Our Trees Have Standing – Explaining Community Energy Potential for Social Innovation.
Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs
Politics, science and civil society actors seem united in their acknowledgement of the importance of community and civil society engagement for the Energiewende. Yet, ranging from civil society consultation to ownership and self-reliance, the term 'community energy' holds many and diverse implications in the current debate shaping the transition of networked infrastructures.Much as with 'civic engagement', the conceptual 'stretching' of the term threatens to render it power- and useless for politics, research and activism alike. At the same time, the social innovation of goals, structures and processes of the Energiewende that community energy projects entail remains insufficiently understood.
This dissertation project thus focuses on the social innovation community energy projects entail regarding the underlying defintions of community and citizenship. It aims to establish both an empirically grounded and theoretically rigorous understanding of 'community energy' and an improved assessment of the relevance and contribution of 'community energy' projects in sustainability transitions. It is argued that crucial innovative potential of community energy projects lies in their definition of citizenship and community, making these projects strategic niches not just for technical but for social innovation. Civil society engagement in the Energiewende is hence not merely important in implementing technical innovation as suggested for example by the debate on building acceptance for infrastructural change. It may instead provide experimental space for the changes in social fabric sustainability transitions entail. To improve scientific understanding of this, the project provides an international comparison of 'community energy' projects.
This dissertation project is supported by a scholarship of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Arwen is a member of the foundation's Transformation Research Cluster.
Arwen Colell studied political science in Germany, the US and Japan and holds a degree of Freie Universität Berlin. She is a PhD student of Freie Universität Berlin as off April 2015. Arwen worked on strategies of sustainable urban development for the Federal Ministry of the Environment and coordinated field testing for a Berlin based start up company in electric mobility. Her teaching at CIEE Berlin focuses on politics and policies of urban sustainability transitions. An activist researcher, she is a founding and management member of the cooperative BürgerEnergie Berlin.