ENCLUDE at the 21st Annual STS Conference Graz 2023
Our partners, Vanja Djinlev and Malgorzata Matowska will attend and present ENCLUDE at the 21st Annual STS Conference Graz 2023 on the 10th of May, 2023. The 21st Annual STS Conference Graz 2023 „Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies“ is the joint Annual Conference of the Science Technology and Society Unit of the Institute of Interactive Systems and Data Science of Graz University of Technology, the Inter-University Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture (IFZ) and the Institute for Advanced Studies of Science, Technology, and Society (IAS-STS).
Contributing factors of collective energy initiatives as action arenas for advancing energy practices and achieving positive social and environmental impacts
The role of citizens is increasingly being recognized as central to supporting the energy transition and decreasing environmental degradation, an issue exacerbated by the current challenges of rising energy prices and record-high fossil fuel industry profits. Instead of being passive consumers, citizens are utilizing the advancements in distributed energy technologies and are increasingly taking direct energy actions - from producing energy and more effectively managing their demand to forming energy communities and taking other forms of collective actions. Such collective actions geared towards energy not only hold the potential to speed up the energy transition, but they can also transform the energy system to achieve greater citizen participation and advance energy justice.
Considering the role of citizens and collective initiatives in supporting the energy transition, understanding the individual and collective factors that contribute to their emergence and consolidation is important for providing support from a policy perspective. As forms of collective energy initiatives (CEIs), energy communities (ECs) can be regarded as action arenas, since they include the interaction of individuals and groups to produce certain outcomes and impacts that are not only related to decentralized energy production but also to improving community ties and achieving positive environmental and social impacts. While environmental benefits can be easily conceptualized and measured, social impacts are harder to be accounted for, as a standardized social impact assessment approach for energy communities is missing. In order to provide a way of grasping the social impacts of energy communities, we combine several frameworks, theories, and concepts including but not limited to the energy cultures framework, the energy justice framework, the social capital theory along with the community empowerment, development, and resilience concepts.
To understand the factors that contribute to the emergence and consolidation of collective energy initiatives and to outline their environmental and social impacts, we survey more than 30 CEIs in 13 European countries as part of the H2020 ‘ENCLUDE – Energy Citizens for Inclusive Decarbonization’ project. The results show that individuals join CEIs to live more climate-friendly while the barriers they face in their CEIs are related to high fluctuations in the number of members, lack of technical knowledge, and lack of access to funding. In terms of the impacts, the majority of the survey respondents experienced social and environmental benefits since joining the CEIs, from increased access and uptake of renewable energy technologies to strengthened belongings and greater social support and empowerment in the community.