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Abstract

Background Energy communities are emphasized by the EU as important for developing sustainable energy systems that include and engage many people. While many renewables are highly compatible with a more decentralized energy system, research indicates that participation in ‘desirable’ energy activities and energy decision-making is influenced by social and economic factors, including gender, economic status and home ownership. The overall aim of this article is to contribute to this line of inquiry by exploring how and under which conditions energy communities allow for broader participation in the energy system. This article examines how gender, as a more specific condition, influences the extent to which parties can or cannot engage with collective solar ownership models by means of a qualitative study of 11 solar energy communities and one housing association in Sweden. Results The study revealed that despite the relative potential for inclusion that they hold, energy communities can raise justice concerns in terms of inequities concerning access, capacity, and opportunity to engage in decision-making. Conclusions While solely focusing on gender offers a limited view of the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in renewable energy projects, it is our position that integrating it into the analysis will provide insights into possible measures to remedy limitations and accelerate the renewable energy transition.
Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13705-021-00312-6
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Perceptions ofparticipation andtherole
ofgender fortheengagement insolar energy
communities inSweden
Daniela Lazoroska1* , Jenny Palm2 and Anna Bergek3
Abstract
Background: Energy communities are emphasized by the EU as important for developing sustainable energy
systems that include and engage many people. While many renewables are highly compatible with a more decentral-
ized energy system, research indicates that participation in desirable’ energy activities and energy decision-making is
influenced by social and economic factors, including gender, economic status and home ownership. The overall aim
of this article is to contribute to this line of inquiry by exploring how and under which conditions energy communi-
ties allow for broader participation in the energy system. This article examines how gender, as a more specific condi-
tion, influences the extent to which parties can or cannot engage with collective solar ownership models by means of
a qualitative study of 11 solar energy communities and one housing association in Sweden.
Results: The study revealed that despite the relative potential for inclusion that they hold, energy communi-
ties can raise justice concerns in terms of inequities concerning access, capacity, and opportunity to engage in
decision-making.
Conclusions: While solely focusing on gender offers a limited view of the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in
renewable energy projects, it is our position that integrating it into the analysis will provide insights into possible
measures to remedy limitations and accelerate the renewable energy transition.
Keywords: Energy community, Gender, Participation, Decision-making, Energy justice, Solar energy, Sweden
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Introduction andgoals
e EU emphasizes energy communities as important
for developing sustainable energy systems that include
and engage many people. In Clean Energy for all Europe-
ans, the EU Commission [1] emphasizes the potential of
energy communities (or ‘community energy’) to develop
an inclusive, equal, and efficient energy market (see also
the Electricity Market Directive [2] and the Renewables
Directive [3]). An energy community (hereon EC) is an
umbrella term for different types of joint ownership of
energy facilities, which is assumed to democratize deci-
sion making and the distribution of economic and social
benefits of energy production [4].
While many renewables are highly compatible with a
more decentralized energy system, where a larger vari-
ety of people own, manage, and benefit from energy
infrastructure, technologies in themselves are neither
inclusive nor beneficial. ey are mediated by enabling
or constraining policy environments and bureaucratic
power structures, prevailing gender norms, power rela-
tions, and community structures [5]. Likewise, while the
idea of ECs includes participative decision-making [6]
and community ownership [7], research indicates that
participation in ‘desirable’ energy activities and energy
decision-making is influenced by social and economic
Open Access
Energy, Sustainability
and Society
*Correspondence: dlazoroska@gmail.com
1 Institute for Urban Research, Malmö University, Nordenskiöldsgatan 1,
211 19 Malmö, Sweden
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
factors, including gender, economic status, and home-
ownership [8, 9]. is article aims to contribute to this
line of inquiry by exploring how and under which con-
ditions energy communities allow for broader participa-
tion in the energy system. Previous research points at
a paradox in this respect: although women have more
significant environmental concerns than men [10, 11],
ECs tend to be dominated by men [12, 13]. Some initia-
tives work towards the inclusion of more women in the
renewable energy industry, like the Women in Solar Ini-
tiative [14]. ere are indications that women can inspire
other women to engage in energy-related activities [15,
16]. Nevertheless, relationships between gender and
energy systems have not received significant attention
from researchers [8]. us, more specifically, the paper
investigates participation in solar energy communities
in Sweden, focusing on the link between gender and
decision-making.
In this regard, our contribution to the literature is
twofold. A growing body of research grapples with dis-
parities in engagement with residential solar PV and how
they are related to demographic differences [1720].
is paper examines how gender, as a more specific
condition, influences the extent to which parties can or
cannot engage with collective solar ownership models.
Furthermore, the bulk of the literature on gender, energy,
and climate change addresses women and their needs
for greater energy access in the ‘Global South’1 [21, 22].
While these are indeed pressing issues to be researched,
there is a persistent gap in the literature addressing gen-
der, engagement with renewable energy, and leadership
in the Global North [5]. In the seminal contribution Gen-
der and energy: is there a Northern perspective?, Clancy
and Roehr [23] argue that energy is seen as gender-neu-
tral in a Northern context and that women and men are
regarded as equal in their uses of and views about energy.
Consequently, gender has been mainly made invisible in
energy politics and policy in the Global North [2428].
By highlighting the importance of gender for engagement
with solar energy communities, this paper goes some way
toward remedying this gap.
Theory: gender, participation anddecision‑making
is research starts with the premise that energy cannot
be fully understood without considering gender practices
and cultural norms about gender [28]. We understand
gender as roles and differences between men and women
that are socially constructed. ese roles are made from
practices that are repeated and negotiated [29]. Gender is
in this paper investigated from the perspective of women
as decision-makers in energy communities. While we
address gender in binary terms, due to the type of data
we have been able to gather (see more in sectionData
collection and analysis’), we wish to highlight that this
does not reflect our perspective on the complexity and
multiplicity of genders. We acknowledge that this is a
limitation of the study, and we point to the eloquent
problematization of how gender is addressed in energy
studies by Fathallah and Pyakurel [30]. In line with prac-
tice-oriented research, practice is seen as the capacity
to contribute to a world which is socially and culturally
structured and constantly reconstituted by the activities
of its participants [31]. Practice embodies the generative
tension between not questioning the situatedness of one’s
identity and actions, with the critical potential of being
different and doing differently. us, we take on a critical
approach that places gender and power relations central
to the analysis [22] as we understand these as easily taken
for granted by actors, but also mutable through practice.
To examine how gender affects participation in ECs, we
draw on the work of scholars positioned at the gender-
energy nexus, who critically examine power discrepan-
cies and negotiations. Participation is herein understood
in line with Frasier’s notion of the parity of participation,
implying that just arrangements are those that enable all
members of society to interact as peers [32]. We have
found great support in the energy justice literature, high-
lighting the importance of broader participation in deci-
sion-making concerning energy access and the energy
system’s design and need for restructuring [22, 33, 34].
e energy justice literature focuses on three dimensions:
recognition, procedure, and distribution [22, 33, 35, 36].
e recognition dimension implies studying how wom-
en’s concerns, perspectives, arguments, and values are
recognised. Indication of lack of recognition in our con-
text would be active or passive marginalization or exclu-
sion of women, and attribution of false values or opinions
to women [37]. Procedural justice concerns how women
are included formally; if they are heard and have a fair
and real influence on the outcomes [33]. Distributive jus-
tice concerns the distribution of benefits, for example, if
women can be seen as fairly impacted in terms of how
compensation is designed [37]. e emergent body of
research on the gender-energy nexus relates to the three
dimension of justice and highlights the different social
roles and positions that women and men occupy. Women
have lower social status than men in most societies,
which has brought inequitable workloads, fewer oppor-
tunities, resources, and assets ([22], p. 235). ese differ-
ent social positions affect the extent of their participation
1 We agree with Clancy and Roehr [23] that Global South and North are
problematic terms. Like these scholars, we use them as a shorthand to desig-
nate the industrialised countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Eastern European countries,
known as the Accession countries.
