Writing in the late 1980s, Jon Fiske describes reality as “always encoded [and most especially] by the codes of our culture”. The energy transition is one of the latest sets of realities that comes with its own encoded messaging and nomenclatures. Citizens are increasingly expected to actively participate in the energy domain and play their part in transitioning to low-carbon energy systems. Terms like “energy citizen” have been used to describe (the accepted forms of) this participation, typically in quite prescriptive and rather limited roles, such as active consumer and prosumer. However, as with other manifestations of citizen-consumer ideals, where the framing is presented as the embodiment of freedom, the vagueness of such terms lock citizens out of what could potentially be a transformative conceptualization for transitioning to more equitable and empowering energy experiences. This chapter will examine how under-theorized and contested concepts like the “energy citizen” are already framing our collective experience(s) of the energy transition and asks for whom is the emerging energy system designed?
Achieving the European Union’s vision of climate neutrality by 2050 dictates the need to transform the role that citizens can play in decarbonizing the energy system. Yet, “which citizens to involve in this process,” “when to involve them,” and “how to do so fairly and effectively,” are questions that still remain unclear to both experts and policymakers. Energy citizenship has been discussed as a concept that has the potential to galvanize the public for the energy transition. This potential has yet to be fulfilled, as there is a need to connect theory and concepts to the realities, challenges, and opportunities of the lives of citizens, under diverse circumstances. In this perspective, we argue that the concept of energy citizenship and its potential for contributing to low carbon transitions should be studied within a research framework that aims to produce transformative knowledge. We also introduce such a new transdisciplinary framework for creating transformative knowledge to explore and address questions relevant to the concept of energy citizenship. Our framework aims to produce knowledge that can be used to mobilize decarbonization actions for both individuals and collectives, by: (i). integrating different scales of analysis and action, i.e., at individual, collective, and national/ regional/ global levels, (ii). reconceptualizing the role of research and researchers, and finally, (iii). striving to be inclusive in a meaningful and innovative way.
Citizens are expected to play a significant role to the current energy transition in Europe, such as through prosumerism and collective initiatives for energy efficiency. While there are many platforms for domestic energy analytics and for engaging citizens and transition stakeholders on energy topics, context-specific information is frequently lacking. This article outlines the development of an Interactive Policy Platform that aims to provide contextualized, impact-driven, and ready-to-use information on the role of citizen initiatives in the energy and low-carbon transition in Europe. Specifically, it will help researchers, policymakers, and citizens to explore different dimensions of energy citizenship, understand the decarbonization potentials of diverse clusters of citizens, and identify the conditions under which citizen-led energy initiatives are currently operating. The Platform will be co-designed together with a sample of its future users, ensuring the usability of its interface and the relevance of the provided information. Ultimately, the Platform is envisioned to help transition stakeholders understand and support initiatives related to energy citizenship around Europe, thus contributing to the EU’s promise of a just and inclusive decarbonization.