Community energy as institutional innovation : rules, discourses and grassroots agency

Genus, Audley and Iskandarova, Marfuga (2016) Community energy as institutional innovation : rules, discourses and grassroots agency. In: Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) 50th Anniversary Conference: Transforming Innovation; 07 - 09 Sep 2016, Brighton, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Community renewable energy promises to reduce reliance on high carbon sources of power. In the UK community renewable energy generation remains marginal, arguably undermined by changing government policies but also possibly by institutional factors which are not usually recognised. Recent contributions have identified perspectives which appear to explain the influence of policy on ‘grassroots’, including community, initiatives, such as strategic niche management and niche policy advocacy, pointing the way towards the adoption of a critical niche perspective of bottom-up transformation of energy systems. However, there is another perspective to be considered, which has thus far been somewhat neglected or under-developed. The paper advances a discourse-institutional perspective on the basis of which empirical data is analysed from interviews with actors connected with community renewable energy in England/UK. The paper concludes that a discourse-institutional perspective has the capacity to shed light on the transformative potential of community renewable energy. It is argued that such an approach helps to identify the structural and relational features of the community renewable energy field. It also helps to understand how new institutional rules, organisational forms and energy generation practices may be created and legitimised (or not). By adopting and advancing such an approach the study contributes a fresh perspective on the policy and other challenges and growth of community renewable energy and their contribution to societal transformation.

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