Conceptualizing energy democracy

By Kacper Szulecki

Published in Environmental Politics, online 9 October 2017


‘Energy democracy’ epitomizes hopes in energy transformation, but remains under-defined, a political buzzword rather than a real concept. After presenting its activist roots and mapping its usage, ‘energy democracy’ is positioned in relation to similar normatively derived concepts: environmental, climate, and energy justice, and environmental democracy. Drawing on insights from political theory and political sociology, it is shown what is democratic in energy democracy.

Referencing the question of experts and democratic publics in complex technological areas, the paper explains why it is desirable for energy governance to be more democratic. To show what is unique in ‘energy democracy’ beyond increased participation in energy policy, the prosumer is introduced as the ideal-typical citizen, highlighting the importance of the energy transition, the agency of material structures and a new emergent governmentality.

‘Energy democracy’ is conceptualized as an analytical and decision-making tool, defined along three dimensions: popular sovereignty, participatory governance and civic ownership, and operationalized with relevant indicators.

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Published Nov. 3, 2017 12:40 PM - Last modified Nov. 3, 2017 12:40 PM