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Small and steady: the role of the town energy committees in the transition to clean energy in Vermont

Valache, Carmen Paula LU (2017) In IIIEE Masters Theses IMEN41 20172
The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics
Abstract
International and national carbon reduction plans and targets have constituted the subject of a copious amount research in recent years. Concurrently, the number of cities, regions, companies and communities that have set ambitious targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency has been growing. Among these actors, rural communities in the developed world and their efforts toward the transition away from fossil fuels have sparked limited interest to date. This thesis addresses the dearth of research on this topic by analysing the role of a group of voluntary town energy committees in the transition to clean energy in the predominantly rural U.S. state of Vermont. The study explores the ways in which these actors are driving the energy... (More)
International and national carbon reduction plans and targets have constituted the subject of a copious amount research in recent years. Concurrently, the number of cities, regions, companies and communities that have set ambitious targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency has been growing. Among these actors, rural communities in the developed world and their efforts toward the transition away from fossil fuels have sparked limited interest to date. This thesis addresses the dearth of research on this topic by analysing the role of a group of voluntary town energy committees in the transition to clean energy in the predominantly rural U.S. state of Vermont. The study explores the ways in which these actors are driving the energy transition in a rural, developed world context, the challenges with which they grapple and solutions to improve their effectiveness.

The research design was exploratory and employed a triangulation approach based on a review of the literature on socio-technical regimes, grassroots innovations, grassroots energy action and rural energy transitions; qualitative data collection from 24 semi-structured interviews; and the results of a longitudinal survey of town energy committees made available by the local NGO Vital Communities.
Findings suggest that town energy committees play an important role in compensating for shortages in expertise and manpower in local administrations, by advocating for behavioural change among local energy consumers and by acting as mediators amongst different groups of stakeholders. Their activities complements Vermont's ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency regulations by addressing those areas of energy consumption that are not incentivised by policy instruments. However, the degree of organisational strength of these volunteer organisations was found to vary widely, and for their effectiveness to be hampered by volunteer burnout and by the lack of support from local officials and residents.

Several recommendations on how to address this challenge were made based on the information shared by local civil society informants and grey literature. However, the applicability of abstract knowledge to the different contexts was deemed to be limited. Instead, the provision of ongoing operational support from local NGOs was found to significantly impact the level of activities and outcomes of town energy committees. The findings of the study could be useful for local volunteers and the organisations that support them to inform future strategies. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Valache, Carmen Paula LU
supervisor
organization
course
IMEN41 20172
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Vermont, town energy committee, local energy action, rural energy transition
publication/series
IIIEE Masters Theses
report number
2017:34
ISSN
1401-9191
language
English
id
8927380
date added to LUP
2017-10-30 10:55:55
date last changed
2017-10-30 10:55:55
@misc{8927380,
  abstract     = {International and national carbon reduction plans and targets have constituted the subject of a copious amount research in recent years. Concurrently, the number of cities, regions, companies and communities that have set ambitious targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency has been growing. Among these actors, rural communities in the developed world and their efforts toward the transition away from fossil fuels have sparked limited interest to date. This thesis addresses the dearth of research on this topic by analysing the role of a group of voluntary town energy committees in the transition to clean energy in the predominantly rural U.S. state of Vermont. The study explores the ways in which these actors are driving the energy transition in a rural, developed world context, the challenges with which they grapple and solutions to improve their effectiveness.

The research design was exploratory and employed a triangulation approach based on a review of the literature on socio-technical regimes, grassroots innovations, grassroots energy action and rural energy transitions; qualitative data collection from 24 semi-structured interviews; and the results of a longitudinal survey of town energy committees made available by the local NGO Vital Communities. 
Findings suggest that town energy committees play an important role in compensating for shortages in expertise and manpower in local administrations, by advocating for behavioural change among local energy consumers and by acting as mediators amongst different groups of stakeholders. Their activities complements Vermont's ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency regulations by addressing those areas of energy consumption that are not incentivised by policy instruments. However, the degree of organisational strength of these volunteer organisations was found to vary widely, and for their effectiveness to be hampered by volunteer burnout and by the lack of support from local officials and residents.

Several recommendations on how to address this challenge were made based on the information shared by local civil society informants and grey literature. However, the applicability of abstract knowledge to the different contexts was deemed to be limited. Instead, the provision of ongoing operational support from local NGOs was found to significantly impact the level of activities and outcomes of town energy committees. The findings of the study could be useful for local volunteers and the organisations that support them to inform future strategies.},
  author       = {Valache, Carmen Paula},
  issn         = {1401-9191},
  keyword      = {Vermont,town energy committee,local energy action,rural energy transition},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {IIIEE Masters Theses},
  title        = {Small and steady: the role of the town energy committees in the transition to clean energy in Vermont},
  year         = {2017},
}