A Socio-Technical Appraisal of Energy Cooperatives for Transition to Low-Carbon Energy
Community renewable energy (CRE) is well recognized as a strategy to transition from centralised to decentralised energy systems. Consequently, there has been a recent surge in the design, development and implementation of CRE projects; largely promoted by policy initiatives and community efforts around the world. CRE is acknowledged for its critical role in increasing the share of renewable energy, as well as for fostering local participation in sustainable energy plans. However, there is insufficient research exploring citizens opinions regarding the concept of CRE, particularly viewed through the perspective of social capital theory. The aim of the study was to evaluate perceptions of citizens and experts towards CRE projects. We adopted a qualitative method (single case study) to gain comprehensive insight into the opinions of the general public and experts towards transitioning to low-carbon energy. This empirical research contributes to the growing literature on transition at the niche-level of the MLP. The results from the study revealed a positive attitude of the public towards CRE projects and pointed to high interest in participating in CRE projects to develop and improve communal areas. We found evidence for a high level of trust between community members. However, concerning institutional trust, most participants showed little confidence in external developers and the local government for joint ownership, but acknowledged the contribution of experts concerning the implementation of CRE projects. Findings from this study are instrumental to promoting and creating awareness about community renewable energy projects in South Africa. Furthermore, it helps guide policymakers seeking to implement national and regional policies supporting the deployment of small-scale generators and CRE projects.
Keywords - Community Renewable Energy, Social Capital, Solar PV Sources, Urban Areas.