Does participation in cooperatives facilitate energy democracy? A cross-national, empirical study
Management Seminar by Thomas Bauwens (University of Utrecht)
January 2019, Thursday 10 (12:30 pm)
N1 – Room 1701
The promotion of “energy democracy” in low carbon transitions has become a significant topic for energy social science research. Furthermore, research on community energy has tended to assume that grassroots energy initiatives lead to citizen involvement and shared local benefit, despite limited empirical evidence. Here we report the results of cross-national research examining civic participation amongst the members of two renewable energy cooperatives, one based in the UK and the other in Belgium. Results show that levels of participation beyond financial investment varies markedly, with higher levels for relatively low cost, less active activities (e.g. reading newsletters) and lower levels for more active, timeconsuming activities (e.g. attending the Annual General Meeting, volunteering). Social identification is the most important factor explaining multiple forms of participation, with environmental and economic factors less important. The concept of “stealth democracy” is used to discuss the findings and draw out the benefits and risks associated with the importance of social factors for engaging communities in energy transitions.
Thomas Bauwens is an economist specialized in environmental and energy issues with a pronounced interest in multi-disciplinarity. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development. He is conducting research on the roles of circular start-up hubs in the transition towards a circular economy within the framework of a research project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. He holds a PhD in economics from the Centre for Social Economy within HEC-Management School of the University of Liège (Belgium) and a master in economics from the Economic School of Louvain. During his PhD, he conducted a long-term stay as a visiting researcher at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford. After that he completed a post-doctoral research stay at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) within the Human-Environment Relations in Urban Systems (HERUS) Laboratory.