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How Local Authorities can encourage citizen participation in energy transitions

European citizens could become co-designers and leaders of renewable and sustainable projects involving energy production, transport and social developments rather than having such projects imposed upon them, following a new European Union (EU) Clean Energy for all Europeans package. 

The eight legislative acts bound up in the package strengthen the rights of citizens to produce, sell, store and consume renewable energy with ease and support, and without discrimination. 

Bangor University Research Fellow, Dr Sioned Haf explains that: “this development could mark the beginning of a more supportive platform for citizen-led energy initiatives across the EU. It may play a role in encouraging more citizens to actively participate as stakeholders in addressing current energy challenges.”  A new policy paper co-authored by  Dr Sioned Haf, allied to the University’s School of Natural Sciences, contributes to the development of this EU package, by focusing on the role of Local Authorities in delivering more opportunities and collaborative approaches that allow their citizens to adopt more active roles in co-designing energy transition measures. 

The recommendations include the need to adopt more open and inclusive structural procedures that allow for the input of citizens, deliberative democracy measures that seek out public voices to co-lead and design developments, use of creative collaborations and to bridge connected issues such as wellbeing, health, local economies, social issues with energy transition.

Dr Haf added: “To date, policy development in the field of energy transitions tend to have assumed technological aspects will be the main agents for change. Far less consideration has been given to the social aspects of the energy transition. Top-down policy making and implementation, driven by technological evidence alone, will not galvanize citizens to contribute to the energy transition.”In relation to current affairs, she goes on to say,“During this time in which countries across the European continent and beyond are affected by the impact of the Covid-19 virus, it is noteworthy that so many citizens have shown their ability, resilience and willingness to work collectively in caring for their communities. They have also proved themselves to be extraordinarily innovative in finding ways to deliver services that bolster and support their communities in a way that addresses their specific and localised needs. 

If this current crisis has shown us anything, it is the proven ability of citizens, as well as some governance bodies, to cooperate in times of emergency. 

This is a lesson that can be applied in responding to the climate emergency. Supporting citizens to participate in finding local solutions to the climate emergency through co-designing energy transition plans should be the new driving force for Local Authorities.” 
The report has been delivered as a part of an Energy-PIECES secondment, developed by the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge and hosted by Energy Cities – The European association of Local Authorities in energy transition. The full paper, which includes policy recommendations is available here.

Publication date: 27 May 2020