Innovations in Sustainable Consumption
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Innovations in Sustainable Consumption

New Economics, Socio-technical Transitions and Social Practices

Edited by Maurie J. Cohen, Halina Szejnwald Brown and Philip J. Vergragt

This timely volume recognizes that traditional policy approaches to reduce human impacts on the environment through technological change – for example, emphasizing resource efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources – are insufficient to meet the most pressing sustainability challenges of the twenty-first century. Instead, the editors and contributors argue that we must fundamentally reconfigure our lifestyles and social institutions if we are to make the transition toward a truly sustainable future.
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Chapter 7: Grassroots innovations for sustainable energy: exploring niche-development processes among community- energy initiatives

Sabine Hielscher, Gill Seyfang and Adrian Smith


Community-led sustainable energy projects have flourished lately in the UK. The most substantial research to date identified (in 2005) over 500 such initiatives (Walker et al., 2007). On the consumption side, community-energy demand projects are likely to be of a similar or larger order. In 2010, the UK government’s Low Carbon Community Challenge attracted more than 500 expressions of interest. It joins a portfolio of policies (local to European) to help community projects and nurture local support for wider processes of low carbon energy transition (for example, HM Government, 2009; NESTA, 2009). Policy initiatives such as this suggest that governments have an instrumental interest in community energy, to help facilitate additional, larger-scale sustainable energy transitions. However, the rationales of community-energy participants are often broader in scope, covering community-development objectives, as well as perceiving that community-based projects deliver energy savings and behavior changes that top-down policy instruments cannot achieve. These very different perspectives on the role and potential of community energy suggest that policy support is not unproblematic.

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