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
and decision-making in energy-related issues. Building
on the findings of Clancy and Roehr [23], Standal etal.
affirm that there is an established discourse in energy
research and policy, which frames energy as gender-neu-
tral [36]. By taking on a justice perspective focusing the
relationship between the gendered aspects of social posi-
tions and decision-making in ECs, we aim to problema-
tize this view on gender neutrality.
Decision-making in this article is referred to in the
context of management positions of ECs. In line with
procedural justice, we will consider if women in the deci-
sion-making process have (i) access, (ii) capacity, and (iii)
the opportunity to influence developments [38]. We view
decision-making as embedded and shaped by the cul-
tural and organizational settings, wherein it takes place.
Our perspective also resonates with Tjørring’s findings,
who writes that decision-making is a process that plays
out over time and through a variety of interactions [28].
Broader participation in decision-making for women or
other marginalized groups is essential as it has the poten-
tial to enable them to act as role models for others and
affect attitudes on gender in the sector [38]. We focus on
the experiences as reported by board members.
We first examine access to decision-making processes.
e literature on ECs affirms their potential for includ-
ing those who for various reasons cannot invest in their
own solar system, for example, because they do not
have access to any suitable property or can afford to pay
for an entire installation [39, 40], which also resonates
with matters of distribution of resources and benefits.
Research shows that by focusing on local involvement
and cooperative values, ECs can involve groups other
than those who traditionally invest in renewable electric-
ity, e.g., women [16]. People interested in the social ben-
efits of local, renewable electricity generation [41] can
be reached. ere is also support in the literature that
women prefer to work in cooperatives, where through
collaborative effort, they can overcome challenges, such
as lack of technical knowledge [42]. ese views on inclu-
siveness held by academics, and as we will show, board
members alike, can risk creating a false recognition of
justice and reproducing assumptions that citizens from
different social groups are equally likely to participate in
associational life [43].
When we discuss the capacity to participate we take
into consideration that civic participation and techni-
cal knowledge possession are gendered. Boje etal. find
that the gender difference in volunteering is higher in
the Scandinavian countries than elsewhere in Europe
[44]. ey argue that the Scandinavian voluntary sector
emphasizes sport, recreation, and political organizations,
which are dominated by men in terms of both member-
ship and leadership [44]. In contrast, women dominate
among the volunteers in the welfare fields [44]. In terms
of technical knowledge, the sphere of energy and energy
systems development are often associated with male roles
in engineering and technology, partly perpetuated by the
ongoing gender gap in science, technology, engineering,
and mathematics [21]. e labour market is gender-seg-
regated all across the world, with women being under-
represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering,
mathematics) and men in HEED (Health care, Elemen-
tary Education, and the Domestic spheres) fields [45, 46].
Concerning energy communities specifically, they tend to
highlight that no technical knowledge is required for par-
ticipation, but studies from, for example, Germany show
that men (and people with high income and a university
degree) are overrepresented in renewable energy initia-
tives [12, 13].
e final aspect of decision-making is related to oppor-
tunity. We will analyse this in a procedural justice per-
spective considering the opportunity to have formal
access to positions of authority in ECs. Gender reduces
women’s possibilities to participate as decision-makers in
energy issues, as women are not equally represented in
the energy sector’s managerial positions [23]. As this is
the sector, where many of the board members are active
in, the gendered patterns of staffing are reflected in the
ECs. Research on Swedish energy companies’ boards
confirms that men are overrepresented, with 72% [25].
Clancy and Feenstra refer to similar findings by IRENA
on women’s engagement in renewable energy, wherein
women make up 46% of the administrative posts, 28% of
the technical staff, and 32% of senior management posts
([42], p. 25). Interviews with energy companies in Ger-
many, Spain, and Sweden confirmed that gender equality
efforts within decision-making are weak or non-existent
[47]. While women’s role in pushing energy transitions
forwards has been acknowledged [8, 33], this is far from
the norm, as their visions and solutions are often disre-
garded [35].
Methodology
Study design andcontext
e research presented in this paper is a result of a
qualitative approach to data gathering and analysis. We
studied 11 solar energy communities throughout Swe-
den. Sweden is an interesting case, because its strong
economic development in the twentieth century led to a
relatively early development of nuclear power and exten-
sive state involvement, which meant cheap and non-fos-
sil electricity production [48]. e 1902 Electricity Act,
maintained until the 1990s, stipulated electricity pro-
duction by major power companies and its distribution
by municipally owned companies [49]. ese conditions
have played into the inertia and low innovation rates
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
of the energy market [48]. e electricity market was
deregulated in 1996, implying that electricity production
and sale were separated from the transmission, enabling
competition [50]. Prosumers started producing wind and
solar energy in 1997, and their existence has been sup-
ported by legislation on the sale of electricity back to the
grid, state subsidies, and tax reductions [50]. e Swed-
ish population has predominantly positive opinions on
PV technology, with about 80% of the population stating
that efforts towards implementation should increase [51].
However, PVs are still represented by only less than 1%
of the total electricity production [52]. A capital subsidy
for PV installations was introduced in 2009. e per-
centage of which and amount allocated has fluctuated
throughout the years, but it ended in 2020, with a green
tax deduction taking its place [52]. e Swedish PV mar-
ket is dominated by customers who buy and own the PV
systems, but large systems located away from end-users
are becoming more common [52]. Nevertheless, inter-
locutors expressed dismay that cooperative owned solar
energy production is not the subject of the micro-pro-
duction tax reduction scheme, a possibility being investi-
gated by the government since 2016 [53].
Data collection andanalysis
Data collection was done in two steps. First, in mid-
august 2020 we mapped the existing solar energy com-
munities in Sweden. is was done through an internet
search using Google’s search engine and the search
strings ‘solkooperativ’ (Eng: solar cooperative) and ‘solel,
förening, andel’ (Eng: solar energy, association, share).
e results were compared with previous research on
energy communities in Sweden [54]. e resulting list
contained ten active solar energy communities (organ-
ized as economic associations), two more in the making,
and one housing association. All of the associations are
run by a board of members. Most of them have relatively
open membership requirements, although three of them
require that members buy their electricity from a par-
ticular electricity retail company. e housing association
involves ownership of an apartment in a specific area. All
solar communities re-invest profits in new solar parks or
refund earnings to their members by reducing their elec-
tricity bills. e associations also sell shares to compa-
nies, which vary between 2 and 10% of their members.
It is noteworthy that these organizations have very poor
digital visibility, which made locating them a challenge.
Second, we gathered data about the different com-
munities and their members. Our primary method was
semi-structured interviews. We have conducted 13
interviews with board members from 11 economic asso-
ciations and six with the housing association’s board
members. e gender composition of interviewees from
the economic association was seven women and six men,
and five men and one woman from the housing associa-
tion. We employed the snowball method by asking our
interlocutors about other board members to contact.
Our approach and proximity to the interlocutors have
been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing us
to digitalize our interactions. erefore, the interviews
were conducted over Zoom, telephone, and Teams with a
duration of 30min to an hour. e questions were struc-
tured in themes, beginning with their professional back-
ground and experience with solar energy communities,
continuing with questions about who partakes in these
communities, what the enablers/difficulties might be for
different groups, and ending in discussing the general
and practical challenges of running such organizations.
e interviews were transcribed and analysed manu-
ally in a qualitative content analysis. e subjects were
promised anonymity, which is why we do not present any
information that could disclose their identities.
It was rather difficult to obtain secondary data on
the solar communities, since they have poorly updated
webpages or even rely on energy companies’ subpages.
