Repost: An energy system vision for a community energy-led future?

So, Jonathan Atkinson of Carbon Coop does some Deep Thinking about the future of energy. A good (19ish minute) read…

An energy system vision for a community energy-led future?

The energy transition is happening, what needs to be discussed now is what it looks like on the ground and what role Community Energy plays in it. Is the Community Energy movement’s vision of the transition one in which individual prosumers are liberated to become their own energy trading entities, one in which autonomous communities become self-sufficient energy islands or is it a national (if not international) federation of groups acting in an ever more integrated grid?

(Estimated reading 19 minutes)

In this blog we review energy system business model options for Community Energy groups but also critically examine the values that underpin these different visions and their implications for the performance of the future grid. We welcome responses from the Community Energy sector to this blog and see it as a starting point for debate not the end. Either post comments below or email us at

The old business model is dead?

As it becomes clear that…  keep reading here.

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Upcoming Event: Heat, Greed and Human Need, #Manchester 31st January

A seminar coming up – free to attend, no need to book.

Fwiw, I’m most of the way through the book, and it’s good (though more for an academic than popular audience).


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#Climate activist 18-29? Apply for 5 days of inspiration in Austria…

So, this might be good!  It’s being led by someone who knows what he is doing, so probably will be.




P.S. Almost ten years ago, coming back on the train from a climate event in Austria, I had the idea for Manchester Climate Fortnightly (the precursor to Manchester Climate Monthly).    Mind you, I was younger and even more foolish then.

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Derek Wall, Elinor Ostrom and making a different #Manchester (and planet) Mon 19 Feb.

Green Party activist and political thinker Derek Wall will be in Manchester on Monday 19th February.  He’ll be talking about his new book Elinor Ostrom’s Rules for Radicals: Cooperative Alternatives beyond Markets and States (reviewed here).  You can book your tickets here.


MCFly caught up with him for an email interview-
1.  So, who was Elinor Olstrom and, in 100 words or so, why should someone concerned about climate change care?

Elinor who sadly died in 2012, was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics.  She was a passionate advocate of climate change action and she won the price for her ecological economics.  Specifically she studied the tragedy of the commons and researched how it could be over come.  To me this is at the heart of climate change question and she provided a scientific (but open) approach to tackling this crisis and other environmental problems.

The tragedy of the commons is the concept that collective ownership leads to catastrophe.  Forests, fisheries and common land it has been argued tend to get destroyed from over use if they are owned collectively.  Elinor won her prize for showing that local people can construct rules and systems for conserving the commons and that far from being tragic commons tend to protect nature,

She scaled her study of the local commons to look at the global commons, coming up with practical ideas of promoting climate change action. She was fascinated by how the right kind of practices could encourage cooperation and protect the environment,. She was practical person and campaigned for climate action, stuck solar panels on her home (which incidentally she and husband Vincent built), saw indigenous people’s protection as a way of tackling this and other ecological problems.

2.  If we took Ostrom’s ideas seriously, how would the Labour Party’s manifesto look different?

It would be less about the state stepping in and more about community control.  It would reject nationalisation as a universal solution and promote commons, cooperatives and other diverse forms of popular ownership as an alternative to neoliberalism.  It would certainly stress ecological policies as well as coproduction. Coproduction is the concept that health care, social services and, in fact, all areas of society should be shaped by users desires not just centralised paternalism.  While Ostrom was not on the traditional left, I think she would have loved the approach of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell when it advocates participation rather than state paternalism.  I have written a brief account of how we might imagine her advising Jeremy Corbyn

3.  How would the Green Party’s manifesto look different?

There would be less of it for a start.  It would be shorter The Green Party at its two conferences a year has since it was created in the 1970s (originally it was called the Ecology Party and before that People) created a mountain of policies dealing with most aspects of life.  While not all of these get into election manifestos the approach is very much of piling up policies that the state will implement.  An Ostrom approach is not radically anti-state but puts participation and deep democracy at the centre.  Ostrom argued that we have to teach the tools of cooperation and participation at school and change institutions and property rights to promote collective, diverse democratic control.  Obviously in any manifesto she would be looking for us to construct sets of rules that make for ecological sharing.  Making academic publications open source would be big in any Ostrom inspired manifesto.  Community ownership of renewable energy would also be a pillar and famously she argued for looking at all manifesto promises in terms of their long term impact

