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.