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Defining Energy Democracy

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Responsive Government Energy Environmental Justice Natural Resources Public Participation

Americans are experiencing two distinct social transformations that will profoundly influence our shared destiny in the decades ahead. The first is the transition in how we obtain and use energy, which will leave virtually no aspect of our modern society untouched. The second is the disturbing democratic backsliding that has come to define political life in the United States. The deteriorating health of our constitutional form of self-government is itself a symptom of various decades-old pathologies, including the breakdown in our civic institutions and the accompanying corrosion of social trust, as well as widening economic inequality.

Amid these trends — or, indeed, because of them — we are now seeing increased attention to “energy democracy,” the notion that energy policy should serve collectively determined goals and that members of the public should exert more control over the energy that powers our society. Despite the issue’s complexity and abstract nature, our attention to this matter is not limited to the usual suspects (i.e., scholars and policymakers). Rather, energy democracy has achieved “kitchen table” status in many households, and grassroots advocates and community activists of all stripes are mobilizing around the issue in one form or another.

For this report, the Center conducted a roundtable discussion on energy democracy in September 2022. This report represents an attempt to synthesize the ideas and insights they shared and its purpose is to provide policymakers, the press, advocates, and interested members of the public with a useful tool for evaluating specific energy policy debates.

Read the related blog post.

Responsive Government Energy Environmental Justice Natural Resources Public Participation