Energy

Energy policy

Today, government policies almost everywhere promote centralized energy systems – whether based on fossil-fuels, nuclear, or large-scale renewables – that keep economic power in the hands of huge corporations. Shifting those policies to support reduced consumption along with smaller-scale, more localized, and community-controlled energy systems would be tremendously beneficial for both people and planet.

Energy policy Actions
Policy action: Advocate for energy democracy.
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Policy action: Advocate for energy democracy.

Energy democracy refers to the movement to bring the energy system under local control as a public good rather than an instrument for corporate profit. As the policy think tank Demos defines it, energy democracy involves seeing energy as "a resource to be created and owned by those who utilize it, in the service of healthy, sustainable living and environmental protection." This section links to resources and examples to help you democratize the energy system in your community.

Take action

Get inspired

  • New Energy Economy in New Mexico, US takes a multi-pronged approach to energy sovereignty including campaigning against fossil fuels, advocating for renewable energy policies, and installing community energy systems throughout the state. 
  • The members of Unión de Cooperativas Tosepan in Cuetzalan, Mexico have rejected big energy projects like hydroelectric dams and high-voltage transmission lines in favor of home-scale electricity systems. 
  • Residents of Hamburg, Germany decided in a 2013 campaign called Our Hamburg, Our Grid that their local electric utility should be run as a public service, rather than as a source of corporate profits. In an historic referendum, they voted to reclaim local control and ownership of their power system from the Swedish energy giant, Vattenfall, enabling the City to undertake a more ambitious transition towards local renewable energy.
  • See many more inspiring examples in the Local Energy section of Local Futures' Planet Local library of alternatives.

Policy action: Advocate for energy democracy.

Energy democracy refers to the movement to bring the energy system under local control as a public good rather than an instrument for corporate profit. As the policy think tank Demos defines it, energy democracy involves seeing energy as "a resource to be created and owned by those who utilize it, in the service of healthy, sustainable living and environmental protection." This section links to resources and examples to help you democratize the energy system in your community.

Take action

Get inspired

  • New Energy Economy in New Mexico, US takes a multi-pronged approach to energy sovereignty including campaigning against fossil fuels, advocating for renewable energy policies, and installing community energy systems throughout the state. 
  • The members of Unión de Cooperativas Tosepan in Cuetzalan, Mexico have rejected big energy projects like hydroelectric dams and high-voltage transmission lines in favor of home-scale electricity systems. 
  • Residents of Hamburg, Germany decided in a 2013 campaign called Our Hamburg, Our Grid that their local electric utility should be run as a public service, rather than as a source of corporate profits. In an historic referendum, they voted to reclaim local control and ownership of their power system from the Swedish energy giant, Vattenfall, enabling the City to undertake a more ambitious transition towards local renewable energy.
  • See many more inspiring examples in the Local Energy section of Local Futures' Planet Local library of alternatives.
Policy action: Advocate for a shift in energy subsidies.
Expand Action
Policy action: Advocate for a shift in energy subsidies.

From nuclear and coal-fired power stations to big dams, large-scale centralized energy projects are heavily subsidized, and their environmental costs largely ignored. The necessary downscaling of energy use and the transition to decentralized, community renewables will require shifting these subsidies and policies, taking on the powerful vested interests of the corporate-controlled energy system.

Take action

  • Spread the word about how most countries subsidize energy and technology, while putting heavy taxes on human labor. These perverse priorities support job-destroying robots and AI, and lead us to use ever more energy and emit ever more greenhouse gases. Encourage policymakers to shift direction, giving support to small/local/ecological instead of large/global/environmentally destructive.
  • Even with the climate emergency worsening, fossil fuel companies are still being subsidized at the rate of $5 trillion per year, or 6.5% of global GDP. To see how the US government subsidizes fossil fuels, download this factsheet from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). And sign Friends of the Earth's petition Stop Bailing Out Big Oil to put a end to those subsidies.
  • The problem isn't limited to the US. Two reports by Oil Change International, Empty Promises and Talk is Cheap, reveal that the governments of the G20 nations spend $444 billion per year propping up oil, gas, and coal production, with devastating impacts on climate.

Policy action: Advocate for a shift in energy subsidies.

From nuclear and coal-fired power stations to big dams, large-scale centralized energy projects are heavily subsidized, and their environmental costs largely ignored. The necessary downscaling of energy use and the transition to decentralized, community renewables will require shifting these subsidies and policies, taking on the powerful vested interests of the corporate-controlled energy system.

Take action

  • Spread the word about how most countries subsidize energy and technology, while putting heavy taxes on human labor. These perverse priorities support job-destroying robots and AI, and lead us to use ever more energy and emit ever more greenhouse gases. Encourage policymakers to shift direction, giving support to small/local/ecological instead of large/global/environmentally destructive.
  • Even with the climate emergency worsening, fossil fuel companies are still being subsidized at the rate of $5 trillion per year, or 6.5% of global GDP. To see how the US government subsidizes fossil fuels, download this factsheet from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). And sign Friends of the Earth's petition Stop Bailing Out Big Oil to put a end to those subsidies.
  • The problem isn't limited to the US. Two reports by Oil Change International, Empty Promises and Talk is Cheap, reveal that the governments of the G20 nations spend $444 billion per year propping up oil, gas, and coal production, with devastating impacts on climate.
Voices from the field

Policy

Shifting from investor-owned utilities and fossil-fuel-based energy systems to locally controlled, decentralized, downscaled renewable systems will require fundamental reorientation of energy policy priorities: overhauling subsidies and incentives; legalizing community-run energy systems and enabling energy democracy; constraining the power of energy monopolies; and much more. The actions in this section focus in on some of the key policy changes needed to realize democratic, localized energy systems.

Resources

  • Community Energy: A Guide to Community-Based Renewable-Energy Projects, by Gordon Cowtan, is a UK-focused "resource for anyone thinking of embarking on a community renewables project as well being a useful source of information for people in the renewables industry and policy makers at all levels of government."
  • Energy Democracy: Advancing Equity in Clean Energy Solutions, a volume edited by Denise Fairchild and Al Weinrub, defines energy democracy as a way for communities to "take control of energy resources from the energy establishment and use those resources to empower their communities", and showcases inspiring examples of this movement in action.
  • Greg Pahl's book, Power from the People explores how "homeowners, co-ops, nonprofit institutions, governments, and businesses are putting power in the hands of local communities through distributed energy programs and energy-efficiency measures", and how they can "plan, organize, finance, and launch community-scale energy projects."