Rethinking community empowerment in the energy transformation: a critical review of the definitions, drivers and outcomes

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Empowering communities to engage with the energy transformation is vital to meet climate change mitigation and sustainable development goals. Communities have a key role to play in the energy transformation, through the uptake of new technologies and changing how they engage with energy. However, they remain marginalised limiting the broader benefits of meaningful participation such as energy democracy, energy justice and energy citizenship, which may be achieved through transformation. Addressing this problem requires an understanding of how to facilitate empowerment. Using a multidisciplinary approach, this paper synthesises the literature on community empowerment for sustainable transformations. It outlines a conceptualisation of empowerment through its definition, drivers and outcomes. Community empowerment in the energy transformation should be about the community's own goals and transformative action. This view of empowerment can be enabled through a variety of different drivers. Empowerment is identified as a multifaceted concept associated with a range of different outcomes such as participation, agency, autonomy and power-shift. Whilst the four outcomes identified in this review are typically described in isolation; we suggest that they are instead a scale wherein each step is a form of empowerment in its own right and yet represents an overall trajectory of empowerment. Facilitating community empowerment within the energy transformation requires a shift in both research and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101871
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Community energy
  • Empowerment
  • Energy democracy
  • Energy transformation
  • Sustainable transformation

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