I am deeply indebted to the indigenous peoples in the US who had an image of seven generationsbeing the appropriate time to think about the future. I think we should all reinstate in our mind the sevengeneration rule. When we make really major decisions, we should ask not only what will it do for me today, but what will it do for my children, my children’s children, and their children’s children into the future.’

4.  How would Green Party praxis (sorry, ‘day to day campaigning’) look different?  How would we know we were in post-Olstrom campaigning mode?

Totally different!  The Green Party doesn’t think enough about method.  Being for good things and against bad things is inadequate.  Strategic thinking about how to achieve change should be at the core of Green Party politics and this would go beyond standing in elections and assuming that at some point in the future a Green government would transform society.  Green Party politics from an Ostrom point of view would be about promoting direct, diverse and deep democracy and understanding how institutions and rules can be changed to do this.  The small things like running meetings, educating members and enjoyment of party activity for Ostrom would be the big things.  If you think carefully about how to promote participation by members the big social change will be easier.  Elinor was sceptical of slogans, her anti-slogan slogan of ‘No panaceas’, is worth repeating, simply electing Greens will not on its own transform top down and anti-ecological power structures.  Its not that the Green Party has the wrong approach to these questions but simply that the Party doesn’t generally discuss them at all.  Its been great seeing the Green Party moving left over recent decades, I would love to see it deepen what it does by taking on Elinor’s insights and inspiration.

5. Why should people come along to the book launch – what will they get out of it.  How will it be structured in congruence with Olstrom’s ideas

Hopefully pleasure and ideas.  At the London launch I brought my homebrew IPA to share and I intend to bring a couple of bottles when I am in Manchester.  I will certainly leave lots of time for questions and participation rather than just, despite my enthusiasm, lecturing.  We can see where people want to take the discussion and how it might hopefully promote both thought and local action in Manchester.  And Ian Parker who kindly has organised it and myself are very open to suggestions for making it the full Ostrom so to speak.

6.  Anything else you’d like to say

I have been provoked and made to think deeply by Elinor Ostrom.  She was an inspired thinker, ecological politics was at the centre of her work and she argued for genuine participation, thought practically about how to achieve this and advocated good natural and social science as alternatives to sloganizing sentiment.

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Mayor’s Green Summit? What kind of masochist do you think I am? #Manchester

There’s a great Tom Lehrer song called The Masochism Tango.

It comes to mind when I think about going to any event “organised” by the so-very-talented people at Manchester Climate Change “Agency” (see here for a 2016 catastrophe, and here for a 2017 one.)

So I’ve signed up “to be considered” for a place at the upcoming Mayor’s Green Vommit. Sorry, Summit It has the slightly North Korean tagline “INSPIRATION. DIALOGUE. RESOLUTION.”

Doubtless there will be a frank admission of how little has been done, and a coherent plan for how things will be different in the future. I mean, they’d never just keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome, because that would be insane…

I suspect I may not be one of the very very lucky punters. Such a shame.   (Readers with particularly long memories may recall that the editors of Manchester Climate Monthly (me and Arwa Aburawa) were actually BANNED from attending the last (disastrous) ‘Stakeholder Conference’, back in 2013. The next chair of the Steering Group then unilaterally (i.e., no consultation) ended the conferences, which were supposed to be day long opportunities for stakeholders to share experiences, not progress etc. Instead there is now an entirely useless annual 90 minute exercise in futility and despair held at the Town Hall or the Royal Exchange. Here’s a great account of the 2016 one, by our star reporter, Scott Templeton.)

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Upcoming: “From Sweden with care – education and societal change” #Manchester #climate

“From Sweden with care – education and societal change in troubled times” by Isak Stoddard on Thursday 11th January (room C21, Pariser Building, Sackville Street) at 1.00pm.

