This article describes the outcome of studies conducted to understand how socio-technical innovations for energy transitions can emerge at the local level.
Government intervention > Regulation
Social and/or cultural impacts > Other
local energy initiatives
sociology of translation
actor network theory
Esther C. van der Waal, Henny J. van der Windt, Ellen C. J. van Oost
Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
Academic/research institution or journal
This article explores innovative approaches adopted by local energy initiatives to create networks that enable grassroots technological innovations to facilitate the local energy transition to a more sustainable system. The authors examine the different components, actors, and phases of a project initiation to better understand how relationships at the grassroot levels can be built to enable these innovations. They conclude with lessons on how local energy initiatives can improve their networking capabilities.
Through various theories such as the “actor-network theory”, the authors seek to understand how local-level technological innovations are developed and identify the key elements influencing the process. They then analyze the development of networks in four stages during which ideas are conceptualized, problematized, interpositioned , and substantiated. Furthermore, they highlight the power imbalance that often emerges between energy initiatives and other stakeholders, such as banks, arguing that this could lead to a one-side-relationship that can further complicate network building. In addition, they discuss the importance of non-human “actants”, such as the environment, money, and other materials, during project development. Next, they also examine the innovation process by using case studies to better understand how local energy initiatives engage with different stakeholders.
Finally, the authors conclude with lessons on how grassroot-level energy initiatives can better develop socio-technical innovations for renewable energy, while harnessing local opportunities and talents. They argue that more scrutiny is needed at the start of a project to make it convincing, and even more importantly, to ensure all aspects of the project are well-aligned. In addition, they offer recommendations for future research to: scale up evidence on socio-technical innovations across the world; provide conceptual guidance on how relationships between stakeholders are built; and better understand existing policy frameworks that support these innovations.
This report offers a trade union perspective on the need to increase public ownership of energy assets and production in the United States by expanding the role of energy cooperatives, reforming utilities, and establishing a Renewable Energy Administration.
Economic diversification/restructuring > Economic development plans, Infrastructure investment
Employment > Job creation and/or equality, Social protections
Inequality and/or poverty > Other
Investment > Other
Social and/or cultural impacts > Other
Sean Sweeney, Kylie Benton-Connell, Lara Skinner
Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED), The Worker Institute at Cornell, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Foundation
These four short papers seek to define “energy democracy,” a term used by labor unions to characterize greater public ownership of energy assets and production. The authors address various potential dimensions of energy democracy: increased public ownership of energy assets, a larger role for energy cooperatives, reform of utilities, and the creation of a new Renewable Energy Administration.
The authors argue that market forces and cost competitiveness alone will not be sufficient to advance a shift to renewable energy. They contend that unions and social movements will have to spearhead the required “non-market, needs-based approaches.” The report explores the role of energy cooperatives, including the structure and financing options for such groups. They cite successful case studies, including the Volkswagen Staff Association for Regenerative Energy in Germany. However, they note that a shift from centralized utilities to cooperatively owned energy could pose certain challenges for labor unions, such as undermining fair wages by relying more heavily on volunteer labor.
The third section focuses on “re-municipalization” as a means to increase renewable energy growth and counter resistance from utilities. The final paper outlines the role for unions in supporting a “public goods” approach to clean energy and argues that lessons learned from the New Deal should be applied in creating a new Renewable Energy Administration.