Moreover, there were GDPR challenges in accessing
information about member composition and access-
ing individual members of the ECs. erefore, we were
dependent on the board members cooperation to make
their member lists GDPR-friendly. Five of the solar com-
munities decided to help us, but the data we got varied
in terms of specificity, from a percentage summary about
gender and age to lists containing all members’ first name
and birth year. e ECs had between eight and over 300
members. In the smallest EC, members were locals, but
the other ECs had local and national members (or share-
holders). e share of women among the members was
23–48%, with an average of 37%. ree of the ECs esti-
mated that the average member age was 50–55 and
60, respectively. ese ages are similar to the numbers
reported in a previous study of an energy community in
Sweden, where the average age of members was 58years
[54]. Interlocutors suggested that this was an age group
with the time and money to invest. Other groups might
not be able to invest due to demanding jobs or depend-
ents to tend to. is agrees with Clancy and Feenstra’s
study, which shows that housework is unevenly distrib-
uted between women and men in the EU; in the period
of 2005–2015, almost one working woman in two spent
1 h a day on caring activities, compared with one out of
three working men [42]. e 10 ECs we examined have
70 board members altogether, whereof 62% are men.
e housing association’s board consists of 50% women
and 50% men. It is worth mentioning that two ECs have
a majority of women board members (57% and 60%,
respectively). All chairpersons were men.
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
None of the associations monitors their members’ eth-
nicity, but based on interview statements, the members
are predominantly ethnic Swedes. e challenges with
accessing data and interlocutors during the pandemic
have also impacted the kind of analysis we have been
able to make. An intersectional perspective, consider-
ing factors, such as class, sexuality, education and dis-
ability, would have significantly added to this article. We
argue that it is essential for future qualitative research to
take these factors into consideration and examine how
they overlap and affect renewable energy engagement.
Viewing the membership statistics and the composition
and representativity of the boards indicates a gendered
pattern of decision-making, as we will discuss in the
following.
Results anddiscussion: women asdecision‑makers
inECs
We now go on to present our results and analysis. ey
are structured into three subsections, wherein we address
access, capacity, and opportunity to participate in ECs.
From the vantage point of access, we discuss the per-
ceived attractiveness of solar energy and the inclusive-
ness of ECs as organizational forms. We will argue that
egalitarian views have paradoxically led to a lack of atten-
tion for diversity. We then address capacity concerning
support from energy companies to show how organiza-
tional embeddedness and associational experience can
contribute to the longevity of an initiative and affect the
types of engaged actors. rough opportunity, we exam-
ine women’s board member experiences in ECs. We show
that women’s opportunities to engage in the boards are
positively affected by other’s women as role-models and
peers. We also show that the boards of ECs replicate gen-
dered recruitment patterns present in the energy sector
and STEM.
Access: accessible energy sources andorganizational forms
The attraction ofsolar energy
e following section is about the perceived attraction of
solar energy and the expectations board members have in
increasing the participation rates, particularly on behalf
of women. We encountered reoccurring themes, some of
these affirming stereotypes of women and female behav-
iour. According to Eagly and Steffen, stereotypes are
related to social structures and the distribution of social
roles [55]. ey both represent and distort reality, and
according to these authors, will remain as long as there
are unequal distributions of social roles [55]. us, we
have chosen not to discard these themes but to analyse
them as an aspect of recognition, and to see what they
indicate about women’s engagement with renewable
energy initiatives.
e most common theme in terms of the appeal of
solar energy for women was their perceived closeness
to nature and family orientation. ‘It feels like, to put it
quite unscientifically, that the sun as an energy source
appeals to women quite a lot’ (Interview 2b), we were
told by an interlocutor from one of Sweden’s first ECs.
Or as another interlocutor put it: ‘Women tend more to
the children and grandchildren, and what (the kind of
future) they are going to inherit’ (Interview 1b). Women
were attributed with values, such as vulnerability to cli-
mate change, closeness to nature, virtuousness, and with
roles as mothers and protectors. ese have also been
strategically invoked in ‘Western’ environmental activ-
ism, as well as echoed in much of the literature about
gender and climate change [8]. Women environmental-
ists speak of protecting children, ensuring a future for
coming generations, preserving the home and family life,
and maintaining health and quality of life for people in
their communities ([8], p. 4). Some international find-
ings confirm women’s stronger environmental attitudes
and behaviours than men [11]. For example, research
from the US shows that men tend to be less likely to be
concerned about environmental harms and less likely to
engage in pro-environmental actions in daily life than
women [33]. A tendency to be disengaged with envi-
ronmental challenges stems from the desire to protect a
masculine identity and the social privilege it affords [33].
As we see, the links between women, nature, and fam-
ily orientation are recognised widely both in research,
activism, and practitioner discourses. Such discourses
attribute false values on women and contribute to natu-
ralizing women as stewards of nature, placing upon them
the burdens of adjusting their behaviours to tend to their
families’ social needs and to their communities’ environ-
mental needs.
Another reoccurring theme was women’s perceived
high-risk aversion and low trust in technology,
We have worked here at the energy company with
gas sales since the 1980s, with the gas network. With
gas, there is an apparent division. Women do not
want gas at home, but it is older men, engineers who
think it is great with gas. You have such high faith in
the technology, and you know exactly how it works.
If you are not technically interested, you have more
confidence in solar energy because it’s risk-free... It
appeals to women more because it’s more about the
species’ survival, and you can feel it in your heart,
like, solar energy feels safe and right in every possible
way. (Interview 1b)
is interlocutor works in the energy sector, and
it came through during the interview that they had
reflected upon women’s engagement with different
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
energy sources and different technologies over a long
period of time. ese perceptions are consistent with
findings from the US and Germany, which confirm that
women are more concerned than are men about a wide
range of risks [33, 43, 55]. According to Swedish find-
ings, women are more concerned than men about envi-
ronmental risks [10]. White men stand apart from other
groups when it comes to risk perception. e explanation
for such a position is related to procedural justice, that
white men tend to be more often in a position of power
than other groups, and this privilege allows them to per-
ceive the world as less dangerous [47]. A study from the
US finds that women tend to trust science and technol-
ogy less than men, and that trust in science and technol-
ogy is negatively related to environmental concerns [56].
Women are not only more concerned about environmen-
tal risks: they are also more prepared to act upon them
[56]. More Swedish women than men experience that
they can act to curb climate change [47]. ey are also
prepared to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions [47].
us, in theory, women’s lower risk tolerance and lower
trust in technology positions solar energy as a desirable
choice.
We have herein presented the perceptions held by
interlocutors in terms of how gender affects participa-
tion. Interestingly, solar energy was recognised as an
appealing choice for women. It was perceived as reso-
nating with their environmental concerns, their fam-
ily orientation, and their aversion to risk and low trust
in technology. While these themes reoccur in activist,
research, and practitioner accounts, they are also prob-
lematic from a justice perspective. ey can leave unjust
power relationships unexamined and could distribute
unfair expectations upon women to act as stewards of
nature.
ECs asinclusive organizational forms
is section is about the member composition of ECs and
the board members’ lack of recognition of insufficient
diversity. One of the energy communities studied was
founded during the 1980s as a housing association focus-
ing on ecologically well-thought-out and energy-efficient
housing. e community was built on an aspiration to
live according to a long-term sustainable strategy, where
the design and residents’ everyday lives had to consider
environmental impacts and encourage social activi-
ties. During the interviews, it became clear that this EC
reflected the social motivations for engaging described
in earlier research [57]. e community was organised
in different working groups running everyday activities.
As described by one of the interviewees, these working
groups were, however, gendered: ‘e movie group is
only men; the workshop group is only men… Also, the
energy group consists of men. at is, of course, a pity’
(Interview 4a).
e gender divide was in this sense reflected by the
organization, despite their gender-balanced board. Dur-
ing interviews, interlocutors of the other ECs stated that
they perceived their solar ECs as quite inclusive. ey
were not selective about who the members were, or as
one interlocutor put it, ‘we are not interested in where
the person comes from and what they look like’ (Inter-
view 1b). On the webpage of this EC it is highlighted that
the opportunity is there for ‘people from the entire coun-
try’, and they do not require potential members to be
customers of the energy company they worked with. ECs
were also perceived as less capital intensive than house-
hold installation of solar panels,2 they do not require
installations on the housing units of the members, they
do not require knowledge on the technology on behalf
of the members, and shareholder engagement is not
time demanding, as most ECs meet with members once
a year. ere are likewise no requirements on the extent
of members’ engagement, beyond the purchase of a share
to be enrolled. ere was a sense of accomplishment
expressed by multiple interlocutors on the point of their
communities being inclusive, particularly of women, as
the following answer to a question about the relative dis-
tribution of women and men among the members shows:
I have to look a little carefully (at the member lists), but
I think you would be surprised how many women there
are’ (Interview 2b). Men tended to speak about the inclu-
sion of women more often, which could be associated
with social desirability issues, which implies that they
have provided a more socially acceptable answer in a
country, where gender equality is a dominant discourse.
