What is energy democracy? Broadly, energy democracy means that ‘the people’ have power over how our energy system works. This includes users of energy and people working in the energy industry. The term energy democracy is being used by many different groups, including climate campaigners, community energy activists and trade unions.
Energy democracy is one part of ‘economic democracy’ – a vision for a future where ordinary people to have a say in how our economy works. Participation includes:
- Having a voice in decision-making processes (voting, lobbying, discussions)
- Contributing to visions, ideas, stories and research
- Building and maintaining the energy system – practical work and skills
- Innovation of new processes, organisations and technologies
- Access to energy resources, participation in consumption and use
For people using the term energy democracy, it goes beyond just having a say in how our energy system works, and includes three main issues:
- People having a say in how our energy is produced and consumed
- Shifting our energy system to be environmentally sustainable
- Ensuring that everyone has access to energy to meet their needs
Who is talking about energy democracy?
Mostly organisations in the Global North or internationally – various places in the USA, Germany, Australia, the UK and global/international organisations based in Europe or the USA.
Several organisations have given definitions of energy democracy. Here are a few:
“Energy democracy means that everybody is ensured access to sufficient energy. Energy production must thereby neither pollute the environment nor harm people. More concretely, this means that fossil fuel resources must be left in the ground, the means of production need to be socialised and democratised, and that we must rethink our overall attitude towards energy consumption”German Climate Camp 2012
“Energy democracy is a way to frame the struggle of working people, low-income communities, and communities of color to take control of energy resources from the corporate energy establishment and use those resources to empower their communities. It means a decentralized energy system, one characterized by social and community-based control and ownership of energy resources. Democratizing energy is a central aspect of just transition from a fossil-fuel economy to a new renewable energy economy grounded in economic and social justice.” – Renewable Communities Alliance, Colorado USA
“A trade union approach to energy democracy can be built around three broad and strategic objectives, namely the need to resist the dominant agenda of the large energy corporations and their allies; the need to reclaim to the public sphere parts of the energy economy that have been privatized or marketized; and the need to restructure the global energy system in order to massively scale up renewable and low–carbon energy, aggressively implement energy conservation, ensure job–creation and local wealth creation, and assert community and democratic control over the energy sector.” – Trade Unions for Energy Democracy
The Next System Project
“Energy democracy seeks to shift this balance of power in more ways than one. It seeks to build an energy future based on democratically governed, community-controlled renewable energy. Rooted in climate justice, it aims to distribute ownership and control to all—particularly those most subjugated by our current economic system—so that the next energy system provides affordable, clean energy for all that builds up the power of communities instead of polluting or profiting off of them. “