Authors:Irene Hakansson (King's College London)
Bruno Turnheim (King's College London)
Paper short abstract:
We critically examine the particular context (e.g. political arrangements, geographical location) that has shaped the development of the UK’s first inner-city community energy project – a project which has been praised for its social equity ambitions and been viewed as successful social innovation.
Paper long abstract:
Civil society initiatives, including community energy projects, have been identified as promising field of innovation for sustainability. Such 'grassroots innovations', the literature argues, are commonly led by social need and equity rather than economic profit. Their promises and potentials hence go beyond those of technological fixes. Applying a narrative case study approach, we tell the story of Brixton Energy - a community energy project in London that is erecting solar panels on social housing estates while using profits to run local energy awareness projects. Brixton Energy is often viewed as a successful initiative and has been praised for its novelty especially on two grounds: (1) it is the UK's first inner-city (as opposed to rural) community energy project, and (2) its operational and financial model focuses explicitly on community empowerment, inclusivity, and equity by, for instance, setting lower minimum investment thresholds for local estate residents than external investors. We critically examine these two aspects of originality by exploring the particular context that has been shaping the emergence and development of Brixton Energy (that is e.g., political arrangements, geographical location, public visibility and profile, legitimacy, expertise and negotiation). The initiative's name, structure, scale, scope, objectives, and impacts have been changing over time. We discuss how, why, and with what consequences these changes have occurred with respect to those claims of novelty.