No 5

Self-governance in community energy systems: an approach to assess the viability

Timothy Cayford and Daniel Scholten


Is self-governance viable in community energy systems? Thus far, scientific literature dealing with self-governance has been largely confined to the analysis of socio-ecological systems. Our contribution, in this paper, lies in the analysis of self-governance in socio-technical systems. We make the hypothesis that an increase in social and technical exigency leads to increased polycentric governance. We explore possible system configurations along these dimensions and assert an important nuance: the viability of self-governance in community energy systems may lie in the communities’ abilities to be adaptive to coordinate with different governance circles. In this respect, we point out that self-governance arrangements can take many different forms. We have conceived a taxonomy of the types of self-governance, based on the degrees of social and technical complexity. Some insight is gained to consider the effect technology itself can have upon governance, in reducing technical and social complexity, thereby facilitating self-governance. Local biogas networks, which illustrate our approach, are a category of socio-technical systems for which a self-governance structure might be a feasible and desirable option.

Publication information

Self-governance in community energy systems: an approach to assess the viability / By Timothy Cayford and Daniel Scholten / Working Papers of the Energy Delta Gas Research, no 5 (2014), pp. 1–30.

Includes a bibliography

Subjects: community energy systems, polycentricity, self-governance, social and technical exigency, socio-ecological systems, socio-technical systems

Edited by Jean-François Auger

© 2014 by the author(s)

ISSN 2213-6169