Broadcast: Events

Energy Democracy in Neoliberal Contexts: Lessons from Aotearoa New Zealand

Tuesday 21 January 13:00 until 14:00
Jubilee G32
Speaker: Julie MacArthur
Part of the series: Energy & Climate Seminar Series


Energy democracy entails increased citizen participation in and control of energy sector activities (Szulecki, 2018; van Veelen & van der Horst, 2018). Recent research highlights how democratic innovations from citizens policy forums to direct asset ownership and control in ‘community power’ may contribute to much needed energy transitions away from fossil fuels and contribute to addressing the current global climate crisis. However, much of this research to date has taken place in either Western European contexts, and has largely focused on renewable power generation projects in settings with strong (if variable) policy support. A more critical scholarship has also emerged as to whether benefits in theory translate in practice, and travel across contexts (Berka and Creamer 2018). In this talk I examine the promise of energy democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand, a country that already has a significant share of energy from renewable sources at 83%, but faces significant challenges in addressing issues of energy poverty and energy system transformation in distribution, storage and energy efficiency. New Zealand also provides a useful case for understanding the unique role that local energy democracy may play in contexts which lack or lose policy support, and those where postcolonial struggles for indigenous sovereignty feature prominently.


Dr Julie MacArthur is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations and the Master of Public Policy program at the University of Auckland where she teaches environmental politics and public policy. She is the author of Empowering Electricity: Co-operatives, Sustainability and Power Sector Reform in Canada (UBC Press, 2016), as well more than 20 articles and book chapters on energy democracy, participatory environmental governance, and comparative energy policy. Dr MacArthur has won SSHRC and RSNZ Marsden Fund grants for her research on the contribution of community energy initiatives to climate change mitigation and local development, as well as an Early Career Research Excellence Award from the University of Auckland to study the role of women in New Zealand’s energy transition. Julie is currently a research associate with the University of Auckland’s Energy Centre and its Public Policy Institute and is a steering committee member of the Women and Inclusivity in Sustainable Energy Research (WISER) network.

By: Francisco Dominguez
Last updated: Tuesday, 26 November 2019