i.e. a rampant ‘forest’ of traffic signs, lineage, traffic
lights, fences and traffic separation devices. Arguably, this street furniture and regulation
has helped towards achieving our remarkably safe and efficient traffic system, characterized
by (relatively) low numbers of traffic casualties and smooth traffic flow. But against these
achievements of centralized control, Shared Space points out several shadow sides:
The centralized control also creates ‘pseudo-safety’, as citizens’ self-organising
abilities are cancelled out and people forget to act on their common sense.
The widespread use of street furniture compromises the quality of public space, as it
is increasingly turned into an ugly traffic space
It leads to ‘interpassive’ rather than interactive social relations, in which social
interaction between people is delegated to technology. In traffic we all too often look
at the traffic lights above us, rather than at our fellow citizens next to us.
It reflects how current traffic order is shaped for, but not by, citizens, and maintains
‘technocratic’ governance relations.
Continuation on next page
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 17
Continuation of Text Box. 2. The Challenges of Self-governance in the example of
Shared Space: lessons from the field of traffic management for community energy
(Pel, 2012)
In order to address these shadow sides of centralized control, Shared Space proposes two
clusters of solutions:
1. Alternative spatial designs of more or less ‘naked’ streets. These streets are not divided
through fences, lineage and traffic lights etc., but typically invite the mixing of traffic.
Right-of-way is negotiated through social interaction, through eye contact, and people
are forced to take each other into account and to be alert.
2. Participative design of public space and streets. The point behind this is that citizens
should not only be self-organising when using streets/public space, but they should also
have more say in the shaping of public space. The very process of designing traffic and
public space has become dominated by traffic experts, and inclusion of citizens is
therefore a goal in itself.
Lessons from Shared Space for community energy.
Shared Space practice shows that traffic safety can be based more on social behaviour,
rather than centralized control. But its practice also shows how the self-organisation of
some (the emancipated, firm traffic participants) could go at the expense of others (the
visually impaired, the ‘vulnerable’ traffic participants such as elderly people, children,
bicyclists). These are typical side effects that could disqualify an innovation but they can
also be addressed as opportunities for fine-tuning. Shared Space proponents and
organizations for the visually impaired jointly set up a research project to address these
side-effects developing Shared Space further, rather than getting stuck in adversarial
politics.
And how can such self-organisation be undertaken, when it still has to take place within the
centralized systems that exist today?
Self-organisation is often pitted against government-led arrangements. But Shared Space
practice reminds that also a ‘self-organising’ traffic order relies on a great diversity of actors,
each with their visions and agendas: traffic engineers, policemen, the road itself, road users,
administrators and politicians, and the various elements of ‘street furniture’ that steer
behaviour. Moreover, the self-organisation is to be done with weaker and stronger citizens,
at different speeds. For community energy this analogy suggests that it may not be wise to
strive for purely isolated ‘off-grid’ and stand-alone systems think of the organisations,
people and technical systems that allow self-organisation to take place.
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 18
4 Multi-actor Recommendations
After having identified a great number of challenges in the previous chapters, it is now time to
constructively consider how to interpret and deal with these challenges. Based on our research
insights, we aim to formulate practice recommendations for the (self-)governance of community
energy. Rather than merely formulating regulatory or budgetary recommendations for policy-
makers, we explicitly aim to discuss how a variety of actors can play a role in improving the
conditions for the (self-)governance of community energy. Therefore, we propose to look at
community energy from a Multi-actor Perspective, which we will shortly introduce before we apply
it, so as to systematically identify individual and organisational roles and practice recommendations
for a variety of actors.
Introducing the Multi-actor Perspective
4.1
The Multi-Actor Perspective (MaP
17
) distinguishes between different types of actors at three
different levels of aggregation: 1) sectors, 2) organisations/groups and 3) individual roles. At the level
of sectors (see figure 1), the state is characterised as non-profit, formal and public; the market as for-
profit, formal and private; and the community as non-profit, informal and private. Finally, the Third
Sector is conceptualised as an intermediary sector in between the three others. It includes the ‘non-
profit sector’ but the Third Sector is also broader than that; it also includes many intermediary
organisations that cross the boundaries between private and public, formal and informal, profit and
non-profit. Examples of such intermediary organisations are ‘not-for-profit’ social enterprises,
universities, cooperatives, and community networks.
Figure 2. Multi-actor Perspective. Source: Avelino & Wittmayer 2014
At the level of sectors, the distinction is based on general characteristics and the ‘logic’ of a sector
(i.e. formal vs. informal, for-profit vs. non-profit, public vs. private). In each of these sectors,
17
Avelino & Wittmayer 2014, based on Evers & Laville (2004:17) and Pestoff (1992:25).
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 19
‘individual’ human beings tend to be constructed in a different manner, stressing a specific role,
ranging from ‘resident’ or ‘neighbour’ to ‘citizen’ or ‘consumer’. Most of the time, one individual
simultaneously has different roles in different sector logics, e.g. a policy-maker is also a father,
neighbour, consumer and possibly a volunteer in his free time this is why we speak of individual
roles. Equally, organisations or other social entities such as ‘groups’ or ‘networks’ may also operate in
different sectors simultaneously, e.g. cooperatives can combine the logic of the market, the Third
Sector and the community within its organisational fabric.
A Multi-actor Perspective on Community Energy 4.2
The purpose of the MaP is not to categorise organisations or individuals within one category or the
other, but rather to explore how in a specific context such as community energy individuals,
groups and organisations act and relate within different sector logics. Furthermore, it provides
insight into which sector logic tends to be ‘dominant’ in the actions and discourses of specific
organisations, groups and individuals.
We can safely argue that, in the past century, the energy sector has been dominated by a two-sector
logic of state-and/or-market. Over the past decades, energy provision has been centralised,
privatised, and formalised in complex public-private contracts. The emergence of community energy
challenges this two-sector model, and a new logic of the Third Sector and ‘the community’ has
entered the stage. While the combination of state and market in the past already blurred the
boundaries between public and private, profit and non-profit, the emergence of community energy
initiatives leads to much more complex blurring of boundaries.
