Energy and Land

Energy relies on land, and as we stop relying on buried sunshine and move to current solar flows, this will become increasingly the case. The images below show two examples of how energy use from land could be organised, in a schematic way. David MacKay puts energy land uses onto an image of the UK. CONTINUE READING

Transactions and market mechanisms

The costs of the energy system are connected indirectly with the income to the energy system through market mechanisms. Were the ‘money in’ attempts to stick to income to the system, and ‘money out’ attempts to stick to the final payments and costs to the system as a whole, this chapter attempts to trace the CONTINUE READING

Money out – Cost structure

This section addresses what needs to be paid for in running the energy system – where the money goes out of the energy system. The way money flows between parties within the energy system is discussed here.  Main costs include: Generation of electricity Power station construction Operation and maintenance Fuel Purchasing of other energy  Import CONTINUE READING

Money In – Income Structure

Money goes into the energy system primarily through consumers paying their bills. This section therefore begins with examining how these bills are structured, and how pricing is set. Dissecting the energy bills The price of energy Domestic Most domestic electricity and gas tariffs are in two parts: A simple cost of energy that is a CONTINUE READING


Many people have helped this project in so many ways. Jen Ren and Liz Snook did a whole lot more illustration and design work than we had funds to pay for, and really cared about the project and what it was all about. Thanks Liz for the gorgeous illustrations, and Jen for being part of CONTINUE READING

Worldviews, values and framings

QUESTIONS: What are the political issues influencing the past, current and future of the energy system? What political ideologies underpin different approaches to the system? This section explores some of the political ideologies and approaches to the energy system, and discusses some of the values, worldviews and framing that are behind this guide. Mainstream and CONTINUE READING

Governance and decision making

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY: How different can the rules of the energy system be?  What rules currently govern the technical management, ownership and value flows in the system?  How did it come to be this way? Who has the power to change the rules and how? Governance of the energy system is defined as ‘the CONTINUE READING

Money Flows

QUESTIONS: Where does money and value flow in the energy system? What needs to be paid for? How is this changing? How could this be done differently? How is the energy system financed? Who profits? In the 2015 general election, Ed Miliband promised to freeze energy bills. This may have been a vote-winner, but from CONTINUE READING

Organisations and ownership

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY:  Who owns the GB energy system? Why does ownership matter? What alternative forms of ownership are being developed and proposed? How can changes in ownership be achieved? Before going into detail on how the energy system is currently owned and could be owned, let’s think a bit more about what ownership CONTINUE READING

Energy storage and transportation infrastructure

Energy storage and transportation infrastructure Questions for energy democracy: How do we get energy from where it is available when it is available to where it is needed when it is needed?  The GB energy system currently includes several energy transport infrastructures: gas and electricity networks, road networks for transporting liquid heating and transport fuels, CONTINUE READING

Energy capture infrastructure

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY: Where do we get energy from, and how? What are the social and environmental implications of this? This section discusses: Primary energy The meaning of renewable and sustainable energy Technical considerations for energy generation Technologies for moving, storing  and using energy are discussed in their own sections. Primary energy All of CONTINUE READING

Energy consumption infrastructure

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY: How do we use energy, what for, in what form, and when?  Why do we use it? Energy has an important social value, for directly and indirectly meeting our needs, and as one of the underlying sources of value in the economy.  Energy is used to provide energy services – e.g. CONTINUE READING

Physical infrastructure

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY: What physical energy infrastructure do we already have in GB? How does it work? How is it changing? What are the benefits and problems of our legacy infrastructure, as we integrate new technologies? What changes and what use of our historic legacy would be most beneficial for energy democracy? The GB CONTINUE READING

The physics of electricity

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY: What are the characteristics of electricity systems which every energy system will need to take into account?  Electricity is particularly important for a sustainable energy system, in fact sometimes when people say energy they are actually talking only about electricity. Electricity is very versatile, and renewable energy resources typically produce electricity CONTINUE READING

The physics of energy

QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY DEMOCRACY: What are the physical realities that any energy system needs to deal with, regardless of how we organise its rules, ownership, and goals? This guide aims to help us to re-imagine how our energy systems could be organised. To do that, we need to understand what is and isn’t changeable, starting CONTINUE READING

Social value of energy

In the past 200 years, energy provided by centralised infrastructure in a highly ‘processed’ form has gone from being a luxury to a necessity in GB. We expect to get gas piped directly to our homes, electricity at the flick of a switch, petrol at the pump. This has replaced traditional fuels such as wood, CONTINUE READING


Now is a crucial time for citizens to get involved in shaping the future of the GB energy system. Our current system is highly dependent on fossil fuels, leading to climate change and other negative social and environmental impacts.  However, new technologies for energy systems have been developed since the 1970s in response to climate CONTINUE READING