Based on an analysis of the energy transition as a collective governance issue, the notion of citizen and local buy-in has emerged as an important marker, with a view to enhance the participation of all actors in different forms. In France, this goal has been enshrined in the slogan “the energy transition by everyone and for everyone”. In this context, the direct participation of local actors—citizens and local authorities—in the implementation of energy projects within their territories has received a great deal of attention from policymakers. This attention is further strengthened by the more recent appetite for citizen renewable energy projects in France and lessons learned from international experiments such as in Denmark and Germany.
FAVORING INNOVATIVE RENEWABLE ENERGY MODELS
Citizen and collaborative renewable energy models are seeing growing interest from political and industrial stakeholders, driven by an effort to promote public acceptance of these projects and redirect local savings towards transition projects. While the energy transition law explicitly calls for the promotion of innovative models, it is nevertheless necessary to have a more detailed breakdown of the numerous existing approaches. By establishing a classification based on the levels of participation in the financing and the governance of these projects, this study aims to reflect on the respective advantages and drawbacks of these models with regard to their capacity to meet the goals set out by project developers
A TYPOLOGY OF RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS
Three main types of models can be defined: projects with a conventional approach, which focus on direct financial profitability, do not include financial participation by local actors, and for which implication in the governance is limited to consultation; “citizen” projects, which are developed around collective governance and financing managed by local actors (citizens and/or local authorities); and a variety of “collaborative” projects, which are the outcome of different kinds of hybridization between these two approaches and where the industrial approach is combined with varying types and levels of citizen or local participation in project financing and governance.
WHAT POLITICAL PURPOSE FOR COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS?
This variety in models constitutes an argument in favor of a growth in collaborative projects. However, there is a genuine risk of focusing attention solely on the financial involvement of local actors—thus pushing aside the larger debate on collaborative governance models for these projects. This debate must confront two challenges. On the normative level, what political value does one wish to accord to the implementation of collaborative governance, in line with the vision of the energy transition by and for everyone? And on a political level, how does one reconcile the introduction of a more open and competitive regulatory framework for renewable energy with this idea of increased participation by all actors?