Next Generation Infrastructures Self-organisation


How does civil society self-organise infrastructure, and what are the drivers and barriers for such self-organisation? This project aimed to answer that question, with an empirical focus on community energy initiatives.

Community energy refers to energy projects in which communities have a high degree of ownership and control over the maintenance and revenues. Or in other words: initiatives in which citizens ‘self-organise’ their energy supply. This project unraveled drivers and challenges for the self-organisation of community energy.

This research is based on (1) literature reviews of self-organisation theories and sustainable energy transition studies, in combination with (2) in-depth case studies of self-organised energy initiatives in The Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom and Belgium. The cases included renowned examples of community energy such as Texel Energy, Ecopower, Schönau EWS and the Udny Community Wind Turbine project. Furthermore, we validated and translated insights into practice through two interactive ‘pressure cooker’ seminars with practitioners and researchers.

Main insights

Due to their innovative and disruptive nature, community energy initiatives face a divers set of challenges, including financial issues, legal barriers, socio-cultural conditions and 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.

When proclaiming ideals of ‘self-governance’ and ‘self-organisation’, it is important to be clear and critical about who the ‘self’ (and the ‘other’) is supposed to be, and to realize that this distinction between the self and the other is not that clear cut. This also means that we need to acknowledge the multiplicity of players involved in the development and (self-)governance of community energy. As such, this project has formulated recommendations and insights not only directed at initiators of community energy or policy-makers, but also to other players that have a role in shaping the future of community energy, including business entrepreneurs, financial investors, citizens, consumers, activists and researchers.

Duration of the project

The project ran from 2011 until 2013.

Commissioning party

The Next Generation Infrastructures Foundation (NGI)


Flor Avelino (project leader), Niki Frantzeskaki, Marleen Lodder, Rick Bosman, Shivant Jhagroe