The reversed energy-community

A thought experiment to envision a degrowth energy community

by Maxime Jobin


In Québec, private firms producing and distributing electricity were nationalized in 1944 to create Hydro-
Québec, a public utility that became the sole distributor of electricity, with
94% of it generated through
. For this reason, and because hydroelectricity can be considered a renewable and relatively
clean source of energy although it is not exempt from
social and environmental impacts² the vast
majority of households provision themselves through the state corporation. While programs exist to
allow individuals and communities to self-provision with other forms of renewables and/or use the
national grid only as a backup, few invest in such schemes, especially in urban contexts where space is
scarce and renting frequent.


In this context, and in accordance with degrowth ideals, we propose to look at the question of energy the
other way around: instead of focusing on producing clean energy which is already easily accessible
and cheap in our province , lets regroup to empower ourselves in reducing our energy needs. What we
envision is an urban energy community for leaseholders and owners, you are welcome! that want to
go beyond individual actions in reducing their energy consumption.

  1. Sufficiency before efficiency: we want to ask ourselves what we really need and build a culture of sufficiency enabled by collaboration and sharing
  2. A wide view: energy isnt only about what we plug into electrical outlets, its also about how we transport ourselves, eat, wash, heat/cool, consume, etc. (e.g. bike-sharing, indoor temperature management education, community urban gardening)
  3. Localism: we favour locally sourced solutions so that we dont externalize the impacts of our actions on others
  4. Commoning: we see ourselves as a common that builds and shares collective knowledge, practices and resources
  5. Low-tech: we seek technical solutions that can easily be understood and repaired, fostering collective autonomy (e.g. mechanical appliances, hot water bottles, window shutters)
  6. Slowness and imperfection: we take the time we need to achieve our goals and accept that mistakes are part of the journey
  7. Inclusivity: we acknowledge that needs and financial/time capacities to participate are not the same for everyone and actively seek to reach more vulnerable groups (e.g. window insulation task forces)
  8. Creativity: we are not afraid to think out of the box! (e.g. collective human-powered laundry facilities)
  9. Democratic governance: we work horizontally and take decisions based on consensus in assemblies
  10. Partnerships: we seek to combine our efforts with other commons and initiatives at the local level
  11. Non-profit: our gain is meaningfulness, pride and relationships
  12. Advocacy: we understand that bottom-up changes wont be enough and push for societal changes that will increase collective resilience (e.g. more decentralized energy system)


Maxime Jobin is a student of R&D’s online master program on degrowth.




² Documentary “J’aime hydro” (2019) by Christine Beaulieu, see