First, the dominance of the state-versus-market-logic has led us to nearly automatically associate the
‘private’ sphere with a ‘for-profit’ logic. As such, many of the laws and regulations that deal with the
‘private’ sphere are designed to regulate commercial market processes. This does not fit to the non-
profit or not-for-profit logic of community energy initiatives and the Third Sector. The vague concept
of ‘not-for-profit’ complicates things further. Many energy cooperatives do make profit, and do
distribute it amongst their members. However, making profit is often not the main objective of
energy cooperatives, many of which have societal sustainability objectives. In these ‘not-for-profit’
cases, the question arises whether ‘the law’ (i.e. state logic) should treat these instances as for-profit
or non-profit. The binary logic of the dominant two-sector model (either state or market) does not
allow for much nuance between one or the other.
(Unfitting) state logic in practice
[Many laws that are made by central governments are] “a bureaucracy that aims to protect
consumers… but we as local energy companies are the victims. The irony is that we ARE the
consumer… we want to do it ourselves, but the government says ‘that is not allowed,
because we decide what the logic should be’ (…) I really worry about this because the gas
and energy prices are going to rise and the laws and regulations about heating prices will
depend on the gas price. This means that we [as local energy initiative] will also have to base
our energy prices on a global casino… We get stuck in a bureaucratic mill that does not allow
us to take our own responsibility” (interview Thermo Bello, 23rd of February 2012)
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 20
This also relates to another dilemma, that being the distinction between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’.
While community energy initiatives often get formalised after a certain point and to a certain extent,
there are significant elements of informality in the set-up and development of these community
initiatives. Many volunteers whom get involved with community initiatives also prefer an informal
and ‘trust-based’ sphere over a formalised setting. This may create tensions with the formal
requirements prescribed by the formal logic of state and market, especially when these formal
requirements do not fit not-for-profit context, as described earlier.
When we look at (the challenges of) community energy from a multi-actor perspective, and ask
ourselves what kind of recommendations we can make for (self-)governance, there are three main
overall comments to be made. First, when proclaiming ideals of ‘self-governance’ and ‘self-
organisation’, it is important to be clear and critical about who the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ is supposed
to be, and to realise that this distinction between the self and the other is not that clear cut. It is
especially not clear-cut in the case of ‘for-profit’ versus ‘non-profit’, ‘formal’ versus ‘informal’.
Second, a related recommendation is to be aware of the naivety that often comes with informal and
‘trust-based’ spheres of community-development and idealistic discourses on (self-)governance. New
concepts and blurring boundaries are by definition accompanied by contingencies and unexpected
tensions. (Self-)governance needs to safeguard that it can cope with such contingencies and to
acknowledge the importance of discussing these before starting the cooperation. Much like marriage
knows the possibility of a prenuptial agreement, planning for contingencies may not be romantic, but
it sure helps create clarity and trust among the participants in case of difficulties that arise along the
way.
Third and last, but certainly not least, the multi-actor perspective serves to remind us that the (self)-
governance of community energy involves a variety of sector logics and different types of actors.
Organisations and individual actors play different roles in each sector logic. The logic of ‘the state’,
for instance, is not only decided on by policy-makers, but in the case of a democracy also shaped
by citizens who vote for certain politicians and who abide by laws, or by legal experts and other
specialists who advise governments. As such, when we formulate community energy
recommendations for ‘the state’, we do not only target policy-makers that work within government
organisations, but also other actors who are involved in shaping and reproducing the logic of the
state, such as citizens, voters and organisations. The same applies to the logic of the market, the
community and the Third Sector. In the next few sections, we will formulate recommendations for
each of the four ‘sector logics’, specifying the roles of different actors within those logics.
State Logic Recommendations 4.3
The state logic is characterised as non-profit, formal and public. Essentially, the state logic is to
safeguard ‘the public interest’. One of the main instruments that governments use to do so, is the
law, by which it establishes rules for citizens and other (collective entities) that are subject to the
law. Generally speaking, a process of standardisation and formalisation is required in order to
safeguard equality before the law. However, too rigid standardisation can exclude new innovative
sustainable solutions, therefore creating undesired legal barriers with respect to emerging new
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 21
phenomena such as community energy. This causes several (perceived) legal challenges with the
regulation of community energy, as discussed in section 3.3.
First, community energy initiatives face many legal constraints and secondly, there is a strong
perception of there being too many legal restrictions. To resolve the first category of problems,
government officials hold the mandate to change their Electricity, Gas and Heating acts in order to
avoid or limit these problems. Sometimes it is a matter of simplifying laws on certain provisions so
that projects can overcome the perception of legal restrictions that dis-incentivizes people further.
Government officials could also fulfil a role as an educator or information officer when it comes to
obligations, possibilities and conditions for community energy. Furthermore, we suggest that at
times there is also need for a shift in culture and attitude amongst public administrators, so that new
energy initiatives can be viewed as opportunities for co-creating new formal arrangements that serve
the public interest, rather than being merely viewed as ‘difficult’ exceptions that are most easily
dealt with by avoiding them. Essentially, the main recommendation for government officials is to
approach the challenges of community energy as an opportunity for dialogue about and co-creation
of new and improved regulation.
However, such attitude of dialogue and co-creation on the side of government officials also requires
a shift in attitude on the side of citizens and other subjects of the law (i.e. organisations).
Bureaucratic practices are regularly ridiculed for their strictness or contradictory ironies. Often,
however, these seemingly ridiculous rules have an underlying logic that not only makes sense, but
turns out to be particularly difficult to replace or adapt in any standardised rule. A constructive
dialogue about legal transformation requires not only willing policy-makers, but also citizens and
organisations that acknowledge legal complexities.
