Energy is a key element in improving the living conditions by contributing to e.g. a safe living environment; improved nourishment, education and transportation; a means of production and economic security. The current centralized energy system, comprising profit-driven corporations, is presented as the ideal means of supplying energy by providing the “lowest energy prices”. However, unaccounted externalities increase the social and environmental costs of energy and contribute to increasing social inequality. This economic model does not positively contribute to the local economy but rather exploits local resources and people. Also, large investments in centralized energy infrastructure cannot be easily modified or replaced and therefore impede energy transition.
In this research, energy cooperatives utilizing decentralized energy production are analysed as an alternative model. The analysis targets to include social and environmental energy costs, such as their contribution to bettering opportunities and self-determination in people’s lives. A simplified framework is used to evaluate socio-economic, environmental and institutional effects of energy cooperatives by identifying impact areas such as energy access, costs, transition, democracy, local economy, etc. This framework is validated by examining case studies of energy cooperatives running in different contexts.
The results of this study helps to identify basic criteria for establishing an energy cooperatives from a degrowth perspective – with a focus on enabling personal development with improved economic and energy security; empowering local communities; and building alternative economic models.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Empowering Sustainable Communities through Energy Co-operatives“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.