This blog has been written in the context of the Course Engaging Society in Spatial Transformations, part of the Master Society, Sustainability and Spatial Transformation, at the University of Groningen.
The most significant human activity contributing to climate change, according to the IPCC 2018, is the use of fossil fuels for energy. Despite countries’ support for the Paris Climate Agreement and its goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, more actions should be taken. This will necessitate massive efforts in the energy transition from fossil fuels to more sustainable options in the coming decades.
Citizens’ participation is critical in all nations’ efforts to promote energy transition. Citizens play an essential role by adopting more sustainable practices and actively participating in decisions about using renewable energy sources. Because of the growing importance of citizen participation in the energy transition, the term “energy citizenship” has emerged. Energy citizenship is a concept in which people take action on energy issues in response to the centralized system with a lack of citizen participation. This blog aims to shed some light on how to achieve the energy transition and the role of citizens in the process.
Promote energy efficiency and conservation
Energy efficiency and conservation have always been critical components of energy transition discussions. Government intervention in reducing demand, such as promoting low-energy appliance standards, can be a cost-effective way of addressing these concerns to promote energy efficiency and conservation. Furthermore, behavioral interventions are required to encourage more energy-efficient choices. Promoting energy efficiency and conservation has several advantages, including eliminating energy waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Aside from the environmental benefits, promoting energy efficiency and conservation would have more economic benefits and help countries meet their rising energy demands.
Subsidize renewable energy
Energy subsidies have been critical policies for many countries. Subsidies also offset market faults such as price disparities with fossil fuels when environmental costs are not considered. Series of government subsidies for renewable energy can be in the form of tax incentives, feed-in tariffs for renewable energy, and low-interest (or even free-interest) loans, especially for SMEs who want to shift to renewable energy.
Translate global climate change tarhets into local policies
The Paris Agreement, as the first legally binding international climate agreement must be translated into more achievable targets for every country through national policies and local climate change actions. In this way, each country can develop national policies that are contextualized for their region.
Encourage investment in renewable energy
Investments in low-carbon energy exceeded $1.1 trillion in 2022, with the UN[i] expecting it to reach $4 trillion by 2030. Investments could stimulate new development and innovation, including clean coal technologies, carbon emission reduction technologies, carbon capture, and storage technologies. It may assist other developing countries with their energy transitions. To take advantage of available resources, multilateral development banks and other public and private financial institutions worldwide must realign their loan portfolios to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.
Promote a place-based approach
The energy transition requires a place-based approach, supporting collaboration and thriving communities in specific geographic regions, should also be considered in the energy transition. Effective place-based governance can enable communities to make meaningful, locally desired changes in the energy transition. Energy initiatives in Europe have developed different place-based ways to deal with the energy transition.
What can citizens do?
Demand for less centralized and more participatory energy production becomes more and more significantly in Europe. Citizens don’t just want to be consumers. Thus, the term “prosumers” is becoming more popular in relation to energy transition discussion. Prosumers actively participate in the energy market as consumers and producers of energy. They can participate in various energy market sectors, including electricity, transportation, heating, and storage. Prosumerism can result in collective action, by forming a local energy cooperative.
Energy cooperatives are an excellent way for communities to get involved in the renewable energy transition and demonstrate their dedication to sustainability. It raises people’s awareness of energy efficiency and conservation, provides economic benefits through savings and dividend payments, and creates job opportunities. Citizens’ participation in local energy cooperatives is critical to ensuring the viability of these programs as renewable energy sources become increasingly important.
Citizens’ can also engage in policy processes and decision-making. Policy-makers can include citizens via information sharing, consultation, collaboration, and joint decision-making. This can increase public trust in the energy transition process, leading to increased participation and responsibility.