Exploring the Role of Community Energy Companies in the Quest for ‘Energy Justice’

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Carnegie Room (University of Glasgow)
Severine Saintier , University of Exeter
Following the rise of renewable energy sources (RES), regulation in the UK and European energy sector is no longer the preserve of either the state or the market. The UK and the EU appear to welcome such a vision of citizens and local actors regulating where the state retreats . Yet, the regulatory dimension, at both levels, is not adapted to this multi-actor market, which creates two specific problems. First, the regulatory gap in the governance of decentralised RES production by citizens, market and government actors fail to empower the ‘prosumer’. Second, on the consumption level, ‘services of economic general interest’ are formally recognised in the Treaty of Amsterdam , and access to such services is protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights . However, as the (Europe-wide) rise in energy poverty highlights, vulnerable citizens are not adequately protected either . Given the shared responsibility of the EU and the Member States in this field, a coherent solution throughout the sector must be found not only to empower ‘prosumers’ but also to achieve ‘energy justice’. The rise in the UK of Community Interest Companies (consumers and local actors’ collectives) in the energy sector provides an interesting perspective: by providing a link between consumption and production, they allow a whole systems’ view . It is the aim of this paper to assess whether this exemplar of ‘the rise of a social sphere in regulation’  could be used as a model for a more social approach to the governance of economic relations.