Renewable energy communities as ‘socio-legal institutions’: A normative frame for energy decentralization?

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Contributed date

May 8, 2020 - 10:44pm

Critical Commentary

This paper introduces a framework for introducing community renewable energy (CRE) solutions as a "separate socio-legal institution" to better ensure that the post-energy transition landscape is one that prioritizes decentralization and democratization of energy. They incorporate principles of energy justice into the described "bottom-up" approach, attempting to tackle the outlined "equal footing" that the EU hopes for member states to bring towards CRE policy. Specifically, they cross-reference their framework with the UK and Netherlands' recent CRE initiatives, citing the differences in size & implementation in both locations. Whereas the Netherlands' efforts have been experimental but controlled by regulatory agencies, the UK's experiences have largely been unregulated & decentralized - which, as mentioned, is a primary tenet of energy justice. By viewing these two real-world examples and comparing their pitfalls & successes, the authors intend to provide a framework that allows for a robust community infrastructure that can be formally recognized while still allowing enough flexibility for potential adaptations or adjustments to the system if need be.


Amongst the different details and recommendations for successful CRE implementation provided in the article, they also give ample socio-political knowledge towards methods of governance, civil structures, institutional environments, and the factors that otherwise play into the introduction of these "socio-legal" institutions. Important point of note is the different ways in which these principles can be implemented or interpreted under the guise of energy justice - within different pre-existing community contexts, similar principles can be made evident in drastically different ways. Whereas the UK's experience in CRE is more guided towards a reduction in energy poverty, the Netherlands' experience has had its lens focused on the energy transition & general cost-saving for its communities. The intent of the policy changes will ultimately vary on the area of implementation and the way they've experienced energy, but by providing an adaptable framework the authors hope to incorporate CRE models that will promote energy justice while simultaneously tackling an area's unique energy prioritization.


Heldeweg, M. A., & Saintier, S. (2020). Renewable energy communities as ‘socio-legal institutions’: A normative frame for energy decentralization?. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews119, 109518.



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Cite as

Michiel A. Heldeweg and Séverine Saintier, "Renewable energy communities as ‘socio-legal institutions’: A normative frame for energy decentralization?", contributed by Cam LaPorte, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 8 May 2020, accessed 13 July 2024.‘socio-legal-institutions’-normative-frame-energy