What is meant by the democratisation of energy?

democratisation of energy - energy farm

Climate change is progressing, and our continued reliance on fossil fuels is not helping us on our journey to a green, just transition. In a lot of ways, our politics are the problem. There is increased consensus that significant social changes as part of a robust sustainability strategy are vital for fighting climate change. It begs the question, what exactly does an environmentally-friendly political structure look like? The democratisation of energy is one of the concepts being put forward as it combines the need to transition to clean energy with a political system that is embedded in individual rights and freedom. 

Continue reading to learn more about what energy democracy means and how it can help us secure a just transition. 

What does the democratisation of energy mean?

The Climate Justice Alliance describes an energy democracy as representing a shift from the centralised, corporate fossil fuel economy to one that is governed by communities. In other words, it is a democracy that is designed based on the principle of causing zero harm to the planet, contributing to the well-being and health of all individuals living on the planet, and supporting local economies to thrive. 

With this in mind, an energy democracy refers to decentralised decisions and the expansion of decision-making. It connects the transition to renewable energy with the process of democratisation. The democratisation of energy focuses on the fair distribution and social benefits of renewable energy sources and not on the economic advantages of them. There are several basic principles behind an energy democracy and they can be translated into numerous actions.

For instance, replacing fossil fuels with sustainable, local, and renewable sources of energy. In addition, ensuring universal access to clean and affordable energy so that everyone has the opportunity to use renewable energy. Additionally, driving for a just transition which comprises the restructuring of the energy system. In other words, restructuring it so that it benefits the people in our society. 

What does an energy democracy mean for society?

Energy democracy is a multi-faceted concept that aims to transform societies by democratising the way in which power is consumed and produced. The movement combines the necessary transition to renewable energies that contribute to a safer planet with the social struggle for a more inclusive and democratic society. With this in mind, an energy democracy addresses our reliance on fossil fuels and the detrimental impacts they have on the planet. 

Additionally, energy democracy is closely interlinked with the concept of community energy which involves ownership and participation of the local population in the energy system. The current energy system is largely controlled by corporations and acts on the economic interests of a few, generally not considering the safety and needs of members of society. Ideally, under an energy democracy, the local population determines the type of energy they would like to create and in what way they want to distribute it. 

Summary

An energy democracy could be the key to us achieving a just energy transition, which leaves no communities, people, regions, or economic sectors behind as we move to a low-carbon future. Transitioning should not solely focus on emissions but on how we can better improve our economy and society.

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