None of the interlocutors engaged in a discussion on
the inclusion of people of a varied ethnic origin or young
people at great length. Language skills or lack of eco-
nomic capital were briefly referred to as the absence of
the former or the latter group. In terms of most of the
members being fifty and older, interlocutors stated that
this generation would like to make up for the unsustain-
able lifestyles they might have led and invest into their
children and grandchildren’s future. As we noted in sec-
tion ‘Data collection and analysis, this is an age group
that has the time and money to invest. One interlocutor
from the housing association reasoned like this when
asked if gender equality is an important issue for the
community:
2 e prices for purchasing a share in the ECs varied between 850 SEK and
15,000 SEK. A normal-sized villa system costs approx. SEK 11,500/kW
(including ROT (Repairs, Conversion, Extension) deductions). For compari-
son, the annual average household disposable income for 2019 in Sweden was
489,900 SEK.
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
I cannot imagine that anyone actively or consciously
would oppose or reject equality…but no I have not
experienced this as a problem and this is probably
easy to say for a white man. Still, no, I have not
experienced any issues with equal treatment. (Inter-
view 5a)
From the gathered data, it can be observed that the
studied ECs had egalitarian ideals. At its outset, the
housing association aspired to stimulate social and inclu-
sive lifestyles. e other ECs perceived their organiza-
tions as inclusive due to the little that they demanded of
their members. e most significant investment was the
decision to come on board and pay the fee. While energy
communities can, in theory, make it possible for more
groups to invest in solar production, it does not always
look like that in practice [12]. Not all citizens can partici-
pate in associational life [43]. e following interlocutor
is making a point that there are different kinds of social
activities that women and men engage in:
I think it is often men (who join ECs); you can also
see that it is usually men on the boards in tenant-
owner associations. is is because women have so
many other social networks. You hang out with your
girlfriends and have different groupings. But men
are pretty bad at that general social stuff. So then it
is appropriate for them to join associations because
they get a network. Especially if there is something
about the technology involved, and it is with solar
energy. at’s why I think it’s men who get involved.
Slightly older men who may have the time to… Men
need something to do when they retire. Women often
have it. (Interview 3b)
is interlocutor was from an EC with around 20
members from the local area, where most of them knew
each other. During the interview, they confirmed that
men might dispose of more free time than women due
to the differences in the amount of care labour per-
formed (tending to family members, the home and
cooking). Civic associations are, furthermore, not an
organizational form that appeals or is available to people
of all socioeconomic or cultural backgrounds. Scandina-
vian countries have high rates of civic engagement when
compared to other EU countries. However, men still have
a slightly higher probability of doing voluntary work than
women, and participation rates are low for ethnic minor-
ity groups, poor people, etc. [44, 58, 59]. e research
on social capital in Europe by van Oorschot, Arts, and
Gelissen confirms this point [59]. ese scholars argue
that European women are more involved in informal
helping and neighbourhood activities, while men take
the lead in voluntary organizations.Studies on women’s
involvement in citizen participation schemes in renew-
able electricity production in Germany indicate similar
findings, as women’s participation seems to be lower than
those of men in general. On average, 22% of the owners
are women, and 75% are men [43]. e data we gathered
with the Swedish ECs also indicates that women are a
minority both as members and managers. erefore, the
question is if community energy can provide services and
engage with communities broadly, or if they are likely
to concentrate on well-resourced groups [60] is also rel-
evant for the cases presented herein.
When it was possible to choose between different
working groups in an EC, such as the housing associa-
tion, the energy group was occupied by men. At the same
time, the women engaged in other groups not related
to energy. Energy was seen as something technical, as
knowledge that men brought with them before the EC
membership (Interview 6a). When there is no physi-
cal intervention of the members’ households, electricity
is still symbolically tied into the household, which is the
most gendered spheres across societies [61]. As such, for
better or for worse, owning a share in a solar EC does not
affect the members’ everyday lives. Neither does it chal-
lenge the social relationships, divisions of labour, and
power structures they engage in. Abstract ideas of equal
opportunity can mask the existence of deep, structural
injustices [33, 36]. According to Johnson etal., renewable
energy projects cannot achieve gender and social equity,
as energy interventions do not automatically tackle the
structural dynamics embedded within socio-cultural and
socioeconomic contexts ([5], p. 2). is seems to be con-
firmed in our cases.
Capacity: support fromenergy companies andits eect
ondiversity
e following section will examine the effect of the sup-
port offered by energy companies. While we confirm pre-
vious research findings that position support is essential
for the longevity of the ECs, we argue that it affects the
lack of diversity of their managerial composition. Seven
out of the 11 ECs have been started by or in coopera-
tion with energy companies, with several interim board
members from these companies. e data gathered con-
firmed findings on the topic that champions in the com-
panies interested in renewable energy took the initiative
to start up [62]. Ideally, local citizens are the driving force
in each step of realizing a renewable energy community:
planning, mobilization of resources, and its operative
implementation [43, 63]. However, an institutional story
of origin is common in Sweden. As the electricity mar-
ket is centralized, there is already a high share of renew-
able energy in the system, and the low electricity prices
leave little room for incentives by grassroots [62]. Based
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
on findings in Sweden, citizen involvement, Magnusson
and Palm argue, is a niche phenomenon, dependent on
a community’s access to capital, technical knowledge,
and institutional settings [62]. ere are few case studies
of renewable energy communities in poor communities,
as they experienced challenges in obtaining resources,
such as money, material, knowledge, and time [62]. e
following quote from and EC that works closely with
an energy company and has a board member that is an
employee of that company confirms the view that insti-
tutional support is necessary to manage the aspects that
volunteers do not have time or expertise for:
He does this (board member duty) partly during his
working hours because the company is also a part-
ner in this. If he drops out, then it would be diffi-
cult without the skills (he has). We are all doing this
non-profit. And… he has that competence (which is
required). e rest of us are pretty exchangeable on
the board. Some of us are, say, good at social media,
but many can do that. (Interview 5b)
We can see a facility coming from the backing of energy
companies, as in the case above; for example, a technical
expert on the board could be paid for their time. Nev-
ertheless, there was the issue of person dependency, as
the person held knowledge and skills deemed essential.
If the company restructured this person’s work assign-
ments, it would dramatically change the situation of
the EC. Interlocutors also told us that it was not easy to
build a board as not many were interested in becoming
board members. Board members from ECs who collabo-
rated with energy companies stated that it was difficult
to find others who would dedicate time without paying
for it (Interview 1b). e boards’ missing spots are filled
through the companies or their partners investing in the
ECs (Interview 13b). When the initiative did come from
the grassroots, the engagement with energy companies
was not only perceived as benefiting the ECs, but also the
companies:
For them, it became a good advertisement that they
create electricity in this way. And we got good finan-
cial conditions because we needed to pay our debts
quickly. For both liquidity and solvency in the asso-
ciation. And they may not have had the strength to
do this. We have personal relationships with people
who could be shareholders. We were this soft power.
And they had the muscles, and it became a good
combo. (Interview 3b)
is grassroots EC was initiated by a group that had a
history of working together on various initiatives. While
they only had 20 members at the time the research
was conducted, the interviewee stated that they all had
different competencies and different technical knowl-
edge levels. Most importantly, they all had contacts who
could supply them with technical expertise when neces-
sary. eir shared experiences made it possible to mobi-
lize their social capital and other resources efficiently.
ey acknowledged the energy company’s role in sup-
porting them technically and economically, but they also
perceived the relationships as a symmetric exchange,
wherein they supplied the social relationships. e net-
works they had established—and having started the EC
due to their personal engagement—brought them a feel-
ing of ownership and independence that increased their
decision-making capacity.