The responsibility of ‘the state’ to represent the public interest, also includes a responsibility for
considering a long-term perspective and critical scoping of potential unintended side effects of
current developments. Often, it is argued that as the representative of the public interest,
governments are responsible for considering sustainability issues in terms of (unintended) effects on
future generations, or externalisation of ecological and social hazards. However, at the same time,
governments are also subject to short political cycles of 4 to 5 years, and with that susceptible to the
pressure of public media around everyday eventualities. Moreover, governments are also under
pressure when it comes to ensuring an ‘attractive investment climate’ for businesses (sustainable or
not), and for ensuring tax revenues. In the case of the Netherlands, the government receives over
€22 billion euros of (tax) revenues on energy, predominantly from fossil fuels (PBL, 2011). Such
dependency by governments on existing fossil fuel sources can hamper the support for community
energy.
This then raises the question which actors are responsible for bringing long-term sustainability issues
around community energy on the political agenda and into the public consciousness. Besides
government officials and politicians, there is also a clear responsibility for voters and media
organisations to demand political attention for the long-term sustainability of community energy.
Moreover, one can argue that such responsibility lies first and foremost with those actors who can
afford to take the time to systematically ponder on such issues as long-term and unintended side
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 22
effects, e.g. researchers, writers, advisors and research journalists. As such, an important part of the
recommendation within the state-logic is directed towards knowledge institutes:
To take into account the broader spectrum of macro-trends that take place in the energy
sector;
To consider the implications for market, policy and third sector of the gap between the
missing long-term vision and the determined medium-term targets such as energy
security;
To identify potential side effects of community energy self-organisation, e.g. social
exclusion, disruptions in community, freeriding issues, abuse by ‘commercial cowboys’,
rivalry and conflict between a variety of initiatives, etc.;
To combine interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches, including quantitative and
qualitative, instrumental and critical, descriptive and prescriptive, retrospective as well as
prospective types of research, and to translate subsequent insights into the public
domain.
Moreover, there is also a responsibility amongst community energy initiatives to engage in the
political contestation of the state logic around sustainable energy. Community energy initiatives are
often embedded within strong social movements (see section 3.4). Some of these movements have a
tendency to refrain from political engagement due to a lacking trust in the governmental system.
Others underestimate the potential influence they could have on political parties by feeding
specialised parliamentary committees with information and experiences, thereby providing members
of parliament with ammunition to question incumbent government policy.
Another issue that has received increasing attention in the development of community energy, is
that of ‘letting go’, i.e. what the government should not do. There has been quite a lot of talk on ‘big
society’ (UK) and the ‘facilitative government’ (NL). We believe that it is vital for governments to
ensure the creation of supporting structures to enable energy community initiatives to acquire
continuity and professionalism. However, this does not necessarily mean that governments have to
create and operate such structures themselves. In certain contexts, Third Sector organisations may
be better equipped and more experienced for supporting community energy initiatives (see also
section 4.6). The recommendation to governments is to ensure financial and legal support to such
Third Sector organisations, i.e. to support intermediary organizations (e.g. platforms, networks etc.)
to continue their role. With this recommendation, we question discourses that too easily reject
subsidies as a governance tool, and we warn against implicit or explicit conclusions that all forms of
subsidies should be avoided altogether. We should be careful not to generalise the use of subsidies,
and to distinguish between financial government support for Market, Third Sector or Communities.
The Role of Government
“Now government officials are all over us and other initiatives (…) they made a mess of
(un)sustainable energy themselves and now they see all these nice citizens initiatives and
they want a piece of it. Would it not be nice if we could simply leave it up to citizens?
Government should learn to let go of what they can let go” (…)(confidential interview,
Avelino et al. 2013).
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 23
Market Logic Recommendations 4.4
The market logic is characterised as for-profit, formal and private. Essentially, market logic refers to
the coordination of demand and supply of goods and services, including the transactions between
actors in the pursuit of maximising utility. It is safe to argue that the energy sector has been
dominated by market logic over the past few years. Within this market logic, centralised systems of
energy provision have become dominant, due to economies of scale and their supposed efficiency.
The development of community energy is questioning such centralised systems by introducing a
sense of community and local ownership. For community energy, this comes with various challenges
of acquiring financial resources and finding the right business models (as discussed in section 3.2.).
When taking into account these and other challenges that community energy initiatives are faced
with, an obvious recommendation within the market logic can be directed towards businesses,
including financial service providers: to develop complementary services for community energy
initiatives. Businesses could position themselves as specialists that can complement cooperatives by
executing tasks better, quicker and/or cheaper. In a changing energy landscape, businesses should be
open to explore new roles and responsibilities, and to invest in new technologies. Moreover,
businesses could address community energy initiatives as a platform that represents the interests of
the energy consumers or ‘prosumers’ in a region. Consumers and prosumers in turn can articulate
their collective demand for sustainable and local energy so as to 1) support community energy
initiatives, and/or 2) challenge incumbent energy companies. In this way, the development of
community energy can be viewed as a new process of ‘supply-demand-deliberation’
18
, in which
several different actors play a role. Also governments are important in this respect, as public
procurers, bidders and commissioning authorities, in terms of sustainable procurement of energy
services (including the social dimension of sustainability, such as tenders that favour participatory
ownership of energy), and in terms of revisiting the business models of collective energy
arrangement at the local level.
Initiators of community energy initiatives which in the market logic can be constructed as ‘social
entrepreneurs’ – themselves are also an important player in (re-)shaping the energy market. Some
energy cooperatives consider themselves a business more than anything else (i.e. more than a public
or Third Sector institution, and also more than a community initiative). However, also other
community energy initiatives that do not consider themselves as commercial businesses, are a player
in the market and need to (re)position themselves therein. The challenge is to find new ways to
create value in the energy market, and to develop new business models that build on the knowledge
or replicate practices of other successful community energy initiatives. Moreover, when e.g. energy
cooperatives are starting, it is vital that they provide a clear proposition to their future members. In
the market logic, a cooperative represents institutionalized self-interest, and when the cooperative is
able to effectively address individual needs, it will be able to permanently position itself in its field.
