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Scientific approaches of community energy | New CEER policy paper

Datum:15 juli 2019
Community Energy
Community Energy

In several European countries, an increasing part of the production of renewable energy is generated by citizen-owned production units. These units are installed and managed individually or by local communities, and the number of local energy initiatives, who aim to increase local energy production, is rising rapidly. This has resulted in a new research area we label as community energy. Community energy is defined as local production of renewable energy, governed by citizens, with a view to contribute to the transition to a sustainable energy system.  In a recent CEER policy paper*, Tineke van der Schoor and Bert Scholtens use community energy to encompass several terms that have been used so far in the literature, such as citizen’s power, grassroots energy, and local governance of energy production. They specifically address the role of the individual, acting as consumer, prosumer or citizen. The aim of the manuscript is to identify the key issues and concepts covered in the community energy literature so far and to reflect on how it is being studied. The word cloud depicts the concepts and issues that appear in this literature:

It shows community energy is studied from a variety of perspectives, delivering insights that range from individual motivations of members to join these groups, the organisation of local community initiatives, their relations with local governments, regional support organisations and networks, to national policies that aim to stimulate decentralized community owned energy production. All approaches will have to specify and develop in order to understand and explain community energy in more detail. In addition, there is room to further reflect on the agency that is employed by local communities and how bottom-up changes in the energy structure occur. They analyse the literature since its inception in 1997 and account for a geographic perspective as it shows that the national circumstances call for specific theories and research designs to allow for country-specific institutions. They detail the literature about Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US, as these four countries have been studied most. They also address the interaction of community energy and national energy policy, regional support, and local commitment. The authors argue that the study and practice of community energy could benefit from a transdisciplinary research approach, which integrates perspectives of multiple academic disciplines and non-academic stakeholders. Moreover, this could lead to policy development that is science-based and practice oriented.

Tineke van der Schoor is senior researcher at the Research Centre for Built Environment NoorderRuimte of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, the Netherlands. 

Bert Scholtens is professor Sustainable Banking and Finance at Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and professor of Finance at the School of Management of the University of Saint Andrews, Scotland, UK.

* This study is CEER Policy Papers Number 6; distributed by the Centre for Economic Energy Research (CEER) of the Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

CEER-Policy Papers can be downloaded here.


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