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About this book

Community energy projects give their own answers to the challenges of energy system change: They are social innovations. By building new relations between local economies, communities and technical infrastructures, these projects not only change the energy system but also respective power structures. Drawing on case studies from Germany, Denmark and Scotland, this book shows the importance of community ties, and shared symbols for successful processes of transformation and develops recommendations for policy decision-makers.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Introduction

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Standing on the ferry in the spring of 2016, I watch as the island of Samsø (Danish Energy Agency) grows larger on the horizon. I am visiting an exception. As I set foot on the small island in the Kattegat, ten years have passed since the local community achieved a 100% shift to renewable energies, offsetting any remaining fossil fuel consumption with additional renewable capacities.
Arwen Colell

Theory and Methods

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. Community Energy and Power

Abstract
Academic recognition of community contributions to energy sector change is not new. Early arguments include the exploration of “soft energy paths”, small-scale development, or “appropriate technologies”. This indicates two relevant dimensions of energy system change that remain dominant in community energy research to date: Changes to the physical power infrastructure, namely the acceleration and facilitation of technology deployment to increase renewable energy production, and changes to actor and decision making structures, as well as underlying norms and values.
Arwen Colell

Chapter 3. Biographies of Social Innovation and Resource Mobilization

Abstract
Social innovations, while including material power resources such as money, technologies and installations, consider non-material power resources, such as decision-making processes, ownership structures, or narrative as equally important for system design and change. The community energy literature is increasingly referencing social innovations to recognize the agency of civil society or grassroots actors (‘grassroots innovations’). Avelino and colleagues (2015) connect the study of social innovations to frames of sustainability transitions and community engagement, studying social innovations not as “a dimension of technological innovation [but] an object of innovation in itself”.
Arwen Colell

Chapter 4. Research Design and Methods

Abstract
This study is a qualitative analysis of five cases in three countries. It involved two rounds of field research. In the first round, interviews and document analysis provided data on the individual community energy projects, as well as on respective contexts embedding project activities including actors, institutions and political and technological structures.
Arwen Colell

Innovation Biographies of Community Energy

Frontmatter

Chapter 5. Energy Rebellion in the Black Forest

Abstract
Starting as a parent’s initiative against nuclear power, EWS today is one of Germany’s largest independent suppliers of renewably sourced electricity and natural gas, and the only citizen-owned distribution systems operator. Members call themselves ‘electricity rebels’ to explain their vision for a nuclear free, climate friendly and citizen-owned energy system. Campaigning with the image of citizens as “accidents” (Störfall) to the nuclear power industry, the cooperative overcame resistance of the local incumbent and convinced political leadership to endorse citizen-led operations.
Arwen Colell

Chapter 6. Islands: Samsø and Mull

Abstract
This second chapter of innovation biographies presents community energy projects on the two islands of Samsø, Denmark and Mull, Scotland. Beyond the basic similarity of geography, these cases share a pragmatic, rather than ideational, impulse for community energy engagement, and a strong role for project management.
Arwen Colell

Chapter 7. An Unlikely Couple: Fintry and Oldenburg

Abstract
Although quite different at first glance, Fintry Development Trust, the pioneer of community energy involvement in the Scottish Lowlands, and olegeno, the failed attempt of a citizen-led take-over of the power grid in a city of 165.000 in Northern Germany, the projects’ innovation biographies show similarities.
Arwen Colell

Resource Mobilization in Community Energy Projects

Frontmatter

Chapter 8. Emergence and Establishment: Harnessing Organizational and Symbolic Resources

Abstract
In all cases, emergence created a project arena formed by founders that were either themselves part of the community energy project (in Schönau, Oldenburg, Fintry and on Mull), or interested in creating a community energy project (on Samsø). Across projects, this arena during emergence was characterized by negotiations on which energy system actions should be pursued and how these would be embedded in organizational structures locally, as well as on campaigning.
Arwen Colell

Chapter 9. Maintenance: Growing Relevance of Financial Resources

Abstract
During project emergence and establishment, mobilization of financial resources typically occurred in connection to either a specific activity or event. Examples are the mobilization of grant funding for a feasibility study of hydro-power siting on Mull, the mobilization of donations to counter the energy incumbent’s offer to the municipality in Schönau, or the mobilization of membership shares at the time of establishment.
Arwen Colell

Chapter 10. Challenges: Returning to Shared Symbols

Abstract
Challenges to community energy projects, can arise from within the project, from project conditions or as a result of external events. Internal challengers include leadership change or resource scarcity, or events immediately connected to but not directed by the project such as a critical audit of a cooperative.
Arwen Colell

Social Innovation in Community Energy

Frontmatter

Chapter 11. Key Findings

Abstract
This chapter synthesizes findings across the five cases of community energy. It points out three key aspects the case studies reveal. First, projects have distinct innovation biographies that relate to frames of energy system change and community development, and create corresponding power relations within which energy system alternatives can (or cannot) be implemented (11.1).
Arwen Colell

Chapter 12. Discussion: Who gets what, when, and how?

Abstract
Key findings of this study point to three underlying arguments to be made in reference to the current community energy literature, and the study of civil society-led processes of transition more generally.
Arwen Colell

Chapter 13. Conclusion

Without Abstract
Arwen Colell

Backmatter

Additional information