Limits and potentialities of embedding energy provision from the SSE (social and solidarity economy) realm

Sebastia Riutort Isern

EMES Conferences Selected Papers Series, ECSP-P16-26

Throughout human history, societies have experimented moments of profound changes that have led the institutionalisation of new structures, new systems of social interaction and new ways of organisation and representation of life. To put it briefly: concrete periods of time that have implied the complete transformation of society. This article is linked to a critical juncture of change. Nowadays, we live in times of uncertainty due to the present –and coming– radical transformations related to the effects of a long-lasting crisis, which is multidimensional (economic, political, ecological, cultural) and multi-scale (it ranges from the local to the global).

The issue of energy provision is one aspect that makes us assume the 21st century society is living a crucial moment for the future of Humanity (Brown 2015). It is undeniable that one of the greatest challenges facing the world today has to do with the urgency of moving towards a model of energy provision that must be completely different to that that is taken shape since the Industrial Revolution. Depletion of fossil fuels and uranium and their contribution to increase global warming, environmental change and pollution levels are among the main reasons. Given the inevitable dependence of human being with regards to «exosomatic energy», it is unavoidable to overcome the fossil and nuclear energy model and to institutionalise another one based on non-polluting and renewable energy sources (RES) and a responsible and efficient use of them. Despite the empirical evidence that supports such urgency, energy transition is still in an incipient stage and there exist countless uncertainties to both its results and its articulation as a process.

That said, this paper aims to contribute to the debate about this eventual process of «energy transition» paying special attention to its socio-political dimension. That is, we wonder to what extent the energy transition can suppose not only an ecological transformation of the current fossil and nuclear energy model, but also a socio-political transformation. That means whether such transition could provide the opportunity for citizens to leave behind their passive role in the energy field and give them the possibility to take part in it further beyond their consumers’ position. To put in other words: ¿to what extent the economy activity of energy provision could be subjected –into the frame of this transition– to democratic control and decision-making processes? And so for what this paper is concerned here: ¿how the social and solidarity economy (SSE) can contribute to make this?

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