Power to and by the people - Counting how citizens shape the sustainable energy future

Case studies highlight that citizens engage in various ways in renewable and low carbon energy projects, but statistics were lacking. A new database provides a Europe-wide inventory with over 10,000 initiatives and 16,000 production units in 29 countries, focusing on the past 20 years.
Published in Research Data
Power to and by the people - Counting how citizens shape the sustainable energy future

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Ordinary citizens are coming together through collective initiatives to play an active role in the low carbon transition. Citizen-led energy projects have grown over the past years to produce, distribute, and consume energy from renewable sources while being governed democratically, with benefits accruing locally. 

A new database published in Nature Scientific Data offers systematic and cross-country insights into how collective action shapes the sustainable energy future. By performing a major compilation and reviewing copious data sources from websites to official registries, a Europe-wide inventory is now available with over 10,000 initiatives and 16,000 production units in 29 countries, focusing on the past 20 years. A new publication in  Nature Scientific Reports provides insights into these numbers. Sourcing from the database, an animated documentary is available, shedding light into facts and figures around citizen-led energy initiatives. 

Areas of activities cover three broad categories: 1) The production and distribution of renewable energy (e.g., the operation, installation, and/or financing of energy generation facilities, energy trading, collective purchasing), 2) the provision of sustainable energy services (including self-consumption, light contracting, car sharing and operation of EV charging stations), and 3) information & awareness (such as energy-related education and awareness raising and energy consulting services).

Statistics are essential for quantifying the impact of citizen-led engagement in the energy transition and extending beyond the perspective of single case studies. The data compiled can be used to support the construction of likely trajectories for citizen engagement. Data help with monitoring, goal and policy setting, and impact evaluation of these initiatives, which is increasingly needed to support evidence-based policy action in this field. 

The inventory contains administrative data on citizen-led energy initiatives (name, address, year of foundation, legal form, etc.), tangible assets (geolocation of production unit, technology and energy product identifier, year of commissioning, nameplate capacity, etc.), singular activities undertaken by an initiative (purchase of tangible assets, organization of events), and time-tagged information (e.g., number of members and customers).

The data are available open access via the repository dataverse.no. Reuse is encouraged through classification standards and controlled vocabularies. Collection was performed over a period of four years by an international team of trained researchers and assistants and validated both manually and through automated processes.

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