From that perspective, it is essential that members see a personal gain in joining the cooperative.
Therefore it is advised to start with one or two clear propositions, create exposure, and after several
successful projects, the cooperative could experiment with expanding into other specialisations.
18
As coined by Jurgen van der Heijden in Bosman et al. 2013
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 24
Such (re)positioning within the market also requires information on the ‘demand’. In the case of
community energy, this requires more than standard ‘market research’ amongst (potential)
‘consumers’. It is also about understanding the motivation of people to join energy initiatives not
only as ‘consumers’ but also as ‘prosumers’ and/or as engaged volunteers/ activists. There is an
increasing field of psychological studies and other social science research on individual and collective
motivations underlying community energy initiatives.
19
These studies can provide insights and
information that can be useful for community energy initiatives to (re)design their market strategy
and to acquire more support (in the form of consumers or members).
Community Logic Recommendations 4.5
The community logic is characterised as informal, non-profit, and private. The element of informality
is its most distinguished and fascinating feature. Often, when we think of this community sector, we
tend to think of it as the collective of ‘citizens’ and ‘consumers’. However, as we explained in earlier
sections, the very notion of a ‘citizen’ rather belongs to the state logic, and the notion of a
‘consumer’ belongs to the market logic. In the community logic, we are referring to persons in their
individual roles as family members, neighbours, residents and friends, and to the way in which they
informally interact with one another. Many community energy initiatives originate in ‘the
community’, i.e. they start with a group of people that informally get together with a desire and a
vision for self-organising (a part of) their energy system. This means that especially in the beginning,
most of the time and effort is invested on a voluntary basis. One the one hand, this voluntary basis
has a unique strength, that of ‘enjoyment’ and intrinsic motivation that is independent of formal
transactions or material rewards
20
. There are however also weaknesses.
First, there is the naivety that often comes with informal and ‘trust-based’ spheres of community-
development and idealistic discourses on self-governance. Second and related to that there is the
risk of ‘volunteer fatigue’, which threatens the continuity of the project. Such volunteer fatigue often
coincides with the blurry transition phase between informality and formality. As the initiative
develops and grows, it is unavoidable that some forms of formalisation kick in. This requires certain
formal activities (e.g. checking existing regulations, applying for formal permissions, administration,
bookkeeping, etc.), which are often not the type of activities that volunteers sign up for in the first
place. Our most important recommendation to initiators and members of informal community
energy initiatives, is to be aware and prepared for such moments of volunteer fatigue and processes
of formalisation. Even if formalisation in itself might not be avoidable, there are different degrees of
and strategies towards processes of formalisation and professionalisation.
An important strategy in this process of formalisation is to search for information and support from
experienced individuals and organisations, either by inquiring with other initiatives who have done it
before (i.e. build on existing experience and tacit knowledge), and/or by searching formal
organisations (e.g. platforms, networks, government departments, businesses, NGO’s) that can in
one way or another provide necessary information or services. Too often, the wheel is reinvented
19
E.g. Paradies, G., Wijn, R. en Attema, R. (2013).
20
For more on intrinsic motivation and empowerment in: Avelino 2011
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 25
unnecessarily. Initiators can make use of the experience available at federations of cooperatives
21
,
where expertise and (financial) resources are bundled.
While this last recommendation is oriented towards community members, it also requires a shift in
attitude towards ‘the community’ on the side of formal organisations and those representing them.
Professionals at formal organisations both from the state and the market as well as the Third Sector
need to reorient their tendency to develop things (e.g regulations, services and goods) for
community members, towards developing thing with community members and/or support things
which are developed by the community.
Third Sector Logic Recommendations 4.6
In contrast to the sectors discussed so far, the Third Sector does not have clearly defined boundaries
between formal vs. informal, for-profit vs. non-profit, and private versus public. The Third Sector is
defined as an intermediary sector between the other sectors, with cross-boundary properties. While
we can argue that the Third Sector is mostly non-profit, formal and private, it also involves significant
for-profit, informal and public elements. More importantly, the Third Sector includes hybrid forms,
such as ‘not-for-profit’ organisations and ‘social enterprises’. In this sense, one could argue that the
development of community energy characterised by blurring boundaries between social, political
and legal categories is mostly a Third Sector phenomenon, an intermediary field between the state,
the market and the community.
Existing Third Sector organisations organised networks, associations, foundations etc. have a
crucial role to play in terms of supporting energy community initiatives by providing information and
expertise and/or platforms for sharing experiences. For instance, regarding the issue of (perceived)
legal barriers, Third Sector organisations can provide platforms for initiators of community energy to
unite, discuss identified issues, and educate each other on possibilities and exchange knowledge. By
doing just that, the perception of legal difficulties or constraints might be partly overcome.
Moreover, Third Sector organisations are important in addressing the risks of (vulnerable)
community energy in relation to long life cycles of infrastructure and hence necessary stability within
government structures. Self-organisation structures can be vulnerable, for example to internal
conflicts, or for the loss of a champion in case he or she gets sick or dies. Third Sector organisations
if themselves supported by government (see section 4.3) can provide supporting structures to
mediate these effects.
In that same line of argument, Third Sector organisations have a unique position for acting as
intermediary brokers between the state, the market and the community in the negotiation of
community energy arrangements. Especially vis-à-vis community members, Third Sector
organisations often come across as being more independent, therefore receiving more trust than
governmental or commercial organisations. On that basis, Third Sector organisations can to a certain
extent ‘represent’ community energy initiatives with lobbying activities
22
to cross the boundaries and
21
e.g. in the Netherlands: ODE, HIER-opgewekt, E-decentraal, VEC or RESCoopNL
22
For more recommendations on lobbying activities, see: Bosman et al 2013
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 26
obstacles in their way, to create space for them to take-off, and to formulate a strong, consistent
message. At least, in theory. In practice, there is still ample room for improvement, especially in
terms of Third Sector organisations engaging more with politics and economics (as discussed in
section 4.3 and 4.4), and in terms of them working with community members rather than working for
them (see section 4.5).
