Energy democracy in practice

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Department of Social Sciences


Energy democracy refers to a social movement aimed at restructuring sociotechnological systems and reimagining energy politics in a more inclusive and equitable way. A key aspect of this movement is the pursuit of energy sovereignty, or the rights of communities and individuals to make choices regarding the forms and sources of energy as well as the organization of energy production and consumption. Current energy policy in the United States not only fails to prioritize energy sovereignty but often works against it, as energy systems are principally designed and deployed by experts with little opportunity for household- or community-level input. Community-owned renewable energy projects are rare in the United States, and little research considers the trade-offs between projects, either utility or community owned, or hybrid systems. In this chapter, we discuss a recent collaboration, Michigan Community Anishinaabe and Rural Energy Sovereignty (MICARES), intended to inform and facilitate the development of Tribal Nation– and rural community–owned renewable projects, energy sovereignty, and energy-focused sociotechnological system transitions. Following a description of the conceptual and methodological foundations of MICARES, which center on Anishinaabeg teachings of the medicine wheel, we examine the state of energy sovereignty in four case-study communities, identifying opportunities and constraints in each.

Publication Title

Routledge Handbook of Energy Democracy