Renewable Energy and the Social Economy in Alberta: Prospects for Community Power

By Julie MacArthur.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Lack of action to facilitate deep green transitions at both provincial and federal policy levels in Canada has led to an increased interest in how specific community-based actors can spur change at local levels. Drawing from research conducted by the BC-Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance (BALTA) in 2009 and 2010, this paper argues that bottom-up community mobilization, together with significant policy shifts are crucial today. First, it outlines briefly the conceptual and theoretical links between the social economy, renewables and sustainability. Second, it summarizes the results of research undertaken on the status and prospects for social economy actors (co-operatives in particular) in developing renewable electricity in Alberta, Canada. Ultimately, I argue that institutional innovations within the social economy may make important contributions to building sustainable futures in Canada. Community control, economic development and education and movement building are but three of the benefits these actors bring to renewables development. Particular strengths also exist in both the long history and deep local roots of social economy actors. At the same time, challenges of lack of financial resources and supportive policy at this point in time exist.

Keywords: Social Economy, Sustainability, Canada, Electricity

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.121-130. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 349.662KB).

Julie MacArthur

PhD Candidate, Political Science, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Julie is a doctoral researcher in political science and political economy at Simon Fraser University, and a researcher with the BC-Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance (BALTA). Her work focuses on the political economy of power sector reforms in Canadian provinces, as well as the development of co-operative and community based renewable electricity projects. Her most recent publications include: ‘Mortgaging Irish Independence’, Monthly Review, March 2011, and ‘A Responsibility to Rethink? Challenging Paradigms in Human Security’, International Journal, Spring 2008. In the past, Julie was a researcher at the Liu Institute for Global Issues (2005-6), a student research associate with the Simons Centre for Disarmament and Non-proliferation (2005), and Canada's representative to the Global Youth Initiative in Tokyo, Japan and has spent number of years working outside the academe with Canada’s Department of Immigration, Australia’s Department of Education, and in banking/finance with the Royal Bank.