Published: May 1, 2018

Energy, specifically electricity, is at the crux of technological innovations and political debates regarding sustainable transitions. As both an emerging social movement and interdisciplinary field of study, energy democracy reflects critical efforts towards creating strategies for adaptive climate governance. As a social movement, energy democracy calls for the democratization of energy infrastructure and prioritizes public participation in energy transitions. Energy democracy as a burgeoning field of study reflects interdisciplinary efforts to trace and re-imagine democratic engagement in energy system transformation.  

The Center for Communication and Democratic Engagement (formerly BoulderTalks) co-sponsored, “Energy Democracy: Creating a Research Agenda” at the University of Utah, July 12–13, 2017. The symposium gathered more than twenty scholars and practitioners to shape an engaged research program at the intersections of democratic engagement, energy policy, and robust case studies. Moving beyond an impetus to critique, conversations centered on a composition approach—a metaphor derived from Latour’s notion of things being put together while maintaining heterogeneity.  A composition approach allows for forwarding a research agenda that accounts for competing discourses of energy democracy, social movements, new energy coalitions, innovative social practices, and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Presentations of ongoing research emphasized opportunities for energy democracy coalition building.  Energy democracy coalitions seek to forward new practices engagement, widen our attention to diverse stakeholders, account for just transitions, and pose new questions for energy democracy movements demanding engagement.   

Dr. Leah Sprain co-organized the symposium with Danielle Endres (University of Utah), Tarla Peterson (University of Texas at El Paso), Andrea Feldpausch-Parker (SUNY-Environmental Science and Forestry).  This workshop is co-sponsored by the Communication Institute at the University of Utah and the National Communication Association. Co-director Phaedra Pezzullo presented on the CDE’s work with Just Transitions and Boulder’s Climate Action Plan.  Graduate Research Fellow Lydia Reinig attended.