Energy communities are improving on gender but have work to do, says report

The sector has “immense potential” in bringing about a just transition in the energy sector, adds the report from Eucena

Energy communities show a rising awareness on gender and inclusivity but there is still work to be done to ensure a socially just carbon transition, says a new report.

The research, produced by the European Citizen Energy Academy (Eucena), surveyed people who are either directly or indirectly involved with energy communities through REScoop, the European federation of citizen energy co-operatives, and Women Engage for a Common Future’s networks. 

It sampled the perspectives of energy community (EC) members, boards, and employees regarding their gender, role, and position in their organisations, as well as the existing structure of ECs and their stance on women and gender in their organisation. 

Responses were gathered from 42 participants from Albania, Austria, Belgium, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Sweden.

The EC sector includes a range of collective actions on energy which involve citizen participation. Eucena says ECs have become “a popular and viable solution against an only profit-oriented, male-dominated and centralised fossil fuel based energy system. The extractive energy model has been constantly male-dominated and driven, neglecting women’s energy needs and skills.”

The report added that ECs have “immense potential” to bring about a just transition in the energy sector, but warned that “inequalities within the energy sector and energy communities have led us to believe that the journey of just transition will take longer”.

Just under a quarter of the energy communities surveyed have 40%-60% women employees, followed by just over a fifth with 10%-25% women employees. Just over a fifth have 0%-10% women employees ,and just under a fifth have 25%-40% women employees. Only one in 10 participants had 60%-100% women employees.

When it comes to gender-related policies, the study found that 9% have formally agreed targets on gender, 5% have informally agreed, 43% intend to but have not yet implemented targets, and 29% have nothing in place. 

The study said that “despite insufficient resources, some of the ECs wanted to engage more women. On the contrary, gender does not seem to be a priority, especially not for male actors in ECs. There is a remarkable difference between male and female participants regarding priorities and opinions on gender measures for ECs. Thus, this scenario showed that there is a need to create awareness amongst people on gender topics and ways to integrate it as a cross-cutting topic.”

Gender perceptions around why more men are involved in ECs were also explored. 45.2% of the participants agreed that men have more knowledge required to be involved in ECs, while only 4.8% considered that women have more knowledge. 47.6% of the participants consider men have higher interest in the area and only 4.8% considered women have higher interest.

Recommendations in the report cover the micro, meso and macro level. At the macro level, using good practices from women-led initiatives, applying gender-sensitive communication and implementing gender mentoring and coaching programs were all recommended.

At the meso level, it was suggested ECs could develop and improve participation schemes to bring more citizen involvement into the energy sector, as well as collaborate with feminist organisations and aim for remuneration for women who face financial barriers to being involved with ECs.

At the micro level, individuals are encouraged to break gender stereotypes and “unlearn patriarchy” and involve men in gender talks to make them allies.

The report states in its recommendations that “energy communities have a high potential to accelerate gender and socially just energy transition,” and that “integrating gender targets and tools into energy value chains, knowledge development, technical assistance and policy and advocacy work is the key to a just-transition and building a sustainable system.”

Eucena is a learning provider based in Germany. Through education, networking and information exchange, it aims to “create and support a democratic, local, 100% renewable energy system”, where citizens own and control their local renewable energy plants. 

In 2021, Eucena launched a project to encourage more women to get involved in renewable energy co-ops.

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