Natalia Magnani, Dario Minervini, Ivano Scotti

Understanding energy commons. Polycentricity, translation and intermediation

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Keywords: Commons; Community Renewable Energy; Intermediation; Policentricity; Translation.

The paper aims to contribute to the study of the transformation of current energy systems towards low-carbon decentralized models by combining the literature on common-pool resources (CPR) and the sociology of translation. A number of authors have stressed the relevance of analysing energy transition in terms of commons. Starting from this literature we try to show the added value of a pragmatic approach, inspired by translation sociology, to the commons in the energy sector. According to translation sociology, the socio-material construction of a CPR is a process of assembling that connects and shapes all the entities involved in a polycentric arrangement. Translation needs permanent negotiation and mutual recognition in order to ensure the cooperation required by the program of action. We apply this analytical framework to two different empirical cases: renewable energy cooperatives in Italy and the re-municipalisation of energy grids in Germany. These cases are particularly relevant because they are inspired by a self-organization principle lying at the core of the polycentric systems perspective. We investigate key features of the case-studies focusing on three issues: 1) the CPR as an emergent cognitive and practical program of action; 2) the process of intermediation; 3) the morphology of the polycentric network. The added value of the proposed approach is to problematize the common in itself, showing how energy can be differently commonized in practice.

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