Power to the People: Energy Democracy, Labour Environmentalism, and the Struggle for Public Ownership

Authors: Franziska Christina Paul*, University of Glasgow
Topics: Energy, Political Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: energy geography, energy democracy, spatial politics, energy transition, labour environmentalism, public ownership
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Galerie 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper engages with the spatial politics of energy democracy, a recent concept and movement which advocates for more socially just, democratically accountable and ecologically sustainable energy futures. Drawing on recent debates around energy democracy and democratic energy spaces from within labour environmentalist initiatives such as ‘Trade Unions for Energy Democracy’ (TUED), the paper reflects on the potential of energy democracy narratives to push for progressive energy politics and just transition. The global labour initiative TUED is an independent, multi-sector trade union network campaigning for the democratic control and ownership of energy resources, infrastructure and options. Over the past five years, TUED have established a well-connected and expanding network of like-minded unions across the world and have produced in-depth analysis on a range of climate and energy issues. TUED’s analysis is anchored in their founding narrative “Resist! Reclaim! Restructure!”, which opposes fossil capitalism and green economy discourses and promotes public ownership of energy to create more democratic energy futures. Drawing on empirical work conducted with TUED and participating unions in New York City, USA, and Geneva, Switzerland in 2017, the paper explores TUED’s energy democracy narrative construction and movement-building efforts in relation to recent challenges, such as the election of Trump, as well as struggles over pipeline mega-projects that have created deep divisions in the US labour movement, and highlights how the spatial politics of energy democracy are framed, negotiated and challenged by labour environmentalists.

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