Renewable Energy Cooperatives: can digital technologies and platforms foster an inclusive and just energy transitions in Amsterdam?

In the context of energy transitions, the adoption of smart grid technologies and associated digital platforms are important drivers of democratization of energy production and consumption. Renewable Energy Cooperatives (RECs) play a central role in these processes, as they serve as valuable platforms for exchanging information, knowledge, and for collective agency. RECs can facilitate inclusive and participatory decision-making processes, empower citizens through local ownership over energy resources, and ensure equitable and affordable access to energy [3]. However, recent studies indicate that REC membership is predominantly comprised of middle or upper-class white males [4] . The number of RECs in the Netherlands, as well as policymakers’ interest in RECs, is rapidly increasing. Therefore, it is crucial to explore strategies for making RECs more accessible to low-income households, vulnerable groups, women, and the youth. To address this, we integrate insights from various fields (e.g., innovation studies, sustainability transitions, polycentric governance), methods and approaches (e.g., regression analysis, ethnomethodology, interaction analysis, citizen science) to answer this research question (RQ):

How can RECs and digital technologies and platforms promote social innovation and multiple value creation to foster social inclusion and citizen empowerment?

We use citizen science and ethnographic methods (e.g., focus groups, interviews, and observations) to collect data from 25 Amsterdam households (REC members and non-members). Participants will receive a Wi-Fi Energy Monitor1 that gives insight into energy consumption via an app. We study their energy consumption, behaviour, and perceptions towards RECs. This will generate insights into to what extent the knowledge of their individual and collective data enhances awareness, participation, trust, and community cohesion. Furthermore, through surveys and interviews, we also examine REC governance models (data collection, storage, and sharing) and social, political, and technical prerequisites for effective energy governance, including policies and regulations.