In a climate changing world, two of the greatest challenges of environmental and social governance are those of transforming our energy systems and creating more adaptive and democratic institutions. The shortcomings of current energy governance policies and practices are particularly evident in the continued support for the centralised burning of fossil fuels, with significant implications for emissions and environmental degradation.
To date, research into energy governance has primarily focused on deliberative decision- and policy –making [1;2]. Participation-in-action and self-governance as an alternative governance strategy has been largely ignored. The result is that citizens are left feeling like “amateurs” who can play no other role than client in the civic process dominated by experts and the state .
In positioning participation-in-action as a more democratic form of governance and an emerging socially sustainable energy praxes, this paper reports on current research investigating a series of community energy projects in the UK. Informed by earlier work on barriers and incentives for community energy projects  and research into social enterprises, green citizenship and democracy [5;6], the key contribution of this paper is exploration of a new conceptual and methodological approach to community based energy governance centred on the notion of a systemic inquiry, which facilitates the development of governance activity models . Understood in terms of associative democracy , governance activity models can be used to explore the key activities of community energy governance. This enables participant reflection on how and why community energy governance processes differ from command and control hierarchical governance structures typically found in corporations and government agencies. The paper concludes with an analysis of the role of community energy actors in governance processes, the key opportunities and limitations for the suggested approach and the changes to government policies and institutions required to support community governance of energy systems.
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