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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

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

Appeared or available online: December 16, 2019

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