As we can see from the cases presented in this section,
the advantages of creating and EC with an energy com-
pany’s backing were multiple. ey were able to draw on
former experiences of organization and business models;
there was contact with customers who could be poten-
tial members, expert knowledge, and the capacity to
put the infrastructure into place. Smaller grassroots ini-
tiatives also needed to find a fruitful collaboration with
energy companies and maintain an elaborate network of
contacts that could be mobilized and maintained a cer-
tain level of their independence. e ECs founded by
energy companies relied on their staff and institutional
networks for filling the board positions. e grassroots
initiatives, on the other hand, had their reliance on mem-
bers who have cooperative experience. is can be tied
into Wirth’s argument on the circularity of familiarity
with cooperative forms of ownership, leading to homoge-
neity among groups of actors and lacking heterogeneity
conditions [64]. As shown in the former section, it is still
men who still have a slightly higher probability of doing
voluntary work [44]. From these perspectives, it can be
gathered that while organizational embeddedness and
associational experience contribute to the longevity of
an initiative, they can also affect the types of actors that
are engaged. In a procedural justice perspective, actors
will have a privileged position based on their technical
knowledge and their already acquired capacity to navi-
gate organizations and mobilize resources.
Opportunity: women asboard members
is section will explore how women experienced pro-
cedural justice and their possibility to participate in the
boards, and the barriers and enablers they encountered.
Formal access to management positions in ECs is a con-
dition to have the opportunity to engage in the decision-
making process and accrue decision-making power [38].
While the numbers reporting the gender ratio within
EC’s in Sweden indicate that the Swedish ECs engage
relatively higher percentages of women than their coun-
terparts in, for example, the aforementioned cases in
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
Germany, solely focusing on the percentage of members
risks diverting the gaze away from issues of power struc-
tures and leadership. None of the interviewees reported
unpleasant experiences on boards due to their gender.
e interviewed women reported that their experiences
were positively affected by being surrounded by other
women who played a similar role:
ere were several of us, Lisa3 was also there… So,
we were two women and three men or something
like that, or maybe they (the men) were four, I do
not know, so it did not feel so strange. And then if
you have been (working), like me, in the real estate
industry and the construction industry, then you are
as used to it, to the narrative, or what to call it, of
(working with) middle-aged white men... ere was
no difference, but it was fun that Lisa was so driven
and then Amanda, my boss (was there), so there
were still women there. (Interview 13b)
is interlocutor was a board member in an EC initi-
ated by an energy company. While this interlocutor expe-
rienced her time on the board as friction-free, one must
consider her employment history in male-dominated
sectors. is background enabled her to navigate new
spaces and practices, wherein women were a minority.
Fraune [43] draws a parallel between renewable energy
production and German sports organizations. Women
are underrepresented in executive bodies of sports
organizations, since a precondition is a long and contin-
ued commitment to sport and sports organizations. In
relation to renewable energy production, experience in
either business or technology, which many women might
lack due to the aforementioned gender segregation of
STEM, might be a precondition for taking part in execu-
tive boards. e interlocutors’ statement also confirms
that women can inspire other women to start engag-
ing in energy-related activities [15, 16]. e research
about women in sport organizations also indicates the
importance of female role models [43], and role models
enhance girls and women’s attitudes towards STEM as a
possible career choice [42]. Research on women’s profes-
sional networking in the sphere of renewable energy in
the USA and Canada confirms that mentoring is critical
to women’s professional development. Mentoring and
networking are among the most critical factors leading to
career success for those employed in the U.S. solar energy
industry [65].
While the ECs were represented as welcoming of
women, both as members and on boards, one interloc-
utor did indicate that in the energy branch in general,
being a woman and a non-white person could pose
obstacles to one’s professional identity:
So, you are often questioned when in groups, if you
do not know the people. I am questioned in the circle
I am in because it is still unusual for a female, non-
white person to be involved. But it is not a problem,
as soon as you have explained who you are and what
you have done. But you do have to explain yourself,
unlike if you had been a white man. It is not a mat-
ter of course that I enter a room and that everyone
understands what I can do. (Interview 12b)
e interlocutor quoted herein underlines that their
positionality affects the extent of their everyday profes-
sional interactions in the energy sector. ECs tend to score
better in terms of energy justice, as they can, in theory,
provide joint ownership, decision-making, and access
to the profits generated. However, research does indi-
cate that problematic aspects can arise, such as in the
differences between involved individuals and how they
engage in participation [33]. Other interlocutors have
not referred to these kinds of interactional issues with
regards to the ECs.
We now discuss the gendered structure of decision
making is and how the power relationships look in the
boards. Findings form the energy sector in Europe and
Sweden confirm that women are a minority [23, 25, 27].
us, the board compositions reflect general patterns in
this sector:
ey are engineers. We laugh at that too. I am not,
but many are. On the board, we are two environ-
mental scientists. Yes, it is engineer-driven. And you
can understand that, they understand electricity ...
(laughs). (Interview 5b)
e board that this interlocutor was a part of had
experts from engineering. is was particularly the case
with the ECs initiated by energy companies. e gender
segregation of the labour market and women’s under-
representation in STEM thus gains special importance
for the matter [45]. Issues of women’s leadership and
inequality are particularly salient in STEM-related fields
and activities. As forementioned, research has here con-
firmed the importance of role models and mentorship
for women’s inclusion, particularly in leadership [65, 66].
Women can inspire and engage more women, but for this
to happen, there need to be structural preconditions in
place, such as gender policies for the boards. Johnson
etal. argue that not taking gender into account can ben-
efit the groups that are already in a more privileged posi-
tion, such as men, who are more often recruited in the
system of energy supply [5]. us, if there is no greater
awareness of the gendered patterns of recruitment and
3 e names are pseudonyms.
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
volunteering in the energy sector, the ECs risk replicat-
ing the sector’s inequalities. Women and underrepre-
sented groups are essential enablers of change. ey
need to have real agency in participation, recognition,
and decision making [21] in energy system transition and
to be able to reach the goals in EU’s Clean Energy for all
package.
From this section, it can be gathered that women’s
opportunities to engage in EC’s boards are positively
affected by other’s women functioning as role-models
and peers. Our interview data nevertheless indicates
that the energy sector has problems when it comes to
procedural justice and especially in relation to inclusion
and diversity. Our findings confirm that the boards of
ECs replicate gendered patterns in the energy sector and
STEM more generally, benefiting men who are the pri-
mary group to be recruited.
Conclusion andimplications forfurther research
e purpose of this paper was to investigate participa-
tion in solar energy communities, with a focus on the link
between justice and the gender-energy nexus, by means
of a qualitative study of 11 solar energy communities and
one housing association in Sweden.
e study revealed that despite the relative potential
for inclusion that ECs hold, most of the members were
men. In a procedural perspective this unbalance became
even more pronounced. e boards and management
teams were dominated by men. Moreover, in the EC
that had a specific energy group, only men participated
in that group. Findings on engagement in energy pro-
duction in Norway and the United Kingdom confirmed
that there exists social differentiation along gender lines,
with energy and technology being perceived as masculine
domains, and thus continuing to impede women’s par-
ticipation [67].
Nevertheless, the interviewed board members per-
ceived the organizations as inclusive. ey did not recog-
nise any gender injustice and were of the opinion that all
were welcome as members. Some emphasized that they
had not experienced any problems with lack of inclusive-
ness or unjust treatment. ey were uneasy with recog-
nising any injustice in their EC and argued, among other
things, that no knowledge of the technology was required
and that the ECs demanded very little engagement and
time from their members and, therefore, did not intrude
on their everyday lives. is perceived inclusivity was
framed within the limitations of the structural and gen-
dered injustice of society in general, where women have
lower status, fewer opportunities, resources [33, 35], as
well as spend more time on performing care labour [42].
