Grassroots Action and the Politics of Energy Governance in Scotland

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Social and Political Science

Abstract

Does grassroots action influence the way we generate and use energy in our communities? This research project will analyse local and community grassroots groups in Scotland to assess whether they have an impact on community energy use and political decision making on energy policy. Four key questions will guide our research: (i) What are the key characteristics of these grassroots groups and what form do they take? (ii) Do these grassroots groups act at arm's length from more conventional political processes, or does their action involve close and direct engagement with government, NGOs and industry within established energy policy networks? (iii) What impact have these groups had in changing energy use in their communities? For example, have households and communities reduced the amount of energy they use, installed better insulation in homes, schools and other buildings, or turned to renewable sources of energy as a result of the actions of the community groups? Has community action influenced the agenda and policies of local and regional government? (iv) Has the tight network of actors traditionally involved in making policy in the energy field (government, bureaucrats and those representatives of industry and NGOs with the ear of government) been forced to open up to accommodate community actors as a result of grassroots activism? Our geographical focus is Scotland. This fills a gap left by existing studies, which have mainly focused on community activism in England and Wales. It also allows us to study the interaction between local communities and other energy actors within an established political system. Regional institutions and policy communities are much more firmly embedded in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. The Scottish government is also a leader in setting targets to combat climate change and generate more energy from renewable sources. Establishing the importance and relative success of grassroots community initiatives in Scotland (have they changed energy use? have they influenced government and industry policy?) can provide valuable insights for other parts of the UK. Carrying out our study will involve 4 tasks: (i) We will compile a database of all known current groups in Scotland involved in action to reduce energy use and promote renewable energy. This database will include information on the groups' location, size and resources, key objectives, main activities, and relationship with government and industry. (ii) Use our database to classify grassroots groups according to their key characteristics. (iii) Examine the data to identify which factors appear to matter most in determining the impact of these groups. (iv) Conduct an in-depth study of 6 cases to provide answers to the key questions listed above. Two of these case studies will be in central Scotland and the remaining four in other parts of the country. The cases will vary with respect to their size, resources, objectives and independence from government. We expect the impact of grassroots activism and its effect on established policy-making communities to vary depending on several factors, including the extent of the groups' interaction with established policy actors in government, industry and NGOs. We are confident our findings can be used to provide insights for emerging systems of local and regional energy governance in the rest of the UK and beyond.

Publications


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Bomberg E (2012) Mobilizing community energy in Energy Policy

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Mcewen N (2013) Sub-state Climate Pioneers: The Case of Scotland in Regional & Federal Studies

 
Description Our study outlined the key barriers to community energy projects (which are not just financial as was often assumed, but more often lack of political and technical support). We also highlighted that the success of community energy projects depend mightily on 'buy-in' of the community
Exploitation Route We expect these findings to inform future government and academic discussions on the role of community energy projects
Sectors Energy,Environment
URL http://www.institute-of-governance.org/major_projects/ukerc_-_engage_scotland
 
Description Yes, they were used in workshop on Community Energy held in Edinburgh in 2013
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Energy
Impact Types Societal