The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy


In this practice brief, the authors address both the prospects and challenges of self-organised community energy. The practice brief is the result of a seminar organised at DRIFT on November 18th 2013, in the context of a research project on The Self-organization of Infrastructure by Civil Society, funded by the Next Generation Infrastructure programme.


At this seminar, the authors came together as researchers with different interdisciplinary perspectives on community energy, including: legal studies, psychology, economics, technology, sociology, policy and political science. All researchers that were present at the seminar have conducted empirical research on community energy initiatives and/or other examples of self-organisation. The researchers challenged each other to move beyond the critical analysis of challenges and to formulate constructive recommendations regarding the future of community energy. These recommendations are not only directed at policy makers, but towards other actors that play an important role in the emerging field of community energy, such as citizens, businesses, and intermediaries.


For this reason, the result is not a “policy brief”, but rather a practice brief, directed at all types of practitioners that are interested in further developing community energy. The authors have also directed recommendations at researchers, to critically but constructively analyse the developments of community energy, and to translate research insights to foster interdisciplinary and ‘transdisciplinary’ dialogue between researchers and practitioners on the future of our energy systems and communities.
The practice brief can be downloaded here. A short outline of the practice brief is provided below.

The field of Community Energy

‘Community energy’ refers to energy projects “where communities (of place or interest) exhibit a high degree of ownership and control, as well as benefiting collectively from the outcomes” (Walker & Devine-Wright 2008). The practice brief starts by discussing the field of community energy, which includes a wide variety of initiatives with different motivations and diverse arrangements.

Challenges for the Self-Governance of Community Energy

The authors distinguish four categories of challenges that community energy initiatives are faced with: (1) economic & financial issues, (2) legal barriers, (3) socio-cultural conditions and (4) micro-political struggles and conflict.  Underlying these challenges are three overarching themes that are essential for initiating and sustaining a community energy initiative: trust, motivation and continuity. Moreover, a main challenge of ‘self-governance’, is that it is often unclear who exactly the ‘self’ or the ‘other’ is, and that it is thus unclear which actors are responsible for which aspects. This is why this practice brief uses a multi-actor perspective that helps to specify the different actor roles involved in the (self)-governance of community energy.

Multi-actor Recommendations

The multi-actor perspective distinguishes between four different sectors: (1) the state, (2) the market, (3) the community, and (4) the Third Sector. The latter is an intermediary sector in between the other three. In each of these sectors, there are a variety of relevant actor roles. When we talk about ‘the state’, for instance, it is not only about the role of ‘the government’, but also about the role of citizens and organisations as subjects to the law and as political supporters. As such, the state is shaped by a multiplicity of actors. The same can be said about the market, the community and the Third Sector. Taking such a multi-actor perspective to look at the phenomena of community energy means that we need to acknowledge the multiplicity of actors roles involved in the development and (self-) governance of community energy. Based on the multi-actor perspective, the practice brief identifies practice recommendations directed at different actors for dealing with the identified challenges of community energy.


Avelino, F., Bosman, R. , Frantzeskaki, N., Akerboom, S., Boontje, P., Hoffman, J., Paradies, G., Pel, B. Scholten, D., Wittmayer, J. (2014)



The (Self-)Governance of Community Energy: Challenges & Prospects. DRIFT practice brief nr. PB 2014.01. Rotterdam.


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Read the complete practice brief here.

januari 12, 2014