Several themes were recurring among interlocutors and
were used to uphold a discourse on ECs as contributing
to energy justice and as inclusive to anyone who wants
to become a member. Most notably, gender and being
a woman, was not perceived as an impediment to par-
ticipation in ECs but rather as an enabler, since solar
energy and solar PV technology were perceived as being
especially appealing to and accessible for women. ese
themes were tied into power inequalities acknowledged
in previous literature, such as women’s greater depend-
ence on their environments, higher exposure to risk than
white men, and the gendered segregation of STEM [33,
35, 45].
Taken together, these results indicate that energy com-
munities raise justice concerns in terms of inequities
concerning access, capacity, and opportunity to engage
in decision-making in ECs. While similar findings have
been reported in a few previous case studies [33, 35, 43],
this further puts the European Commission’s ambition to
use energy communities as a means to develop an inclu-
sive, equal, and effective energy market into doubt. Even
if energy communities, because of their organizational
form, have the potential to promote a more equitable and
just inclusion than traditional energy systems, it is clear
that policymakers might need to take more direct action
and adopt regulations and incentives to make the jointly
owned solar energy generation accessible to more groups
in society.
Tjørring writes that there are cultural associations
between energy and masculinity and that women catego-
rize doing something for the environment with nature
[28]. All our interlocutors expressed that they value the
environment, and they recognized the importance of
sustainable living. A possible direction for the future
for these associations is to emphasize the connection
between energy and the environment, as a way to decou-
ple energy as a man’s domain.
Some of the limitations of this study point to fruit-
ful fields for further research. First, due to the pandemic
restrictions, negotiations within a household concern-
ing engagement in ECs could not be studied. As previ-
ous studies have shown that while women take an active
role in decision making [56], they do not continue their
engagement in organizational participation, because
energy has been culturally associated as a man’s domain
[28]. Further research could show if this explains the low
participation rate in solar energy communities in Sweden
and elsewhere. Second, an intersectional perspective on
class, ethnicity, age and ability could be taken up by fur-
ther research to uncover how these factors into renew-
able energy engagement.
While solely focusing on gender offers a limited view
of the dynamics of participation in renewable energy pro-
jects, it is our position that integrating gender into the
analysis will provide insights into possible measures to
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Lazoroskaetal. Energ Sustain Soc (2021) 11:35
remedy limitations and accelerate the renewable energy
transition.
Abbreviations
EC: Energy community; EU: European Union; HEED: Health care, Elemen-
tary Education, and the Domestic spheres; IRENA: International Renewable
Energy Agency; PV: Photovoltaic; STEM: Science, technology, engineering and
mathematics.
Acknowledgements
We thank all our research participants for their time. We also thank our
reviewers for their generous input. Funding from the Swedish Energy Agency
[Grant Number 50951-1] and the EU Horizon 2020 programme [Grant Number
837752] is gratefully acknowledged.
Authors’ contributions
DL has prepared the article aim, methodology, data gathering, formal analysis,
data curation, writing original draft, review and editing of final copy, article
submission. JP has taken part in the project conceptualisation, data gather-
ing, data curation, draft reviews and editing. AB has taken part in the project
conceptualisation, draft reviews and editing. All authors read and approved
the final manuscript.
Funding
Open access funding provided by Malmö University. The Swedish Energy
Agency [Grant Number 50951-1] and The EU Horizon 2020 project NEWCOM-
ERS [Grant Number 837752].
Availability of data and materials
The data that supported the findings are generated through qualitative eth-
nographic research. It cannot be made available in consideration to research
subjects’ privacy.
Declarations
Ethics approval and consent to participate
The research participants have been informed of the aims of this research
and consented to the use of interview data for publication. All data has been
anonymized. We manage data in accordance with GDPR regulations.
Consent for publication
The authors consent that this research be published in Energy, Sustainability
and Society.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Author details
1 Institute for Urban Research, Malmö University, Nordenskiöldsgatan 1, 211
19 Malmö, Sweden. 2 International Institute for Industrial Environmental Eco-
nomics, Lund University, Tegnérsplatsen 4, 221 00 Lund, Sweden. 3 Department
of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technol-
ogy, 412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden.
Received: 3 April 2021 Accepted: 1 October 2021
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... The use of RES is crucial to achieve clean energy objectives, but the energy technologies themselves are not inclusive by default. The authors in [25] note that RES technologies are controlled by policies and bureaucratic power structures, prevailing gender norms, and in the case of LECs, by the agreed community structures. Participation in energy activities and energy decision-making is influenced by social and economic factors such as gender, economic status and home ownership. ...
... Securing a trade apprenticeship is achieved through informal networking in many countries which often acts as a barrier to women's entry. Mentoring and networking are important factors in career success in the U.S. solar energy industry [25]. Networking and mentoring initiatives in the EU are highlighted in [30]. ...
... Women who are in the minority in LECs and the energy sector may not have real opportunities to be heard. Policymakers might need to take more direct action and adopt regulations and incentives to make the jointly owned (solar) energy generation accessible to more groups in society [25]. The capability to affiliate [23] affects the opportunity to participate in initiatives such as renewable energy communities and prosumerism [12]. ...
Article
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This paper explores gender dimensions of the energy transition in the European Union (EU). The EU has set out its ambitions for an equitable transition to clean secure energy. It has also set out it objectives for gender equality. In this paper, I implement a systematic literature review to explore the intersection of gender issues with the energy transition in the EU. There is little peer reviewed literature in this area. Analysis of academic papers shows most focus on social science rather than technical or engineering problems. A critical review of the grey literature including EU policies and reports shows that there is a disconnect between EU gender equality and clean energy plans and that gender has yet to be mainstreamed into the EU energy transition. This review identifies opportunities to mainstream gender into EU energy policies by linking to EU gender equality objectives, and connecting to gender-energy research themes.
... A growing body of research has delved into decentralised energy production and its socio-economic implications for the communities, like increasing technology acceptance or creating added value in the region [47][48][49]. However, there is still a research gap focusing on gender, intersectionality, and renewable energy governance [50,51]. By exploring the gender-energy nexus, this paper makes an intersectional analysis of renewable energy co-ops in Germany to fill this gap. ...
... Survey results indicated a significantly higher number of investments from men, which also relates to the indicated income of men being higher than women. However, gender injustices were not recognised strongly by the management of the co-ops, and there was a strong emphasis on the co-ops being open to any interested person [50]. The gender pay gap explains one crucial aspect of our findings: involvement within co-ops requires financial resources [42,46]. ...
Article
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Renewable energy cooperatives are crucial for local communities to initiate energy transition. With a mixed-methodological approach, this paper analyses the participation of women in renewable energy cooperatives in Germany and reveals the socio-cultural barriers. This study presents an intersectional analysis that integrates gender with other socio-cultural categories and identities within the social context of cooperatives. This study presents the results from a sex ratio analysis of energy cooperatives (N = 388), online interviews (N = 161), and semi-structured interviews (N = 9). Results show that a lack of awareness of opportunities, financial resources, and time for volunteer-based workload and the lack of recognition of social inequalities in the cooperatives hinder women from actively taking part in leadership roles. This study concludes by discussing how contribution to localised renewable energy production reflects differently on genders. It also provides suggestions such as mentorship and diversity programs that would allow more women to take management roles and encourage a more inclusive and fair transition for all.
... In Germany, more than 70% of energy cooperative members have been male, with relatively higher education and income (Hanke and Lowitzsch, 2020). This is not unique for Germany and a similar situation exists in many other countries (Lazoroska et al., 2021). People with lower income have been especially underrepresented; to join an EC it is necessary to access financing and many people lack savings (Hanke and Lowitzsch, 2020). ...