The Third Sector comprises a large diversity of actors, ranging from researchers, teachers and
advisors, to artists, writers, volunteers, professional and informal activists. All of these play an
especially important role in education and in (re)shaping ‘the public opinion’, by sharing information,
narratives and images on community energy development. We have several recommendations on
what kind of narratives and activities are needed:
Collecting and sharing histories of energy communities as social innovation stories;
To reconsider the alienation of consumers to energy production and supply and to find new
ways to educate citizens and consumers about energy systems;
However: instead of (only) focusing on the functional and instrumental matter of energy
provision, also tell the story in terms of community development and a renegotiation and
reshaping of public places and responsibilities;
Besides the positive and happy stories, also be critical and honest about the (potential) ‘dark
side’ and the unintended side effects that community energy developments might have in
terms of social exclusion (see also section 4.3);
Question the economic view of what is a ‘fair price’ for energy. Similarly to fair-trade
products, that may cost a bit more than mainstream products, it might be time to introduce
a concept of ‘fair electricity’;
To move beyond categories of ‘bottom-up’ versus ‘top-down’, ‘community-led’ versus
‘business-led’ – think of it rather as a network of fields and actors.
The Need for the Third Sector…
“There is no organization that unites the cooperatives … in Flanders we ourselves have founded
[the organization] Coopkracht… but it is only after 4-5 years of voluntary work that we are now
thinking about employing someone to run this organization. A strong federation as they have in
the United Kingdom and Germany, we do not have that here.” (Interview with Ecopower, 13th of
May 2012, Avelino et al. 2013).
(… but keeping in mind the risk of Third Sector ‘overload’)
“There is [also] a bewildering amount of [civil society] organizations (…) who approach [us] for
meetings, interviews and so on (…) they all want to do something with local energy: it is a hot
item the last few years. I cannot cope with it all and it is amazing how much double work
occurs - I often get the same questions from many different people” (confidential interview,
Avelino et al. 2013).
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 27
5 Conclusion
Over the last decade, community energy has emerged as an intriguing new way of organizing the
energy system. With ‘community energy’ we refer to energy projects “where communities (of place
or interest) exhibit a high degree of ownership and control, as well as benefiting collectively from the
outcomes”(Walker & Devine-Wright 2008). It is intriguing because it fits very well to discourses on
sustainability, as well as to more neo-liberal ideas of self-reliance and independence. Therefore,
community energy is increasingly seen as a promising development towards a sustainable energy
system. At the same time, its development challenges existing (energy) structures and raises
questions about the self-governance of community energy, both by initiators of the initiatives and by
others actors involved, from (local) governments, business and Third Sector organisations.
In this practice brief, we identified three overarching challenges as essential for initiating and
sustaining a community energy initiative: trust, motivation and continuity. Then we moved on to four
dimensions from which challenges to community energy initiatives arise:
1) economic & financial issues
2) (perceived) legal barriers
3) socio-cultural conditions
4) micro-political conflict and struggle
The main question that arises regarding self-governance of community energy across these four
dimensions is to what extent a community possesses the necessary abilities and know-how to self-
govern the establishment and execution of a community energy initiative, including performance
criteria (availability, affordability, and sustainability) and regulations to avoid abuse or freeriding
behaviour. Moreover, a main challenge of ‘self-organisation’ and ‘self-governance’, is that it is often
unclear who exactly the ‘self’ or the ‘other’ is. Blurring boundaries between different sectors
(market, state, community, the Third Sector) means it is not that clear anymore what is ‘bottom-up’
or ‘top-down’, the ‘self’ or the ‘other’. The ‘self’ in self-organisation ranges from ‘self-reliant citizens’
and ‘self-serving consumers’, to ‘self-governing municipalities’ and self-employed social
entrepreneurs’. None of these ‘selves’ fit the prevailing socio-political categories of state and market,
hence many public and academic debates essentially revolve around (re)defining the boundaries of
community, market and state.
This is why in this practice brief, we introduced a multi-actor perspective to specify the different
actors involved in the (self)-governance of community energy. With the multi-actor perspective, we
have identified a set of practice recommendations directed towards various actors involved in
community energy on how to deal with these challenges. An overview of these recommendations
can be found in table 1 on p. 2 in the opening summary of this practice brief.
Underlying these specific actor recommendations, we can distinguish three overarching insights
when we look at the challenges of the self-governance of community energy from a multi-actor
perspective. First, when proclaiming ideals of ‘self-governance’ and ‘self-organisation’, it is important
to be clear and critical about who the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ is supposed to be, and to realise that this
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 28
distinction between the self and the other is not that clear cut. Second, a related recommendation is
to be aware of the naivety that often comes with informal and ‘trust-based’ spheres of community-
development and idealistic discourses on (self-)governance. New concepts and blurring boundaries
are by definition accompanied by contingencies and unexpected tensions. (Self-)governance needs to
safeguard that it can cope with such contingencies and to acknowledge the importance of discussing
these before starting a community energy initiative and to continue doing so during its development.
Third and last, but certainly not least, the multi-actor perspective serves to remind us that the (self)-
governance of community energy involves a variety of sector logics and different types of actors.
Organisations and individual actors play different roles in each sector logic. The logic of ‘the state’,
for instance, is not only decided on by policy-makers, but in the case of a democracy also shaped
by citizens who vote for certain politicians and who abide by laws, or by legal experts and other
specialists who advise governments. As such, when we formulate recommendations for ‘the state’,
we do not only target policy-makers that work within government organisations, but also other
actors who are involved in shaping and reproducing the logic of the state. The same applies to the
logic of the market, the community and the Third Sector. In this practice brief, we have formulated
recommendations for each of the four ‘sector logics’, specifying the roles of different actors within
those logics (see section 4 and/or table 1 on p. 2).
