New Economies and the Energy Sector

January 20, 2015

Key elements of new economies include:  

  1. Resourcefulness: Utilising unused resources, seeing opportunity in what was traditionally considered waste;
  2. Disruption: breaking down the old and creating better brighter solutions;
  3. Increased citizen engagement, participation and access. 

Energy sector and the collaborative economy

Decision-making in both public and private sectors has moved in recent years to ensure the inclusion of a variety of stakeholders. As Arnesteine said in her 1969 paper, ladders of citizen power “Citizen participation is citizen power”. This shift in attitudes towards citizen participation has been characterized as a rejection of the top-down policymaking approach: “Sustainable development cannot be imposed from above. It will not take root unless people across the country are actively engaged.”

Check out other posts in this series:

Mike Sandmel
Pallavi Roy
Alex Wood
Charles Montgomery
Todd Scaletta

Collaboratively owned and managed energy projects represent the highest rung of citizen control and an important stakeholder serving as the voice for citizen mandate. While the conventional system of energy provision usually involves highly centralised energy infrastructures with end of the line dependent consumers, locally and cooperatively owned facilities for energy production can constitute a substantially differing model of energy provision and distribution.

This empowers its members to become producers, and to not just be traditional consumers. Recently, liberalisation of energy markets as well as feed-in tariffs for electricity generated from renewable sources introduced in several countries has opened up new actor roles and markets accessible to citizen groups. With the possibility to sell their electricity to the grid as independent producers or even to act as utility companies selling directly to customers, collaboratively owned energy projects are becoming market actors in their own right.

As someone coming from India, energy has always been an issue of prime importance and concern. Millions of people still don’t have access to regular and assured supply of electricity and cheap assured supply is a frequent election campaign promise. Traditionally the burden of providing electricity and power supply is rested on the government, who has not been doing a great job of it. The idea of consumers owning their energy supply, having a say in the choice of energy source and management of facilities is quite liberating.

Cities and energy and new economies

New economies are exciting prospects for cities, to re-define and re-develop ourselves in the face of different challenges. Estimates suggest that hundreds of million people will be added to urban populations over the next 10 years, leading to major demands on resources, particularly energy. Thus, smart city designs equipped to handle the demands of increased urbanization need to be built. Energy security is of prime importance and plays a significant role in the urban landscape, as cities are heavily dependent on assured supply of energy for development. Energy sector, which has traditionally been highly controlled, has immense potential to be revolutionised through new economic practices.

New economic practices in the energy sector have the following potential impact on cities:

  1. Increasing the renewable energy sources in the energy mix thus reducing GHG emissions
  2. Moving towards an energy supply that is more assured yet not fossil fuel based
  3. Increasing citizen participation in energy planning and policies
  4. Creating more resilient cities and communities

Real wealth

Real wealth means the understanding that growth for the sake of it is undesirable and that a triple bottom line approach is more beneficial in the long run. Real wealth means not falling in the trap of consumerism and competition. On a personal level real wealth indicates the ability to have a fulfilling life, one with choices and the ability to make informed decisions.

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Pallavi Roy is a recent graduate from Ryerson University with a Masters in Environmental Applied Science and Management. She is currently working at CultureLink Settlement Services as a Metcalf Sustainability Intern. Her project aims to bring an environmental focus to settlement work, thus making the environmental movement more inclusive for newcomers, and the settlement sector greener. Pallavi is an environmental researcher and community activist with interests in sustainability, energy policy and community engagement. She is passionate about sustainability issues of urban life and is active in the community promoting adoption of sustainable lifestyle choices. Her previous work experience includes various not-for-profit organisations in Toronto, such as Jane’s Walk, Toronto Green Community, Foodshare, and The David Suzuki Foundation.

This blog is part of the ‘Voices of New Economies‘ series within Cities for People – an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need – ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.