Heather's cover image

Heather Smith

Year of Award: 2015 Award State: South Australia Environment > Energy And Resources
Policy > Governance
To identify robust governance structures in community energy schemes - Japan, Germany, Denmark, UK, USA

Community energy serves as a provocation to our traditional systems for delivering energy, particularly electricity, to our citizens and businesses. An energy transition is already underway globally and when compared to transport and food (other key systems that we need to see transformed in order to tackle climate change), the transition of our electricity systems is the most far progressed.

This Fellowship allowed me to study the energy transition in different countries through the lens of community energy. I took a broad definition of “community” and investigated a wide variety of business models, activism and programs that are seeking to empower ordinary citizens.

It has been truly inspiring to be reminded of how many people around the globe are, like me, working to tackle climate change and to use our energy transition as a lever for better places and stronger communities.

My initial insights from this experience are:

1. Every place will have its own unique energy solutions – we need to do the work of understanding ours.
2. Utilities and Governments ignore citizen requests for more renewable energy and local energy at their peril.
3. The energy transition needs disruptive influences such as technology and community energy.
4. The system also needs ‘middle spaces’ where actors across the energy landscape can work together toward understanding and designing changes for the energy system.
5. Community energy builds political support and is our best chance of changing the goals of the system – a key step in changing the energy system paradigm.
6. Incorporating smart grid and demand management technology still holds great promise but needs more work. 

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