By doing so, we have tried to capture within this practice brief, the discussions that we had during
our seminar in November 2013. At this seminar, we came together as researchers with different
interdisciplinary perspectives on community energy, including: legal studies, psychology, economics,
engineering, sociology, policy and political science. All researchers that were present at the seminar
conducted empirical research on community energy initiatives and/or other examples of self-
organisation. We challenged each other to move beyond the critical analysis of challenges and to
formulate constructive recommendations regarding the future of community energy. These
recommendations are not only directed at policy makers, but towards other actors that play an
important role in the emerging field of community energy, such as citizens, businesses, and
intermediaries. We have also directed recommendations at researchers like ourselves, to critically
but constructively analyse the developments of community energy, and to translate research insights
to foster interdisciplinary and ‘transdisciplinary’ dialogue between researchers and practitioners on
the future of our energy systems and communities.
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy E 2014.01 29
6 Appendix: Overview of Case studies
Name of
Community Energy Initiative(s)
Location
References empirical
studies
(see list of cited references)
Texel Energy
Texel, The Netherlands
Avelino et al. 2013, Bosman et al.
2013, Frantzeskaki et al. 2013
Ecopower
Antwerp, Belgium
Avelino et al. 2013, Bosman et al.
2013
Schönau EWS (Elektrizitätswerke
Schönau)
Schönau, Germany
Bosman et al. 2013, Avelino et al.
2013
Udny Wind and Urgha Wind, Community
Energy Scotland
Scotland, United Kingdom
Frantzeskaki etal. 2013
Shared Space
Several towns in NL and other
(mostly European) countries
Pel 2009, 2012a,b
Energiegenossenschaft Odenwald eG
Erbach, Germany
Boontje 2013 (P, 2013)
Duurzaam Hoonhors
Hoonhorst, the Netherlands
Attema et al. 2013
Eemstroom Amersfoort
Amersfoort, the Netherlands
Paradies et al. 2013, Attema et al.
2013
Energiecooperatie Coevoorden
Coevoorden, the Netherlands
Attema et al. 2013
Energieke buurt Zeist / Zon op Zeist
Zeist, the Netherlands
Paradies et al. 2013, Attema et al.
2013
Reestdal Energie
Zuidwolde, the Netherlands
Paradies et al. 2013
Ameland Energie Cooperatie
Ameland, the Netherlands
Paradies et al. 2013
Energie cooperatie Noordseveld
Noordseveld, the Netherlands
Attema et al. 2013
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy (PB 2014.01) 30
7 Information about Authors
Name & Virtual Home(s)
Short Biography
Sanne Akerboom, LL.M., MSc.
S.Akerboom@uva.nl
Sanne holds masters in Law and Political Sciences. She is a PhD
candidate at the Amsterdam Centre for Energy (UvA). In this
project she researches the institutional embedding of participation
in complex decision making procedures, analyzed on the basis of
important energy utilities. She is furthermore a researcher in
several government funded research projects, among which IRIS
(institutional and regulatory innovation for the purpose of smart,
local energy).
Dr. Flor Avelino
avelino@drift.eur.nl
www.drift.eur.nl
www.transitionacademy.nl
@Flor Avelino
Flor works at DRIFT as a senior researcher and lecturer, focusing
on the power of people to realise sustainability transitions. As
scientific coordinator of TRANSIT, she is currently involved in
theorising and empirically studying transformative social
innovation. As the academic director of the Transition Academy,
she strives to co-create new learning environments to challenge
people to think and act for radical change.
Philip Boontje, MSc
philip.boontje@degroenereus.nl
www.philipboontje.nl
@philipboontje
Philip is passionate about the re-ownership of the economy back
to the civilian population, outsmarting non-community focused
institutionalized corporations. He works as a project manager for
the energy cooperative De Groene Reus and as an independent
consultant. He focuses on community crowdfunding, development
of co-creative business models and is intrigued by technological
breakthroughs and their potential impact on our 21st century
society.
Rick Bosman, MSc
bosman@drift.eur.nl
@r_bosman
Rick is researcher and consultant energy transition at DRIFT. He
holds an MSc in Renewable Energy Management from Freiburg
University, in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institut für Solare
Energiesysteme. Rick gained work experience at the Netherlands
Embassies in Australia and Germany and the Clingendael
International Energy Programme. Recently, he advised the Dutch
parliament on Germany’s Energiewende and the Social Economic
Council on the Energy Agreement and the Province of Zuid-Holland
on their role in the transition.
Dr. Niki Frantzeskaki
n.frantzeskaki@drift.eur.nl
www.acceleratingtransitions.eu
Niki works at DRIFT as a senior researcher and lecturer, focusing
on the governance arrangements to enable and accelerate
sustainability transitions. As scientific coordinator of ARTS project,
she is currently involved in theorising and empirically studying
transformative initiatives and how they can trigger broader low-
carbon sustainability transitions in Europe. As the academic leader
in transition governance approaches in climatic and socio-
economic dystopias within the IMPRESSIONS project, she will
investigate how to better equip local, regional and national policy
makers with science-policy knowledge and tools on adapting and
transforming cultures, structures and practices to foster resilience
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy (PB 2014.01) 31
and ensure liveability.
Drs. Jesse Hoffman
j.g.hoffman@uva.nl
http://www.uva.nl/over-de-
uva/organisatie/medewerkers
/content/h/o/j.g.hoffman/j.g.hoffman.html
Jesse is a political anthropologist working on the role of innovation
in the production of structural change. He is mainly interested in
creativity and inventiveness in change processes. He holds a
position as PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam at the
Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (department
Political Science). In addition to his academic work, Jesse is
involved in platforms on sustainability and the role of creativity
and technology in urban development.
