Renewable Energy and Democracy

Another difference between renewable and sustainable energy is worth discussing. This difference has democracy as its main focus and is quite relevant to the issue of energy systems and the implementation of technological change such as those addressed by the Choice Awareness theory, as we shall see in Chapter 2.

In the 1970s, an energy movement arose in Denmark as in many other Western countries. This movement was constituted among others by the antinuclear movement (OOA) and the Danish Organization for Renewable Energy (OVE). When the OOA was created and these energy problems were discussed, the issues of democracy and living conditions in local communities played major roles in the arguments against nuclear and in favor of renewable energy. With regard to nuclear, some were afraid of the consequences of such technology in terms of security and ownership. The question was how to guard the plants and the transport of radioactive waste without having to hire security staff and erecting fences. Who should own and operate these big power stations? If ownership was assigned to big companies, it would mean that local communities would lose influence. Also, how should space for nuclear power stations be allocated and radioactive waste be disposed of without impacting the quality of life for the communities involved? The antinuclear movement (OOA 1980) discussed all of these concerns, as well as the relations between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

The issue of local ownership also played an important role in discussions on renewable energy. Since most people feel it is better to have an influence on such decisions, the citizens in these local communities preferred to have their own renewable sources of energy instead of depending on nuclear or imported fossil fuels (OVE 2000). As we shall see in the next chapter, these beliefs conform to the concept of Choice Awareness, which highlights the benefits of choice in creating a "life worth living" at both the individual and societal levels.

In such a view, the difference between renewable and sustainable energy becomes important. If society accepts nuclear power and fossil fuels in combination with carbon capture as major parts of the solution, the technological change may not meet the local communities' wishes to improve their influence on decisions that are important to their lives. In short, one can say that the implementation of renewable energy systems helps to create what in Chapter 3, according to the Choice Awareness theory, is called a suitable democratic infrastructure. This suitable democratic infrastructure may improve the awareness of choices and thereby, in general, create better living conditions. On the other hand, an improved democratic infrastructure will also improve the circumstances for making the choice of implementing renewable energy systems. More important, depending on the specific definition applied, this may not be the case with sustainable energy systems. Based on these considerations, the term renewable energy systems is used in this book.

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