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A rapid decarbonisation of the energy sector is key for mitigating climate change and in this transformation a transition to renewable heating is essential. To date, most attention in both research and policy on decarbonisation has been on electricity and transport systems, with less interest in the heating system. Half of the EU’s final energy consumption is made up by the heating and cooling sector, making this an important sector for reducing fossil fuel consumption. This article addresses the lack of research on decarbonisation of heating by answering the question, what barriers and drivers do Thermal Energy Communities (TECs) perceive when trying to enter the market and play a role in the decarbonisation of heating in Germany? Eight TECs and four umbrella organisations in Germany have been interviewed about their experiences of initiating and running a TEC. The results show, amongst others, that the political support of municipalities is put forward as an essential driver and important factor for success. However, barriers for municipalities to get involved were often that they lacked expertise, capacity and financial resources. An important driver for TECs was the involvement of local experts and professionals who could support the volunteers often in charge of a TEC. The results show that TECs that included professionals had an advantage in building heating systems, as they could better address their complexity and high initial costs. Another prevalent result was the need for community engagement and citizen mobilisation, which is a greater need in heating projects compared to those focusing on electricity, due to community heating systems requiring a substantial number of customers for profitability.
... While public engagement has been researched in relation to individual technologies such as wind (Elkjaer et al., 2021), solar (Lazoroska et al., 2021;Parkins et al., 2018) and energy transitions more broadly (Bellamy et al., 2022;Willis et al., 2022;Butler and Demski, 2013;Walker and Cass, 2007), little is understood about engagement within programmes of Smart Local Energy System (SLES) projects, which focus on the integration of low carbon generation, transport, heating and 'smart' (i.e. digital) technologies within geographically-defined 'local' communities (Ford et al., 2019;Rae et al., 2020;Walker et al., 2021). ...
Article
Energy transitions require engagement with users, local communities and wider publics in order to be fair, acceptable and, ultimately, successful. Here we focus on the development of decentralised energy systems instigated by central government. Smart Local Energy Systems (SLES), involving low carbon generation, demand sources and smart technologies in a geographically-bounded location, are important but unexplored contexts for public engagement. Drawing on 23 interviews with partner organisations in 12 UK SLES projects, we investigate the targets, methods and rationales of engagement. Partners engage a range of user and community groups around multiple energy system components using a variety of methods, directly and via intermediary organi-sations. Project size is not a major influence on breadth and intensity of engagement. Project partners rationalise practices with reference to characterisations of users and engagement, and practices are conditioned by a range of factors (e.g. technological boundaries, place, partners involved, and the wider organisational context within which SLES projects take place). We highlight a need for future SLES policy to emphasise engagement as a key facet, institute systematic social learning between SLES projects, and consider how to engage publics beyond the boundaries of individual projects.
... Gender is becoming an increasingly important consideration in such studies of energy transitions, despite it often being treated as a secondary aspect (Petrova & Simcock 2021). Gender inequalities are present in different areas of energy provision and consumption, such as the unequal representation of energy poverty (Petrova & Simcock 2021), the role of gender in energy consumption (Lazoroska et al. 2021;Mechlenborg & Gram-Hanssen 2020), as well as gender inequalities in the undertaking and negotiations of everyday household labour (Doan & Quadlin 2019;Nakamura & Akiyoshi 2015). Following Mechlenborg & Gram-Hanssen (2020), gender is understood as something that is enacted rather than a form of identity, and as a general understanding implicated in the performance, materiality and meanings of social practices. ...
Article
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Gender considerations, such as the division of household labour and the coordination of everyday household practices, are important for the energy transition of households. Household labour involves everyday practices (e.g. cooking, laundry and caring for others) and practices of energy household labour ('e.g'. managing digital technologies and energy systems). Emerging smart energy technologies require energy flexibility and efficiency, thereby introducing new forms of household labour can have implications for the household which are not well understood. Through a literature review and some empirical insights from a European Horizon 2020 project, mental aspects of energy household labour are identified: practices of coordination and multitasking, remembering and anticipating, and powerful emotional labour which shapes the practices. Smart technologies and energy systems add more physical and mental labour to households due to the need for additional coordination and change of practices. This additional demand for coordination can exacerbate existing gender inequalities in the division of household labour: technological strategies and designs need to engage with this and reduce new burdens. Considerations for future research are proposed and a gender-sensitive framework for understanding the transition of energy household labour is outlined. 'Practice relevance' Despite the balancing of more stereotypical gender roles in everyday life at home, the mental load of household labour still overburdens women. Technology design and strategies for its domestication need to recognise this load and adopt more gender-sensitive ways of supporting the mental aspects of household labour performed for the organisation of home and provide appropriate digital literacy opportunities for those who use them, without undermining their contribution in the process. Technology-assisted support for the mental aspects of household labour should allow for better negotiations and distribution of household labour required for a successful energy transition, without at the same time adding extra work for both men and women. The initial empirical insights call for a gender-sensitive framework for investigating the emerging practices that this involves, for the energy transition of households.
... Moreover, beyond technology substitution, understanding the demand and willingness for energy transitions highlight the importance of social factors-also encompassing elements such as user practices, regulation, perceived costs, risks, benefits, industrial networks and infrastructure [98][99][100] and the significant determinants among peoples identified in this study should also then be taken into account in policy formulation and decision-making. Particularly salient among the significant findings of this study is citizens' engagement in environmental behaviors which remained consistent throughout the Another key finding of the study was women being less likely to be willing to share personal information for energy efficiency-which goes against commonly held belief and findings in other environmental consumption studies that purport women as being more ecologically conscious and make more environmentally friendly decisions than men do [20,44,59], but at the same time is in line with studies that found gendered differences in the energy sector such as women having lower risk tolerance and lower trust in technology [101] as well as insecurities related to personal information such as those in the sharing economy and how consumers perception of the roles of information-based services varies by gender [102,103]. Given these new insights together with the increasing dual role of people in exercising both political and market power [104] in the Nordics, EU and beyond, who are becoming more concerned across sectors due to pressures arising from the environment [105][106][107]-with international institutions, standards, or examples from other countries further encouraging states to adopt new energy policies [108]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background There is growing attention and policy debate about the sharing of personal information that the modernization of electricity grids requires. This is particularly important for big data management in smart grids that needs access to data generated and sent through devices such as smart meters. Using the Nordic Countries as a case study, this study investigates the willingness of people to share personal information for energy efficiency. The study builds upon data from the Eurobarometer survey and binary logistic regressions. Results Nordic countries exhibit a higher willingness to share personal information compared to the rest of the EU countries. However, despite high levels of concern for climate change and other pro-environmental attitudes found overall among Europeans, the willingness to share personal information is not as prevalent and is still mainly shaped by socio-demographic features such as gender and age. Key predictors also included climate change perception and congruence of citizen engagement with environmentally friendly behaviors. Several contextual and market-specific issues framing these findings are discussed (e.g., trust, energy use). Conclusions Even when high levels of pro-environmental attitudes in certain countries are found, let alone the Nordics, this does not mean people are willing to share personal information that would support pro-environmental energy efficiency behaviors and policies.
... While public engagement has been researched in relation to individual technologies such as wind (Elkjaer et al., 2021), solar (Lazoroska et al., 2021;Parkins et al., 2018) and energy transitions more broadly (Bellamy et al., 2022;Willis et al., 2022;Butler and Demski, 2013;Walker and Cass, 2007), little is understood about engagement within programmes of Smart Local Energy System (SLES) projects, which focus on the integration of low carbon generation, transport, heating and 'smart' (i.e. digital) technologies within geographically-defined 'local' communities (Ford et al., 2019;Rae et al., 2020;Walker et al., 2021). ...
... Another important challenge facing future research is to specify how participatory forms of governance can be made compatible with simultaneous calls for a rapid transition. While the inclusion of nontraditional actors, such as local communities and civil society organisations, in political processes is central to developing more democratic energy systems, researchers have recently started to engage more with questions of the effective outcomes of democratic energy systems [6,78,79]. Maintaining responsibility for the effectiveness of the energy transition is needed to sustain political and citizen support. While increasing the number of actors and areas of decision-making is desirable from a representational point of view, and could potentially allow for productive pluralism, it could also lead to antagonism and irreconcilable perspectives that could limit the prospects for the rapid transition envisioned by energy democracy advocates and movements. ...
