Socioecological Transformation Focus Energy

Venue: Gartenhotel Altmannsdorf, Hoffingergasse, 1120 Wien
Languges: English, German
Organization: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Brussels, Vienna University, Department of Political Science (Ulrich Brand)

Contact: Marlis Gensler, Tel. +32 (0)2738 7663

The conference is only open to the public at the panel sessions. These are on Thursday morning (9.30 - 12.00), on Thursday evening (public event 18.00 - 20.00), and on Friday morning (9.00 - 10.30).

For good reasons, energy issues remain quite high on the political agenda. Under the heading of “energy security”, powerful economic and political actors intend to pursue their interests. The promotion of renewable energy is up to date mainly a complement to fast growing energy demands and not a real alternative against “brown energy” and the powerful politico-economic complex behind it. In parallel to renewables, coal, gas, oil, and nuclear energy production increases. Many conflicts arise from an intensification of resource extractivism in the Global South but also in the North (e.g. fracking in the United States).

Given this constellation: What are answers and strategies of progressive political forces? What alternative experiences and alternative proposals do exist? Which forms and contents have resistances against capital and power-driven energy politics from above? How can a project of socio-ecological transformation with a focus on justice, democracy and sustainability be formulated? How can tensions and contradictions be dealt with, especially given the fact that many workers live in and from work in unsustainable industries?

From the 3rd to the 5th of July in Vienna, international activists, politicians and scholars will discuss these and other questions. The focus will be on Europe, but from the beginning of our project in 2011, we are discussing an internationalist perspective, therefore, the role of African and Latin American countries for energy in Europe as well as resistances and alternatives will play an important role. A good part of the seminar will be on exchanging experiences and developing strategies.

This international seminar is part of a series of workshops and seminars which already took place: (1) An international seminar on socioecological transformation and energy policy in Latin America and Europe; (2) A workshop on the financialization of nature; (3) A workshop of NGOs and social movements on EU energy policy and social struggles; (4) A workshop on resource extractivism in Africa and links to EU energy and resources policy.
About the conference

The aims of the conference are: (a) understand the approaches and contradictions of the energy transition in Europe; (b) get an overview of the main struggles and debates in the context of the energy transition in different countries and even across different continents; (c) identify challenges and needs to develop a shared left position to the energy transition (and strategies and options for intervention); (d) promote the discussion and common position finding among progressive actors (among activists, politicians, trade unionists, and scholars).
Participants are social movements, NGOs, trade unions, academic scholars, and politicians from Europe, Latin America and Africa.
In the heart of the conference are the three working groups that address different strategic fields.
We organize a public debate on energy transition (Germany and Europe) on Thursday, 4 July 2013, 6-8 pm, at the venue of the conference.
The working groups
(1) Transformation, employment, extractivism

The transition to a low-carbon economy produces conflicts in which the contradictions become visible. Employment in high-carbon productions and industries get lost, fossil energy production remains important in Europe. Soft industrialization in mining areas (e.g. Ruhr) where hardly successful / have rather failed.
Which discussions exist among trade unions, among workers and employees of the concerned industrial sectors and politicians in view of the challenges of the climate change and the energy transition in the different countries? Which are the experiences concerning the structural change and the transition of a region, which formerly had been dependent on fossil fuels, and which took leave of this for whatever reason? What would be important for trade unions, to become actively involved in a process of a conversion, and how could wide alliances be created for this?
Organization: Alexandra Strickner, Klaus Sühl

Language of this working group: English and German, simultaneous translation

(2) Energy Democracy – controlling energy companies on the local and national level

Besides the issues of technology and regulation, the question of ownership and of political control of the electricity sector becomes more and more important in struggles of social movements and citizens' groups for a transition to renewable energies. Concepts of energy democracy are developed rapidly in many different contexts.
What kind of models of energy democracy do exist? What are the (different) coalitions of social forces which push these concepts? How is the question of profit dealt with in concepts of energy democracy? Is energy democracy only suitable for the local level or what to do about the big energy corporations? Is energy democracy a pragmatic concept to solve a couple of hands-on problems, or does it have a wider transformative perspective?
Organization: Alexis Passadakis, Sören Becker

Language of this working group: English
(3) European energy and resources policies and the role of European energy corporations

The political economy of the EU energy policy is a blind spot for resistances and social movements in Europe. Constraints develop on the European level with consequences at the local level. It is necessary to look at status quo and main trends of EU energy policy (completion of internal energy market, new framework 2030, and state aid rules). And it is necessary to look at contradictions and space of action as well as potential alliances. In this working group we want to look at current interests and strategies of European energy corporations as well as European energy and resource policies (linked to energy). How to react to strategies of the energy corporations and to ongoing political processes? What resistances and alternatives currently exist, what are entry points, what is needed to strengthen resistance and alternatives? The aim of the working group is knowledge sharing and the planning of concrete activities (campaigning, storytelling, studies to cover blind spots, position papers, etc.).
Organization: Ulrich Brand, Fabian Hübner, Marlis Gensler

Language of this working group: English

Conference documents:

Seminar programme (PDF-Download)

Introductory paper by Ulrich Brand, Vienna University
Useful informations for travels (PDF-Download)
Information on public event
Short report by Ulrich Brand
Published conference reader:

Energy democracy? A socio-ecological transformation in the area of energy (PDF)


Results of the working groups of the conference
Energiedemokratie? Zur Nachhaltigkeit in der europäischen Energiepolitik (Website Universität Wien)

Thesis papers/PowerPoints:

Local Energy Transitions in Europe (Sören Becker und Conrad Kunze)
Background documents:

>> Energy Alternatives. Surveying the Territory. The Corner House, 2013. Authors: Larry Lohmann with Nicholas Hildyard and Sarah Sexton. see here
>> Socioecological transformation and energy policy in Latin America and Europe, RLS Brussels, 2012. see here