Collective ownership in renewable energy and opportunities for sustainable degrowth
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Following the renaissance of energy generation from renewable sources around the globe, it was suggested that the shift from fossil to renewable energy could potentially counter the growth orientation of economic activity. In this line of argument, small-scale technology and decentralised ownership, in the field of energy and beyond, are commonly regarded as potential precursors of a sustainable degrowth society. However, these systemic and conceptual considerations have been rarely assessed empirically. This paper wishes to address this research gap. It presents the exploratory findings of an EU-wide survey conducted in 2013 and further discusses the conceptualisation of small-scale ownership structures in renewable energy as an alternative to the community energy concept. Secondly, the paper relates the debates on degrowth to small-scale renewable energy schemes and illustrates its argument with four case studies from Wales, Italy, Spain, and Germany. These cases represent different organisational forms, diverse spatial settings, and varying national policy contexts. In its observations, this paper draws on the concept of collective and politically motivated renewable energy projects (CPE). While still mainly found in niches across Europe and essentially linked to environmental and social movements, we argue that CPE can potentially become blueprints for a turn towards a degrowth practice that will foster the democratisation of renewable energy production.