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Community-Led Initiatives and SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energy

CLIs are active in both supply-side and demand-side interventions relating to sustainable energy, both through various forms of community-owned energy generation and initiatives to promote less energy-intensive settlements and lifestyles. Community energy in many cases the initial and/or most important form of action, with community energy projects often providing a focus for a wider range of activities powered and/or funded by renewable energy generation infrastructure, or helping to create enabling conditions for other work by reducing dependencies on infrastructures that are corporate-run, environmentally destructive and dependent on fossil fuels, nuclear or other forms of unsustainable generation.[1]

Specific approaches include:

  • Lifestyle changes to reduce direct and indirect levels of energy consumption at personal and household levels [2]
  • Taking pioneering action to promote innovative and/or experimental use of renewable energy technologies and low carbon lifestyles, even if the face of adverse social, cultural and institutional circumstances, thus creating possibilities for wider diffusion and upscaling.[3]
  • Use of permaculture as a methodology and technique for designing low-energy and energy efficient dwellings and settlements.[4]
  • Creating new and retrofitted infrastructures that reduce energy needs at both household and community scale, for example by use of local materials with low embodied energy, architectural designs that make best use of passive solar for heating and/or cooling and natural light for illumination, and transport infrastructures that favour low-emissions methods such as walking, cycling and use of public transport.[5][6]
  • Diverse forms of community-owned and managed- renewable energy generators, district heating systems and microgrids.[7][8][9]
  • Holistic approaches that foster individual and community initiative, participation and leadership in promoting sustainable energy transitions as well as renewable energy development strategies, plans and initiatives at scales from local to regional.[10][11][12]


  1. Heiskanen, E., Johnson, M., Robinson, S., Vadovics, E., Saastamoinen, M., 2010. Low-carbon communities as a context for individual behavioural change. Energy Policy, Special Section: Carbon Reduction at Community Scale 38, 7586–7595.
  2. Hagbert, P., Bradley, K., 2017. Transitions on the home front: A story of sustainable living beyond eco-efficiency. Energy Res. Soc. Sci., Narratives and Storytelling in Energy and Climate Change Research 31, 240–248.
  3. Karjalainen, J., Heinonen, S., 2018. The pioneers of renewable energy are around the world - What can we learn from them? Journal of Future Studies 22, 83–100.
  4. Svetlana, S., Jovana, J., Dijana, D., 2018. Energy Efficiency in Urban Areas by Innovative Permacultural Design. Arhiv za Tehnicke Nauke / Archives for Technical Sciences 19: 65–74.
  5. Karvonen, A., 2018. Community housing retrofit in the UK and the civics of energy consumption, in: Eames, M., Dixon, T., Lannon, S., Hunt, M. (Eds.), Retrofitting Cities for Tomorrow’s World. Wiley & Sons Ltd.
  6. Barani, S., Alibeygi, A.H., Papzan, A., 2018. A framework to identify and develop potential ecovillages: Meta-analysis from the studies of world’s ecovillages. Sustainable Cities and Society 43, 275–289.
  7. Berka, A.L., Creamer, E., 2017. Taking stock of the local impacts of community owned renewable energy: A review and research agenda. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev.
  8. Magnani, N., Osti, G., 2016. Does civil society matter? Challenges and strategies of grassroots initiatives in Italy’s energy transition. Energy Research & Social Science, Energy Transitions in Europe: Emerging Challenges, Innovative Approaches, and Possible Solutions 13, 148–157.
  9. Magnani, N., Maretti, M., Salvatore, R., Scotti, I., 2017. Ecopreneurs, rural development and alternative socio-technical arrangements for community renewable energy. Journal of Rural Studies 52, 33–41.
  10. Seyfang, G., Haxeltine, A., 2012. Growing grassroots innovations: exploring the role of community-based initiatives in governing sustainable energy transitions. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 30, 381–400.
  11. Cosmi, C., Dvarionienė, J., Marques, I., Di Leo, S., Gecevičius, G., Gurauskienė, I., Mendes, G., Selada, C., 2015. A holistic approach to sustainable energy development at regional level: The RENERGY self-assessment methodology. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 49, 693–707.
  12. Sarrica, M., Brondi, S., Cottone, P., Mazzara, B.M., 2016. One, no one, one hundred thousand energy transitions in Europe: The quest for a cultural approach. Energy Research & Social Science, Energy Transitions in Europe: Emerging Challenges, Innovative Approaches, and Possible Solutions 13, 1–14.