Local Power: Territorial Governance and the Citizen Energy Transition

Mémoire de Timothy Marcroft.

To be sustainable, the energy transition must be locally anchored, non-speculative, democratic, and ecological. That is the mission of the Citizen Energy Movement. This memoire explores how the many projects in that movement relate to the networks of proximities they emerge from, and how Citizen Energy might be a new form of territorial governance.

The transition towards renewable energy is transforming the relationships between territories, their citizens, and the energy system. These territories, multifaceted systems of constantly evolving relationships of proximity, are increasingly where conflict and cooperation over the nature of this transition take place. Rooted in 37 semi-directive interviews and deep documentary research, this memoire investigates the interplay between territory and energy governance in France, focusing on the Citizen Energy movement. This movement of cooperatives, associations, and social businesses seeks to democratize and reterritorialize the transition. Whether instigated by public actors, citizens, or partnerships between the two, these organizations are shaped by their territory, and shape that territory in turn as they emerge and grow. A novel framework is proposed for understanding the integration of citizen energy into territorial governance. Studying this process requires a detailed and wide-ranging knowledge of the substrates out of which these projects emerge. Using a new scoring system, an analysis of a specific territory (Mond’Arverne Communauté) reveals both strengths that a project can grow out of and weaknesses that could limit its impact. At its most ambitious, Citizen Energy can be a new approach to governance of renewable energy development, one in which the inhabitants and local public actors retake control of their own transition to make it both by and for the territory.