CDE Co-Director Leah Sprain and Graduate Research Fellow Lydia Reinig have worked on collaborative research at the intersections of democratic engagement and energy system transformation. This research has been fostered through ongoing ethnographic fieldwork of Boulder, Colorado’s efforts to create a municipal electric utility. Boulder’s commitment to aggressive climate action through carbon-emission reductions has motivated the city to create a local energy utility.
Sprain and Reinig focus their research on ways public participation practices can be transformed to support energy system transition In addition to expanding conversation about communication and democratic engagement writ large, this work contribute to the burgeoning interdisciplinary study of energy democracy.
Sprain and Reinig have conduct research of local acts of energy democracy at Boulder City Council meetings; city-sponsored open houses, information sessions, and pop-up events; social movement rallies; and community dialogues about climate action, among other public meeting and community conversations. This work further allows them to cultivate relationships on behalf of the CDE.
Their research program has resulted in multiple conference presentations, including at the National Communication Association annual meeting and the Conference on Communication and the Environment, as well as an accepted book chapter and multiple in process publications.