The role of the grassroots in energy change-over 


Climate change demands a change-over of energy systems worldwide. Europe is witnessing a surge in small-scale initiatives based on renewable alternatives. This project examines these grassroots networks in three countries: Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Climate change affects our lives and will continue to do so unless we take radical measures to reduce our climate impact. This requires the change-over of energy systems worldwide. Despite unstinting efforts, such change-overs are difficult to achieve, as they involve not only technology but also societies' social and financial aspects. Change processes are often slow and take place in stages. This is partly due to the difficulty of finding technologically and financially feasible alternatives, but also to the influence of special interests. On the other hand, throughout Europe there has been an upsurge in small-scale initiatives based on renewable energy alternatives, creating different constellations of social and technological opportunities. These "grass-roots innovations" (GI) are diverse and vary from cooperatives and citizens' groups to companies and municipalities. While the potential of these innovations is huge, much of it remains unexploited on account of regulatory, financial and political limitations.

International networks studied

One way to overcome these limitations is to exchange knowledge in transnational networks. This project studies such networks using various methods: mapping/analysis, digital searches, content analysis of articles in the media and policy documents, and in-depth case studies. Focus on three countries: Denmark, with its traditionally strong grassroots movements that are becoming increasingly absorbed by large commercial interests; Sweden, where grassroots initiatives are more marginalized; and the Netherlands, where despite a strong desire to benefit from grassroots initiatives, the more radical change initiatives are hampered by special interests. The project focuses particularly on the potential ability of the grassroots initiatives to contribute to radical changes in the energy systems.

Project title: Mobilizing grassroots capacities for sustainable energy transitions: path improvement or path change? 


Magnusson, D., Sperling, K., Veenman, S., & Oteman, M. (2021). News media framing of grassroots innovations in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. Environmental Communication, 1-22.DOI:10.1080/17524032.2021.1880460

Niskanen, J., & Magnusson, D. (2021). Understanding upscaling and stagnation of farm-based biogas production in Sweden through transitional and farming logics. Journal of Cleaner Production, 279,1-11.DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.123235

Magnusson, D. & Palm, J. (2019). Come together – the development of Swedish energy communities. Sustainability 11(4), 1056. DOI: 10.3390/su11041056

Kooij, H-J, Oteman, M., Veenman, S., Sperling, K., Magnusson, D., Palm, J., & Hvelplund, F. (2018). Between grassroots and treetops: Community power and institutional dependence in the renewable energy sector in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. Energy Research & Social Science, 37, 52-64. DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2017.09.019

Magnusson, D. (2018). Going back to the roots: The fourth generation of Swedish eco-villages. Scottish Geographical Journal. 134 (3-4), p. 122-140. DOI: 10.1080/14702541.2018.1465199

Palm, J. (2017). Swedish prosumers in a 10-year perspective—What can we learn from a market in transformation? In Proceedings of the ECEEE Summer Study, Hyères Cedex, France, 29 May–3 June 2017; ECEEE: Hyères Cedex, France, 2017; pp. 1971–1978

Magnusson, D. (2016). Who brings the heat?–From municipal to diversified ownership in the Swedish district heating market post-liberalization. Energy Research & Social Science, 22, 198-209. DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2016.10.004


Researchers in the project

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