Achieving energy democracy in Bristol’s City Leap?

Funding awarded for research into enabling citizen influence in new energy venture

9 September 2020

We are delighted to announce that the second round of funding from Bristol Sustainable Energy Research Fund has been awarded to Dr Emilia Melville and Jack Nicholls, to support their joint research project, titled “Energy Democracy in Bristol's City Leap”.

The fund supports academic researchers with grants of up to £5,000 for research that contributes to the development of a more sustainable, equitable and democratically accountable energy system in the South West of England.

The panel felt that this research project would produce some very valuable findings, with practical outputs of significance for energy democracy and stakeholder governance here in the South West, as well as nationally.

Their research investigates possible forms of democratic participation in Bristol City Council’s City Leap initiative. City Leap is a series of energy and infrastructure investment opportunities - in energy efficiency, smart technologies, low carbon heat generation and delivery, and low/no emission transport infrastructure - designed to accelerate the transition towards a cleaner, greener Bristol.

A possible model that will be explored in the research will be the creation of a citizen advisory board (or similar) to join the City Leap Venture, with buy-in from key stakeholders in neighbourhoods and communities in Bristol, Bristol City Council’s democracy agenda, the community energy sector, and the City Leap project. This will involve interviews with key stakeholders in each of these sectors and a facilitated meeting. which will lead to the development of a set of processes, structure, and practical guidance for supporting the operations of this board.

The outputs from this research will contribute to academic understanding of multi-stakeholder governance in a modern urban context, and give practical grounding to ideas for Energy Democracy, through creating concrete proposals in relation to a specific large city infrastructure project. This could have implications for democratisation of local decarbonised energy systems nationally and internationally.

Dr Emilia Melville has been involved in the community energy sector in Bristol since 2011, and was one of the founding directors of Bristol Energy Co-operative. She is currently the co-ordinator at Bristol Energy Network, and a director of Zero West, which works to accelerate zero carbon transition at the West of England level.

Jack Nicholls has worked as a researcher in and outside of academia with a focus on renewable energy for over 10 years. Jack is close to completing a PhD at the University of Bristol, titled “Owning the Sun: Energy Democracy and Public Participation in Solar Farm Developments in England”.

We will share updates throughout the research project, and look forward to Jack and Emilia’s presentation of findings in February 2021.

More detail about Bristol Sustainable Energy Research Fund, as well as previously funded projects, can be found on the BSERF website here.

This article was updated on 16 October 2020 to correct some content which may have been misleading

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