Geerte Paradies MSc
Geerte.paradies@tno.nl
Geerte is a social psychologist with an interest in societal changes,
for example the changes towards sustainable energy. She works as
a junior researcher at TNO where she focusses on drivers for
human behavior and behavior change. Geerte’s dream is to
contribute to and live in a sustainable society which creates the
best circumstances for sustainable wellbeing and happiness.
Dr. Bonno Pel
pel@fsw.eur.nl
Bonno is a researcher in social innovation and complex governance
processes at Erasmus University Rotterdam, department of Public
Administration. He seeks to address the major societal challenges
of today, and is fascinated with the complexities and controversies
of social innovation. He is a specialist in the mobility and transport
domain. Upholding a car-less lifestyle but heavily relying on air
transport, the project of ‘sustainable transport’ continues to be a
both theoretical and practical challenge.
Daniel Scholten
d.j.scholten@tudelft.nl
www.tbm.tudelft.nl
Daniel is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Technology, Policy
and Management of the Delft University of Technology,
specializing in governance of future energy systems, more
specifically their institutional design and (geo)political implications.
In addition, he is managing editor of the international journal
Competition and Regulation in Network Industries. His educational
background lies in political science and international and European
relations (cum laude) and he holds a PhD in Economics of
Infrastructures.
Julia Wittmayer
wittmayer@drift.eur.nl
Julia Wittmayer holds a Master degree in Social and Cultural
Anthropology and is interested in social innovation and social
sustainability in urban areas and on local scale. Theoretically, she is
interested in the roles, social relations and interactions of actors
involved in transition (management) processes and initiatives. She
herself is used to assuming different roles: (action) researcher,
transition coach, process facilitator, reflective monitor or
knowledge broker.
DRIFT (Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam) is the leading
research institute regarding sustainability transitions. DRIFT combines cutting edge research at
the intersection of theory and practice with high-level consultancy, training and education for
governments, businesses and intermediaries. Transitions, structural systemic change as the result
of complex interactions in multiple domains and at different levels of society, take centre stage in
the work of DRIFT. After its founding in 2004, DRIFT developed into a renown and internationally
oriented institute pioneering sustainability projects in the Netherlands and abroad.
The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy (PB 2014.01) 32
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The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy (PB 2014.01) 34
DRIFT
Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
Postbus 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam
010-4088775
drift@fsw.eur.nl
www.drift.eur.nl
... • "Within community energy initiatives, people experiment with new modes and roles and learn about how (parts of) the future energy system could take shape (Avelino et al. 2014). ...
... -From a psychological perspective a distinction can be made based on the motivations of initiators, ranging from commercial initiatives to grassroots, idealistic initiatives. Often, commercial initiatives focus more on the economic gains involved (Avelino et al. 2014). . ...
... • Every community is different, meaning that there are neither one-size-fits-all solutions nor universal operation-models to imitate or apply (Avelino et al. 2014). . ...
... The significance that a place has for people and their attachment to it are important ingredients that spark or delay the appearance of innovations and affect the adoption or rejection of RE [11]. Linked to the importance of this feeling of belonging, community participation must be analysed in different territorial, cultural and social contexts that are at the heart of different negotiation schemes to reveal the real energy transition scenario [12,13]. ...
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This paper addresses regional differences in community participation in renewable energy installations in Portugal, Greece and Israel. Authors follow the Multi-level Perspective and Multi-actor Perspective as frameworks for specifying power relations between different actors with different levels of aggregation. The paper applies these models for a comparative analysis of two large-scale renewable wind projects and a micro-grid solar photovoltaic project at different stages of execution in local communities on Paros Island, in the Golan Heights and in the Alentejo region. The study cases form part of the Project Planning and Engagement Arenas for Renewable Energy LandscapeS (PEARLS) research study, which examines the relationships between renewable energy landscapes and the population in four countries in the south of Europe and Israel. PEARLS investigates whether, and how, the transition to a low carbon economy is taking place in a great variety of renewable energy landscapes as focus areas regarding the population's energy behaviour and population engagement. This analysis of regional differences in three study areas executing renewable energy projects will contribute to the literature. Analysing the research questions on community participation in the energy transition in relation to the targeted actors and their levels of aggregation enables two main conclusions to be drawn; the importance of considering regional differences when implementing renewable energy landscapes, especially when these are generated by large renewable projects with a non-place focus, and secondly, related to the relevance of regional uniqueness: the feeling of place attachment is highlighted as a key factor in social acceptance by local communities.
... In order to solve the challenges of the present energy systems, the focus should not only be on individual behavioral change, but on system-wide transformation through collective action, which is a successful motor of social transformation [23]. Thus, local citizens can be engaged in community energy systems' supply-side activities, such as collective purchasing of solar panels or collective ownership of wind farms, and also demand-side activities, such as energy conservation, retrofitting of dwellings or energy awareness-raising activities [30]. ...
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Positive Energy Districts (PED) are areas within cities that generate more renewable energy than they consume, contributing to cities’ energy system transformation toward carbon neutrality. Since PED is a novel concept, the implementation is very challenging. Within the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action, which offers an open space for collaboration among scientists across Europe (and beyond), this paper asks what the needs for supporting the implementation of PEDs are. To answer this, it draws on Delphi process (expert reviews) as the main method alongside the literature review and also uses surveys as supplementary methods to identify the main challenges for developing PEDs. Initial findings reveal seven interacting topics that later were ranked as highest to the lowest as the following: governance, incentive, social, process, market, technology and context. These are interrelated and interdependent, implying that none can be considered in isolation of the others and cannot be left out in order to ensure the successful development of PEDs. The resources that are needed to address these challenges are a common need for systematic understanding of the processes behind them, as well as cross-disciplinary models and protocols to manage the complexity of developing PEDs. The results can be the basis for devising the conceptual framework on the development of new PED guides and tools.
... External resources and supports are critical for community energy project development. These include governmental financial support; market incentives; suitable policies and regulations; technology availability; and good networks with local agencies, businesses, and intermediary organizations [25][26][27][28][29]. Internal economic factors, such as material resources and the profitability of the community energy projects, also play a significant role [30]. ...
