Putting the power back in empowerment: stakeholder perspectives on community empowerment in energy transformations

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Energy systems are rapidly transforming towards sustainability, involving significant realignments in social, economic and political systems. New actors such as communities are seeking empowerment to engage in transformations. A range of actors has applied the concept of empowerment in energy transformations to signify different ideas for how communities can engage with energy. As such, its meaning is shaped by ambiguities, uncertainties and contestations. Traditionally, a neoliberal discourse has framed empowerment in energy, resulting in a hollowing of the term and questions around what it means, to whom and in which contexts. This paper contributes to this debate by unpacking empowerment in energy transformations in the context of community energy initiatives. Building on interviews and multicriteria mapping techniques, this paper concludes that all energy stakeholders prefer the strongest options for empowerment. However, empowerment is a co-produced phenomenon revealing a role for all stakeholders in its cultivation. Embracing diverse understandings of empowerment has implications for how governance can facilitate community empowerment in energy transformations.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • community empowerment
  • community energy
  • energy governance
  • energy transformation
  • multicriteria mapping
  • participation

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