MASTER'S PROJECT: Building Energy Democracy into City Commitments to 100% Renewable Energy

Start Date: 
Jan 1, 2019
End Date: 
Apr 30, 2020
Collaborator: 
Institute for Local Self-Reliance Energy Democracy Program
Summary: 

There are a number of U.S. cities making and implementing ambitious commitments to transition to 100% renewable energy; however, many of them are unsure of how to meet their commitments. This research aims to understand the mechanisms cities are using to achieve their goals while implementing and maintaining energy democracy. In this practice, energy democracy implies an energy system in which decisions are made by the users of energy. This concept is explored at the intersection of eight mechanisms identified as potentially significant levers in the success of achieving municipal energy goals. A national survey was created to assess the relevance and functionality of each mechanism alongside energy democracy within city plans and actions. Three case studies were completed to supplement the survey data and gain in depth insight into goals, efforts, progress, and elicit advice from cities with formal commitments.

Early results found that key drivers for the 100% renewable energy commitments are concern for climate change, concern for the local environment, and potential for financial savings. The top barriers to achieving these goals were identified as a lack of funding, support from the utility, and expertise. To engage the community in energy policy-making, cities use a variety of methods, such as meeting with representatives from the community, elected officials, workshops, and social media. Ultimately, this research aims to provide tangible and practical guidance to cities with established commitments, or those seeking to make one, while incorporating and maintaining an equitable and accessible energy transition.