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Solar photovoltaics (PV) deployment is not easy in dense urban areas because there is little space for the installation. Furthermore, tenants have few incentives to install PV panels because they frequently relocate, and most PV facilities are nonremovable. To address these factors, this study reports on an innovative model that collectively installed 260 W of mini-PV on the balconies of almost all the households in two high-rise apartment complexes in Seoul, South Korea. This project was unique in that it established energy commons in a community using private space. This study found that economic and social factors significantly influenced community-internal or micro factors, which in turn affected the success of the community energy project. Economic factors such as the expected economic benefit and residents paying no direct installation costs shaped the initial conditions for the commencement of the project. Leadership played a key role by speeding up the process, relieving residents’ concerns and distrust. This study introduced an innovative community energy model that can be referenced by megacities and communities. It provides opportunities for enhancing awareness of energy transition via on-site energy production using renewable energy and allows even communities that have insufficient common space to build energy commons.
... Leaving those behind, we suggest a broadening towards social innovation premised on alternative, more experimentalist intervention logics. Towards self-organisation and self-governance: First, there is the already ongoing shift towards 'self-organisation' and 'self-governance' of energy [150,151] rather than control-oriented governance in energy systems. This self-organisation comes in different forms and ranges from 'self-reliant citizens' and 'self-serving consumers', to 'energy autarkic communities' and 'self-employed social entrepreneurs'. ...
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Social innovation is an important dimension of current transformations in energy systems. It can refer to alternative business models, novel policy instruments, financing schemes, participatory governance approaches to energy questions, or new discourses. Its significance for energy systems is often considered in narrow instrumentalist terms, reducing it to a tool serving particular policy objectives. Grounding the concept in social science and humanities insights, this review essay proposes a broadened social innovation understanding. We propose 1) to open up the normative complexity of the concept; 2) to appreciate the multi-actor nature of social innovation; 3) to understand it as an analytical entry point for socio-material intertwinement; and, 4) to understand social innovation as premised on experimentalism-based intervention logics. The proposed social innovation understandings provide a broader imagination and strategizing of structural changes in energy systems.
... As a result, local energy systems have been increasingly researched in the last few years. State of the art literature [1][2][3][4] converge towards the decentralized local-level coordination and management of local energy resources, which are located within a well-defined limited geographical boundary and include a variety of local electricity (RES or conventional generation), energy storage and/or flexible loads, including EVs and cross-resource integration. Also, several models have been defined for realizing the decentralized coordination of local energy resources, such as prosumer community groups, energy cooperatives, Virtual Power Plants (VPPs), [5] and multi-energy hubs [6,7]. ...
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... Another important changing condition is the shift from a high centralized and fossil fuel based energy system to a more decentralized and renewable one which give the spatial dimension a crucial role in the allocation and utilisation of energy sources. Some cases of integrated spatial and energy policies are developed within the "Energy landscapes" approach (Normann and de Roo, 2011) and include for example energy domestic production or (self-) governance "community energy" initiatives (Avelino et al. 2014). Policies that integrate mobility and energy sectors regards solutions for the optimization of energy in the transport sector and include for example energy saving technologies for the automotive industry or tools to support transport systems users reducing their energy footprint (Gautama et al. 2014). ...
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ABSTRACT. We reviewed the literature on leadership in linked social-ecological systems and combined it with the literature on institutional entrepreneurship in complex adaptive systems to develop a new theory of transformative agency in linked social- ecological systems. Although there is evidence of the importance of strategic agency in introducing innovation and transforming approaches to management and governance of such systems, there is no coherent theory to explain the wide diversity of strategies identified. Using Holling’s adaptive cycle as a model of phases present in innovation and transformation of resilient social- ecological systems, overlaid by Dorado’s model of opportunity context (opaque, hazy, transparent) in complex adaptive systems, we propose a more coherent theory of strategic agency, which links particular strategies, on the part of transformative agents, to phases of system change. Key
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Community is a much used word that is readily attached to projects, initiatives and policies as part of the discursive politics of modern governance. In this viewpoint, we consider the way in which community has become attached to renewable energy projects in the UK, both in grassroot action and in mainstream energy policy. We ask what those involved have seen as distinctive about community renewable energy projects that makes them different from other renewable energy installations. We identify a diversity of understandings and interpretations that revolve around questions of both process (who the project is by) and outcome (who the project is for). We evaluate the implications of this diversity, identifying the importance of the process of project development for realising the catalytic and learning effects of meaningful and substantial local involvement.
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Two decades ago, an article was published in Global Environmental Change proposing the importance of place attachments, at local and global scales, for understanding human responses to climate change (Feitelson, 1991). Despite concluding that ‘studies of individual's attachment to place may provide important inputs for strategies to enhance the prospects for sharing the globe’ (p. 406, 1991), the article remains overlooked. This article takes up and extends Feitelson's argument for more systematic research on place attachments and climate change. First, the paper critically reviews interdisciplinary literature on place attachment and the related concept of place identity, drawing on scholarship in human geography, environmental and social psychology. The review identifies a lack of cross-disciplinary dialogue, as well as several limitations to the ways that scalar aspects have been researched. Second, climate change research, encompassing adaptation, mitigation and communication that has incorporated place related attachments and identities is critically reviewed; in particular, emerging research on the role of ‘psychological distance’ is critiqued. The article concludes with five recommendations for future research: to capture place attachments and identities at global as well as local scales; to integrate qualitative and quantitative methods that capture constructions of place as well as intensity of attachments and identifications; to investigate links between attachments, identities and collective actions, particular ‘NIMBY’ resistance to adaptation and mitigation strategies; to apply greater precision when investigating spatial frames of risk communication; and to investigate links between global attachments and identities, environmental worldviews and climate change engagement. Finally, the implications of such research for evaluating area-based climate interventions are discussed.