An Emerging Energy-Focused Community in France: A Local and Social Innovation

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 2:45 PM
Room: 301
Oral Presentation
Melike YALCIN-RIOLLET , Ens, Centre Maurice Halbwachs (CNRS-EHESS-ENS), Paris, France
Can we talk about "ommunities" in the field of energy in France? Local and citizen-led initiatives relating to energy are developing strongly in Anglo-Saxon countries and a growing body of research is examining the innovative potential of these grassroots initiatives, known as “community energy”. In France, similar initiatives – albeit with certain specificities – only began to emerge recently (in parallel of and related to the Degrowth Movement and the Transition Towns), and so far, very few studies have dealt with them. The purpose of this communication is therefore to propose an exploratory and in-depth analysis of one advanced French case, that of Le Mené, a pioneer in local energy autonomy. We examine the conditions under which the initiative emerged, and the processes through which a grassroots innovation is formed and developed.
In studying this case (interviews with key actors and inhabitants, analysis of documents), comparing it with other sources of data (interviews with experts, comparative observation of other on-going initiatives) and taking stock of various social sciences studies, we show that a social innovation was produced in Le Mené through the hybridisation of actors, sociotechniques and discourses. This local initiative was innovative not only in terms of the scope of the implemented equipements, but also in terms of the social organisation behind the development of the projects and the capacity to use energy production as a social resource.
Finally, the case study highlights the emergence of a new form of collective action and reflects on its possible diffusion in France.