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Communication Publication: Strategic Use of Energy Democracy

A dramatic increase in solar power adoption has occurred in the last decade, due to growing consumer interest in green energy, coupled with significant decreases in associated costs. The unprecedented speed at which distributed resources are changing energy systems underscores the important challenge of understanding the roles of humans in this transition. Energy democracy is a movement that aims to involve publics in energy decision-making with emphases on the transformation from fossil fuels to distributed renewable energy. Research in energy democracy has yet to examine actors who may perceive distributed energy as a barrier to their goals, such as electric utility companies.

The objective of this scholarship, A Comparative Case Study of Electric Utility Companies' Use of Energy Democracy in Strategic Communication, is to identify how aspects of the energy democracy movement have been employed by electric utility companies as a strategy for communicating with their customers in discussions around net metering. To this end, the researchers conducted a qualitative analysis of websites and press releases for NV Energy in Nevada and Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) in Utah, two utility companies who recently proposed changes to their net metering policies. This research found that both NV Energy and RMP strategically emphasized their pro-renewable energy position and framed their net metering policies as socially just positions in energy decision-making.

This article was published in the journal Frontiers in Communication: Science and Environmental Communication and can be found online here.

Meaghan McKasy is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Communication and this is her first publication as the primary author. Dr. Sara K. Yeo is a professor in the Department of Communication and is affiliated with the Environmental Humanities program and the Global Change and Sustainability Center.

Last Updated: 9/20/21