The institutional space of community initiatives for renewable energy: a comparative case study of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark

Energy, Sustainability and Society 2014

Summary :



Community initiatives for renewable energy are emerging across Europe but with varying numbers, success rates and strategies. A literature overview identifies structural, strategic and biophysical conditions for community success. Our analysis focuses on institutional structure, as we describe the variety between the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, and place this within the institutional context of the policies, power structures and energy discourses of each country.


We conducted a policy arrangements analysis with a series of semi-structured interviews, extensive content analysis of policy documents, media analysis and use of existing research, in a qualitative comparative analysis between the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.


We demonstrate that the (evolving) institutional configuration of the energy sector strongly influences the available space for community initiative development. Denmark has a traditionally civil society-friendly energy sector, although opportunities for communities have decreased following the scaling up of production facilities. The Netherlands knows a predominantly market-oriented institutional arrangement that leaves little space for communities, but the potential for community based energy is increasingly recognized. In Germany, the typically state-dominant Energiewende strategy creates a window of opportunity for community initiatives that fit within the state policy.


We conclude that the institutional arrangement of the energy policy subsystem can both constrain or enable community energy projects. Decentralization appears to be one of the most important characteristics of the general institutional development and generally increases the institutional space for local (community) players. The alignment of discourses across government levels and actors is one of the important enabling features of an energy system, as it provides the stability and predictability of the system that enables communities to engage in

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