Article
Full-text available
Increasingly, scholarly debates and policy developments on citizen participation in energy transitions have included calls for 'energy democracy' and active forms of 'energy citizenship'. The concepts are tightly connected to the debate on energy transition, and the need for a decentralised energy system, based on renewable energy and increased local energy ownership. The two concepts exist in parallel and are sometimes used as synonyms and sometimes with clear distinctions made between them. This spurred an interest to systematically investigate them further. The aim of this paper is to identify similarities and differences between the two concepts and synthesise their contributions to debates on citizen participation in energy transitions. We review the literature thematically, finding that the concepts often refer to participation in domestic energy technologies, energy communities, energy transition movements, and energy policy. Energy citizenship tends to emphasise behaviour change and ways for individuals to participate in energy systems, thereby often focusing on individuals as agents of change. In contrast, energy democracy tends to focus on institutionalisation of new forms of participative governance and often placing collectives as central agents of change. The review also highlights some weaknesses of the literature: a bias towards decentralised energy systems, a lack of attention to representational democracy, and an underrepresentation of studies from outside Europe and North America.
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Transitions to low-carbon energy systems are essential to meeting global commitments to climate change mitigation. Yet “greening” energy systems may not make them any fairer, inclusive or just. In this paper, we review the academic literature to understand the state of knowledge on how diffusion of low-carbon technologies impacts gender and social equity in intersectional ways. Our findings indicate that renewable energy projects alone cannot achieve gender and social equity, as energy interventions do not automatically tackle the structural dynamics embedded within socio-cultural and socio-economic contexts. If existing power asymmetries related to access and resource distribution are not addressed early on, the same structural inequalities will simply be replicated and transferred over into new energy regimes.
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This perspective piece sets out to contribute to the academic and practitioner debates around energy transitions and democracy initiatives in the age of a climate crisis. For tackling present-day energy challenges in a democratic, equitable and just manner, critical social science and humanities research on meaning and materialities, new actors and narratives, values and democracy is indispensable. In doing so, we centralize our work around three fundamental axes: The Concept, reflecting on the energy itself and revitalizing its essence; The Political, embracing the value laden, political and gendered nature of energy, and recognizing citizens' initiatives as counter currents to centralized energy decision-making; and The People, anticipating the far right’s post-truth narratives that jeopardize planetary futures. We contend that “normative, political and embodied” research and praxis can serve for diversifying the energy transition debate as well as energizing bottom-up community led initiatives in order to democratize the energy playing field of recent times.
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We conducted a field experiment aimed at increasing the percentage of women majoring in economics. We exposed students enrolled in introductory classes to successful and charismatic women who majored in economics at the same university. The intervention significantly impacted female students’ enrollment in further economics classes, increasing their likelihood to major in economics by 8 percentage points. This is a large effect, given that only 9 percent of women were majoring in economics at baseline. Since the impacted women were previously planning to major in lower-earning fields, our low-cost intervention may have a positive effect on their future incomes. (JEL A22, C93, I23, I26, J16)
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Transitions toward a low-carbon future are not only technical and economical, but also deeply social and gendered. The gendered nature of energy transitions is often implicit and unexplored. As a corrective, this paper explores energy pathways by applying concepts from innovations and gender studies. We examine gender perspectives and niche energy innovations which could disrupt the regime. The regime represents the mainstream pathway that includes the dominant gender perspective and energy system. We explore different gender perspectives of energy transition pathways by applying an Alternative Pathways framework that includes: (1) on-stream pathways that exist within the mainstream pathway to promote equal opportunities for women and men, as well as niches for energy innovations without challenging the high-carbon energy regime; (2) off-stream pathways that depart from the mainstream and promote differences across different genders while creating niches outside the energy regime; and (3) transformative pathways that are fundamentally different from the previous mainstream and includes all gender perspectives in a new energy regime. Applying this framing, in Canada, we explored Indigenous perspectives in the oil sands sector; in Kenya, we studied largescale renewable energy impacting Indigneous communities; in Spain, we evaluate the movement away from fossil fuels and towards renewable technologies. The framework helped to identify that mainstream pathways represented the dominant male perspective while woman's perspective were largely left out. Such absence generate energy pathways that are disconnected from local realities, lack public buy-in and slow-down a sustainable energy transition.
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In this paper we quantify gendered decision-making patterns regarding electricity access, light and appliances in selected rural contexts in Mahadevsthan (Nepal), Homa Bay (Kenya) and Chhattisgarh (India). In the literature, decision-making in electricity has primarily been studied through case studies and qualitative methods. By quantifying some of the gendered patterns in this field, we first seek to document and compare the situation in selected contexts and then to refine the understanding of the nexus between gender and electricity access. The research design was informed by the team's previous qualitative work, and we present results from a household survey conducted in 2016 and 2017. We anchor the analysis in a micro-political approach to energy, and we draw on empowerment and domestication frameworks for analyzing tenets of energy justice. The findings show that women generally had less power than men to make decisions about electricity and appliances and that women's lack of rights in electricity was mirrored in their subordinated position in the socio-material contexts. Comparing groups of women, women in Mahadevsthan, including those who were living without a man in the household, were most likely to have electricity access and acquire appliances of their choosing. Widows in Homa Bay were the least likely to have electricity access. By drawing on the wider literature, we discuss the results in terms of how women's agency and access to electricity and appliances of their choosing in the Global South may be improved.
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To achieve an energy transition favouring renewable energy in the face of climate change, several countries in the EU region have pursued different economic incentives to encourage citizens to invest in household solar systems. This enables citizens to become 'prosumers' who produce electricity for their own consumption and sell excess produced electricity to the central grid supply. Influencing people's energy consumption in this way can potentially reach EU's renewable energy targets, as prosumers add to the stock of renewable energy nationally. Through in-depth interviews with men and women from 28 households in Norway and the United Kingdom, this article explores the process of becoming a prosumer and the energy practices in prosuming households. Drawing on theories of social practice and domestication, the article pays particular attention to how the phases of appropriation, objectification, incorporation and conversion of household solar systems are gendered in the sense that women and men have different economic, social and cultural capital, and to how this influences their interaction with technology in the transition from consumers to prosumers. Viewing prosuming through the gender lens reveals how policies need to be designed to promote new practices that are attractive for a more diverse group than today's standard subsidies and feed-in tariffs if the aim is to increase the number of residential prosumers and transition to a more sustainable and equitable low-carbon energy system.
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Although there are several studies on energy and gender, most of the studies have conflated ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ and there are some inconsistent and imprecise uses of these terms in energy and gender studies. In this article, we explore some differences between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ from a Global North perspective based on current gender theory that can be helpful to ensure that these terms are used more consistently and precisely when conducting energy and gender studies. We contend that most of the existing gender and energy studies are often inadequate in that they only address energy and a biological conception of sex, or else simplistically equate gender with a masculine/feminine binary that may actually reinforce essentializing gender myths. Thus, we highlight an important gap in energy and gender research and propose a conceptual approach to precisely and consistently utilize the terms ‘sex’ and ‘energy’. Furthermore, we emphasize the need of considering gender impacts while devising energy policies and set out research agenda to make energy and gender studies more rigorous. This study is focused on the Global North, and similar studies are also needed for Global South.
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The European electricity market and energy security have recently become heatedly discussed topics at the European Union level. In many countries, political and financial support for the transition towards renewable energy systems during the last two decades have encouraged the establishment of a substantial number of new electricity cooperatives. Cooperatives, as social enterprises, demonstrate attachment to values such as equity and equality in their actions, thus they might be perceived as women-friendly entities. However, little empirical research on that topic has been carried out in the European Union so far. The pilot study presented in this paper fills this gap by determining if gender perspective is reflected in the European electricity cooperatives’ declarations and actions and whether this perspective is related to cooperative size, adopted mode of governance and cultural determinants of the region/country. This paper shows why gender equality is valuable to electricity cooperatives and how the presented research results may be useful to practitioners, researchers and policy makers.