Marie Claire Brisbois
The energy transition is increasingly high stakes, defined by the participation of new actors, and – above all – political. Renewable energy communities (RECs) are electricity system actors defined by local control and motivations beyond profit maximization. There has been much speculation about the potential impact of RECs on political systems, but little empirical investigation. This study examines (a) if RECs are shifting larger political power structures, (b) the mechanisms through which shifts are occurring, and (c) the implications of shifts for the future. It compares across the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Ontario, Canada. Findings reveal that political power is shifting but outright policy wins are rare. RECs are gaining capacity, building political coalitions and benefiting from changing norms. However, they are challenged by pressures from incumbents to maintain centralised ownership and control. Energy action, both sanctioned and subversive, is rescaling toward local levels. Implications for energy and social policies are significant.