Panel Paper: Energy Democracy: Goals and Policy Instruments Linking Political Power & Renewable Energy Futures

Friday, November 9, 2018
Truman - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Matthew J. Burke, McGill University and Jennie C. Stephens, Northeastern University

Energy democracy is an emergent social movement advancing renewable energy transitions by resisting the fossil-fuel-dominant energy agenda while reclaiming and democratically restructuring energy regimes. By integrating technological change with the potential for socioeconomic and political change, the movement links social justice and equity with energy innovation. Through a policy mix lens, this research examines the energy democracy agenda in the United States to understand how and to what extent the mix of policy instruments currently proposed among energy democracy advocates corresponds to the overarching goals of the movement. This assessment compares 22 policy instruments to 26 intended outcomes for energy democracy. The mix of policy instruments holds potential for advancing renewable energy transitions based on the combined goals of resist-reclaim-restructure, although current policies relate unevenly across the set of intended outcomes. This presentation concludes by critically assessing tensions associated with an energy democracy agenda, and exploring implications for democratizing renewable energy development in practice. More democratic renewable energy futures may benefit from strengthening democratic practices and outcomes, extending democratization of energy systems across all components, stages and end uses, and sharpening positions relative to dominant pressures of capitalism and market ideology, the ideology of unlimited growth, and the modernist/industrialist agenda. Renewable energy systems offer a possibility but not a certainty for more democratic energy futures.