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Assembling community energy democracies

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Calls for greater ‘energy democracy’ foresee a greater role for voluntary sector activity ‐ including through community groups’ ownership of energy projects ‐ to help produce more open, participatory and just energy systems. This article offers a novel conceptualisation of democracy through viewing community energy projects as assemblages of heterogeneous elements, and traces their enlacement with a wide range of social and political relations. This enables us to explore how a position of distributed agency affects the possibilities, challenges and realities of enacting new forms of democracy. Drawing on empirical research in England and Scotland, we trace the relations that community groups form in the process of setting up energy projects. In doing so, we go beyond the binary view that sees such groups as inherently democratic responses to undemocratic systems or as co-opted actors in governmental programmes, instead exploring the multiple ways these new socio-material configurations ‘become-democratic’. Through furthering an understanding of energy democracy that emphasises democracy-as-process, we demonstrate its inherent emergent, contingent and uncertain qualities.
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Keywords: assemblage; community energy; democracy; intermediaries; voluntary sector

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Durham, UK 2: Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Publication date: July 2020

More about this publication?
  • Voluntary Sector Review publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers on third sector research, policy and practice. It is an invaluable cutting-edge resource for all those researching or working in the fast-growing voluntary, community and wider third sectors.

    The journal covers the full range of issues relevant to voluntary sector studies, including: definitional and theoretical debates; management and organisational development; financial and human resources; philanthropy; volunteering and employment; regulation and charity law; service delivery; civic engagement; industry and sub-sector dimensions; relations with other sectors; social enterprise; evaluation and impact. Voluntary Sector Review covers voluntary sector studies from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, economics, business studies, social anthropology, philosophy and ethics. The journal includes work from the UK and Europe, and beyond, where cross-national comparisons are illuminating. With dedicated expert policy and practice sections, Voluntary Sector Review also provides an essential forum for the exchange of ideas and new thinking.

    Rigorous and stimulating, Voluntary Sector Review is an indispensable tool for everyone who values empirically-grounded, theoretically-informed and policy-relevant reviews of the future direction of the voluntary sector.

    Editors: Nick Acheson (Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland), Bernard Harris (University of Strathclyde, UK), Rob Macmillan, (University of Birmingham, UK)

    The journal is published in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and a print copy of the journal is a membership benefit.

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