The POWERSHIFTS project investigates the impact that decentralized renewable energy initiatives are having on existing policy decisions. The project focuses mainly on the ways that community and co-operative energy projects impact policy systems as they seek to integrate into existing electricity grids.

We are searching for answers to 3 key questions:

Are formal decision-making patterns in OECD countries shifting?

Co-operative- and community-owned renewable energy initiatives are becoming more effective policy actors as they build capacity to lobby and work to increase their market share. These new actors will likely impact existing decision-making patterns. This is something that has been highlighted by existing energy industries (for example, in these Shell scenarios), proponents of community energy (in this RECoop.eu primer), and many academics (this article is one example). It is important to know if shifts are actually happening because this may affect who has a say in defining energy and environmental policies.

If decision-making patterns are shifting, exactly how is that happening?

What do shifts in policy processes look like? For example, are co-operative energy groups working together to lobby? If so, how are these new lobby groups interacting with existing energy industry lobby groups? How are politicians responding? Answering these questions will help us to figure out if and how political systems are changing.

What does this mean for political systems and the policies that they produce?

What will be the consequences of these emerging dynamics? Will energy, climate and environmental policies change? In what ways? Asking these kinds of questions will help communities, existing energy industries, new energy actors, and policy makers plan for the future and ensure that the energy transition is as smooth as possible.

This project is supported by SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit) at the University of Sussex, and the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht 
University. It was initiated through an EU Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellowship – grant no. 751843

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