Community innovation in sustainable energy


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Presentation made to the 2nd International Conference on Sustainability Transitins, Lund, Sweden, 13-15 June 2011

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Community innovation in sustainable energy

  1. 1. Community energy niches in sustainable energy transitions<br />Sabine Hielschera, Tom Hargreavesb, Adrian Smitha, Gill Seyfangb, Jin Parka<br />2nd International Conference on Sustainability Transitions<br />Lund, 13-15 June 2011<br />a: SPRU (Science & Technology Policy Research), University of Sussex, UK<br />b: CSERGE (Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment), University of East Anglia, UK<br />
  2. 2. Community innovation in sustainable energy<br />Applying niche theory to the analysis of innovation in community energy in the UK<br />Networks of activists and organisations generating novel bottom–up solutions for renewable energy generation, energy demand reduction, and awareness raising on sustainable energy issues; solutions that respond to the local situation and the interests and values of the communities involved. <br />Mixed methods:<br />review of research, grey and policy literatures on community energy<br /> content analysis of ‘good practice’ cases and toolkits<br />participant observation (conferences, practitioner workshop)<br />semi-structured interviews with ‘intermediary’ organisations<br />on-line survey of community energy groups<br /> nine in-depth case studies of community energy initiatives<br />(social network analysis)<br /> scenario development<br />
  3. 3. The community settings for sustainable innovation<br />Community energy<br />Source: Walker and Devine-Wright (2008)<br />Community development is ‘a movement to promote better living for the whole community [i.e. outcome], with active participation and if possible on the initiative of the community [i.e. process]’<br />(UN, 1953; italics added) <br />Source: Pearce (2003)<br />
  4. 4. The community sustainable energy field in the UK<br />Rapid growth in last six years (~3500 groups on the Green Communities database). Wide variety :<br />- energy generation, efficiency, behaviours - technologies<br />- organisation - resource models<br />- geography and social groups - established, planned, aspiring<br />Policy narratives - government favourably disposed, but linked to different agendas over time<br />(‘local awareness’ to ‘role in transition’ to ‘Big Society’)<br />Policy support - advice services, grant programmes, competitions, market frameworks<br />(CRI, LCBP/CCF, LCCCP, FIT/Green Deal)<br />Intermediaries are shifting & developing roles in response to policy and groundswell from communities:<br />initiate community work and/or maintain networks (e.g. CORE, EST)<br /> share experience, good practice, expertise and advice (e.g. CSE) <br />lobby and advocate community energy in the policy context (e.g. LCCN) <br />provide specific products to community initiatives (e.g. revolving funds) <br />create an interface between initiatives and policy-makers/ business actors (e.g. CCAA) <br />create partnerships with community energy initiatives (e.g. LAs)<br />
  5. 5. Towards a niche analysis?<br />Policy (and energy regime) opportunities and threats <br />(shaping the niche space)<br />Strategic responses<br />(shaping the niche space)<br />(focus for remainder of presentation)<br />From local projects to global niche?Possibly ...<br /> - evidence of networking <br /> - but great diversity cf. standardising approaches <br /> - not every initiative wants to be ‘strategic’<br />Evidence of learning and experience sharing? Yes ...<br /> - conferences, cases, toolkits, evaluations<br />But ...<br /> - ‘good practice’ issues are selective, some things are hidden, tense expectations <br />(something we are researching, but not discussed further here)<br />Source: Geels and Raven (2006)<br />
  6. 6. Niche policy and politics: an illustration ...<br />Organised by several networks and funded by DECC, EST and Groundwork<br />Aim was to explore how this emerging sector could become more effective, more responsive, more visible, and more co-ordinated in its dialogues with other agencies.<br />130 people on day one, 220 on day two, 30 speakers plus workshops<br />A new Communities and Climate Action Alliance was debated (in response to request from DECC), and a ‘network of networks’ was approved, but some enduring dilemmas were raised<br />
  7. 7. Niche empowerment? Issues surfacing in the CCA debate<br />Collaboration and representation – but over what, and for whom?<br />Niche co-operation for internal development (experience, support, visions)<br />Niche campaigning and engaging with regime (peak association?!)<br />Strength in diversity or unity?<br />Local knowledge, deeply rooted practices – inefficient for spreading and scaling-up?<br />Coherent voice to engage with the regime – or to discipline projects (imposing metrics, expectations and evaluations)?<br />
  8. 8. More issues surfacing in the CCA debate<br />Shaping the wider context, or being shaped by it?<br />New pay-back opportunities (FIT and Green Deal) – “Realisation that grants can be stifling for communities rather than liberating” – turn towards creating community enterprises (competing with utilities?)<br />Hang on, perhaps we need to challenge the policy opportunities and demand space for more co-operative community energy?<br />Does engagement really matter?<br />Activists and supporters should just focus on local projects, therein lies community energy’s strength<br />No, community energy must become more strategic, which means becoming credible on regime terms<br />
  9. 9. Enduring dilemmas?<br />At risk of dichotomising the plurality of political experimentation, are these the horns of the current community energy dilemma?<br />
  10. 10. Conclusions: implications for niche analysis<br />Niche spaces involve experimentation with political strategies too ...<br />with implications for innovation dynamics?<br />Source: Geels and Raven (2006)<br />
  11. 11. Conclusion: enduring dilemmas?<br />Stretching and transforming strategy<br /> (limited influence in absence of empowerment)<br />Fitting and conforming strategy<br />(sustainability diminished)<br />Craig et al (2011) (reflecting on 60 years of ‘community development’ in UK):<br />“Government – perhaps learning on its own terms from the experience of Community Development Projects – does not therefore respond to agendas set from below, or allow the political space for alternative explanations ... but shapes policy programmes from above, for (rather than with) communities. This has enormous implications for the practice of community development since it effectively places government-sponsored community development in collision with the value base of community development”<br />Project website<br /><br />