Renewable energy communities as ‘socio-legal institutions’: A normative frame for energy decentralization?

Michiel A. Heldeweg*, Saintier Séverine Saintier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)
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Although the need for energy decentralization and energy democratization has been discussed in the realms of academe for some time, the impact at policy level is yet to be seen. This is however with the notable exception, at the European level, of the Recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED-II) which aims in part to stimulate the formation of ‘renewable energy communities’ in all the Member States. The implementation at policy level remains with Member States where national policies are still overwhelmingly centralised. This creates barriers to the decentralization and democratization of energy and, ultimately, to achieving a ‘just transition’. This article therefore proposes as a way forward to recognise such renewable energy communities as legal entities to be embedded within a separate socio-legal institution (of civil energy networks), to shape (a transition towards) a just new energy system. After explaining what form this new institutional environment and the communities within would take, this article analyses this proposition in the light of the twin aims of energy decentralization and democratization to see how such forms can help achieve energy justice. It is also explained why this can only work upon an institutionally normative alignment. Following an appreciation in the light of growing research of such forms in the Netherlands, the UK and further afield, there seems to be a strong case for the proposed model. Still, realization requires clear purposive legislative steps. Such steps can only lead to ‘on the ground’ success with a coherent and multi-disciplinary institutional perspective. We aim for our research to provide a platform for such efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109518
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Early online date9 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Civil energy networks
  • Decentralization
  • Energy democratization
  • Energy justice
  • Governance
  • Normative framework
  • Renewable energy communities
  • Socio-legal institutions


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