Scientific efficiency or community spirit? Can we develop an energy policy with both?

Energy is a part of everything we do. Whether it’s our home, work or social lives we are totally dependent upon the energy we consume. It’s fundamental to our society, yet few of us have a say in where our energy comes from. We expect it to be available on demand but don’t really think about how it gets there. This is a problem, because the sources of our heat and electricity have a serious impact on the health, prosperity and sustainability of the communities in which we live.

Therefore, the choices politicians make about energy are extremely important to the way our society develops. It is strange then, that as citizens of a democracy we do not take a more active role in deciding what how our needs are met.

Energy policy decisions at the national level were heavily influenced by scientific studies, expert advice and industrial thinking. While this approach was appropriate post war, at a time when cheap and reliable energy for everyone’s benefit was the only criteria, it has had the effect of disempowering local decision making and certainly closed off the process to the average person. Now that building resilient communities is a key criteria, we need to re-empower society and break old habits to make better informed energy decisions for everyone’s benefit.

The popular science writer Ben Goldacre has called for an approach to policy making that utilizes local trials to test policy. This allows governments to build up a bank of data about a range of policies, so that decisions can be made based upon solid evidence. Unfortunately Goldacre largely overlooks community involvement, however, the two ideas are not incompatible.

In the early twentieth century an American philosopher by the name of John Dewey proposed a system for local government which took both a scientific and an inclusive approach. The idea is to test out policies and schemes at the local level, evaluate the results and share them with your neighbours. This could enable a local government approach for new policies to be developed with the help of local communities at the same time as benefiting from the power of a scientific insights.

SmartKlub’s CAPE platform is designed to enable this approach, reviving the philosophy of Dewey by empowering individuals to take part in making decisions about their energy. SmartKlub’s partnership with local authorities is a vital part of this process.