Cultivating Resilience: Exploring the Synergy of De-growth and Energy Communities

It has been a hot minute since experts began to question the sustainability of our current energy system. It became increasingly obvious that continuing business as usual in the energy sector leads to environmental and social exploitation as well as inequality. In short- it still opposes the basic principles of de-growth. Energy communities (EC) and renewable energy initiatives have the power to combat that through more sustainable and localised efforts. In this article we focus on how this is possible. We also ask what the exact relationship between de-growth and energy communities is. 

What is de-growth?

In today’s world, the idea of growth and development is usually connotated with financial growth and increased output at all costs. This is the concept which is criticised by the idea of de-growth. De-growth focuses on ecological, but more importantly social well-being. Namely, to transform societies to ensure environmental justice. Due to recent geopolitical events, the fragility of our current energy system and the industry’s dependence on the current status quo, experts have realized that we need to dramatically cut down on emissions across all sectors and prioritize equity, inclusion and environmental justice. 

De-growth and citizen empowerment.

However, this discourse is now also reaching the general public. Citizens are becoming concerned with the current energy crisis. We hold governments accountable for providing access to energy in a just and democratic way. Some realize that this pathway, of putting all the responsibility on one organ and waiting for results, is futile. Many start to understand the empowering benefits of activist movements. These movements introduce the concept of a decentralized, but also autonomous and renewable energy production; energy communities. 

Working together?

The TANDEMS project encourages this citizen-led form of energy production. On the other hand, we realize the need for collaboration in order to achieve the sustainable goals of the de-growth movement. TANDEMS focuses on the cooperation between  municipalities, energy communities and citizens. A just energy system can be created only through consensus from decision-makers and citizens. This allows to establish a new and sustainable energy system, based on policies, targeted actions, equipment and independence. One of TANDEMS partners, ZuidtrAnt is a great example of how this collaboration is possible. They work together with multiple municipalities in order to meet the objectives of LEKP (Local Energy and Climate Pact). In Schoten, one of cooperating municipality, ZuidtrAnt offers information sessions, renovation guidance and shared renewable energy opportunities. The EC also helps to install solar panels, motivates citizens to invest in energy communities and organises intensive renovation programmes for whole neighbourhoods. 

The road to a strong, resilient and just energy system, led by citizens and supported by governments, which focuses on cultivating social and environmental well-being is a very long and complex one. It will take much more work, mutual understanding and changing of the current trends or ways of thinking in order to achieve this ideal scenario. Nevertheless the efforts that are being put by energy communities are very viable and give us glimpses to what the future can look like.