Isak Stoddard, University of Uppsala, Sweden

The interconnected crises of climate change and sustainability are challenging universities to reconsider reductionist and instrumental ways of conducting research and education. One unique response is exemplified by the Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS), a student-initiated and transdisciplinary centre at Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Student-faculty collaboration weaves as a golden thread through the history and organization of all activities at the centre. Since its inception in the early 1990s CEMUS has initiated and expanded the space for transdisciplinary student-driven higher education as well as research and collaboration that transcends traditional academic disciplines and boundaries between academia and society at large.

This talk will journey through CEMUS’ 25 year history while delving deeper into questions of the relationship between education, research and the potential for universities to contribute to a more just and sustainable world.

Speaker bio

Isak Stoddard is Deputy Director at CEMUS, University of Uppsala. In addition to strategic oversight of the Centre’s transdisciplinary approaches to education and research, he coordinates the 10- year Zennström professorship in climate change leadership. Isak has a background in engineering physics, systems technology and energy systems.

The seminar will take place in room C21, in the Pariser Building on Sackville Street- number 12 on the map here

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Study #climate and ‘transitions’ and ‘circular economy’ at University of #Manchester

I would advise you NOT to say Marc sent you…

PhD Scholarship: “Assembling a Circular Economy: A Mixed-methods Approach to Social Processes of Transition”

The University of Manchester

Alliance Manchester Business School is committed to recruiting the highest calibre Ph.D. students from across the globe. With an excellent international reputation, we strive to produce graduates and researchers of distinction who attain the highest standards of academic excellence, contribute to their disciplines and typify Original Thinking Applied.

This PhD scholarship offers three years’ funding, including doctoral programme tuition fees and a stipend of approximately £15,000 per year for candidates wishing to commence their studies in September 2018. The successful candidate will also receive a generous research support and conference allowance. You will also have access to a robust doctoral research training programme, dedicated research resources, training in transferable skills, visiting speaker seminar programme, and associate with existing research centres and groups. In addition, all students are encouraged to undertake training and development in teaching and deliver teaching and/or research assistantship duties on a paid basis to further enhance their experience in preparation for their future careers.

The Project

This project takes a mixed-methods approach to gain an understanding of the processes through which the transition towards a circular economy is taking place. New business models (decentralised production, product-service systems, sharing platforms) are emerging alongside alternative ways of organizing production and consumption (such as commoning). Examples are bikesharing and caresharing, decentralised energy production, and initiatives like Repair Cafe’s.

Often, these business models involve a redrawing of the boundary between social practices of consumption and production, as evidenced by new terms like ‘prosumption’. The roles of consumers as well as those of firms are redefined, which results in contestation visible in traditional and social media.

The PhD project will involve the analysis of the ways in which the roles of firms and consumers are being redefined, in two in-depth case studies as well as through a systemic analysis. The latter will be facilitated through text-mining methods based on natural language processing (NLP) and machine-learning as a way to construct event-based datasets. The successful applicant will have a chance to work in a research team that works on related issues in a collaborative way.

Entry Requirements

Applications for this project are sought from exceptional UK, EU and international students with an outstanding academic background.

We are looking for an ambitious student who combines a strong methodological ability with an interest in business model innovation.

Applicants must have a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) and hold or expect to obtain a Masters qualification with Distinction. English Language requirements (where required) are IELTS 7.0, TOEFL 623 (100 ibt), PTE 66.

How to apply

Candidates should submit a PhD application for the PhD Business & Management and indicate that they wish to be considered for this project.

Your application must contain a letter of interest outlining your background, interest and research skills related to the topic, understanding of the project, and how you satisfy the requirements described above.

Candidates are strongly advised to submit their application as early as possible. Candidates who do not submit the required supporting documents by the deadline will not be considered.


For further details about the project, please contact Prof. Frank Boons at

For questions related to making your application, please contact Lynne Barlow-Cheetham:

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