Bottom-Up Energy Transition

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John Thackara:

"A bottom-up, pull-based approach is exemplifed by a new publication out of th Transition Towns movement.

The Chief Executive of Taunton Deane Borough Council, in the UK, asked two transitioners, Chrissie Godfrey and Paul Birch, to work with the council on a series of workshops that would enable workers and elected officials to create their vision of the borough in 2026.

Each of the eleven workshops considered how leading a low carbon lifestyle over the next 17 years could impact on food and energy production, homes, transport, jobs, holidays and leisure. Participants were very mixed: Plumbers, planners, environmental health officers and car park attendants mixed with senior strategy officers, carpenters, and tree surgeons.

From that rich mix of backgrounds, skills, interests and political leanings emerged the resulting book, “Towards a resilient Taunton Deane” [1] , that tells a surprisingly consistent story about what a resilient Taunton Deane might be like.

The energy section, for example, describes how, by 2026, “a radical overhaul of the planning system helped local communities to take energy generation into their own hands. A surge in locally managed energy coops has made small scale community heating systems, solar and wind farming and anaerobic digesters commonplace; solar panels are commonplace on homes, and mandatory on public buildings”.

However, the book goes on, “it is not just that the Borough is generating so much of its own energy, it is also that people are using far less”.

My point here is not that high-tech push is bad, and bottom-up social pull is good. On the contrary: what’s needed is more interaction, not less, between the tech-oriented world and the social one. That said, the power relations have to change. I imagine a world filled with Transition Towns that are linked together in a network of trade routes. These trade routes will be new versions of the camel-bearing ones that predated railways and globalisation.

The merchants will offer a wide variety of (inter alia) energy solutions. But it will be for each Town (or cluster thereof) to decide which ones to choose." (

More Information

  • “Towards a resilient Taunton Deane” [2]