PRINCIPLES OF ENERGY DEMOCRACY

There is no singular understanding of the call for energy democracy. The term clearly evokes a desire for collective control over the energy sector, counterposed with the dominant neoliberal culture of marketisation, individualisation and corporate control. Energy democracy is concerned with shifting power over all aspects of the sector – from production to distribution and supply, from finance to technology and knowledge – to the energy users and workers. Movements deploying the concept of energy democracy also demand a socially just energy system, meaning universal access, fair prices and secure, unionised and well-paid jobs. They want an energy system that works in the public interest, with the profit motive giving way to social and environmental goals. And they seek a transition from high to low carbon energy sources, ultimately meaning a world powered entirely by renewable energy. We would like to suggest the following key principles for further exchanges and discussions.

RENEWABLE, SUSTAINABLE AND LOCAL ENERGY

Fossil fuel resources must be left in the ground. We want to make the energy mix as renewable as possible and, ultimately, a hundred per cent renewable. An ambitious transition to a low carbon society is our responsibility to limit further impacts of climate change for future generation. The (local) authorities must divest public funds from fossil fuels, and reinvest this money to fund the new renewable capacity. A local renewable energy system make energy conversion and local wealth creation possible.

PUBLIC AND SOCIAL OWNERSHIP

Current energy systems, dominated by big corporations, treat energy as a valuable commodity to make the maximum profits. Old-fashioned centralized state ownership may facilitate and invest in coal and nuclear plants. Meeting the needs of people and plant requires a completely different logic than market relations. New forms of municipal/public ownership and collective private ownership, often in the form of cooperatives, are emerging and have served the public interest. The means of production need to be socialised and democratised.

DEMOCRATIC CONTROL AND PARTICIPATION

In order to put communities’ needs first, citizens and workers should be empowered to have a greater participation in energy policy. Publicly and socially owned energy systems have a big potential to introduce democratic mechanisms. The board of directors of a municipal energy company can involve users and employees and make key decisions. Democratic mechanisms are diverse from open assemblies to a possibility to organize a binding referendum. Hundred per cent transparency in all operations is a precondition.