Written in response to a proposal re: the transition group’s “Peoples Energy Charter”
Communications with DCENR with the launch of the Green Paper on Energy Policy in Ireland
And in summary of a talk delivered at the Young Friends of the Earth Ireland meeting in Carlow last September 27th 2014.
Re: an energy charter that is for and of the people, I want to present here a number of details that might help with understanding a bit of the layout of the push for centralized renewable utilities in contrast to the strategy necessary to developing community cooperative renewable energy.
Policy is important, and with that in mind I would advise to keenly keep an eye on the Friends of the Earth Ireland’s work on new policy recommendations for renewable energy that involve the community. This involvement of the community may or may not be authentic. Friends of the Earth are also good friends of the Green Party in Ireland, as elsewhere, and it should be noted that the Irish party leader Eamonn Ryan is a member/adviser/associate of the green investment group E3G (http://www.e3g.org/showcase/green-investment-bank/), an investment body for large scale centralized renewable energy projects. I suspect that the measures for community involvement may yet be piecemeal rather than authentic, where I would see ‘authentic’ as being an investment in Community Owned RE, with the initial investment made in such a way as pays a fair dividend and contains a buyout period after the initial investment where the community become owners of the infrastructure created. This follows as a materially applicable version of the Business Source commercial OS software model in terms of national and natural resources.
In addition to this, I want to point out the movement that is being made by the P2P global community, whereby licensing is being created (e.g: the Commons Based Reciprocity License) which enables the production of knowledge, research, and design commons, is producing a natural alignment of the commons and cooperative models. The result of this convergence is Open Cooperativism – and the open cooperative has a number of defining characteristics that distinguish it from the traditional, and steadily liberal cooperative form.
An open cooperative is a different model than that which we are used to.
*New/Open Cooperatives must work for the common good, a requirement that must be included in their own statutes and governance documents.
*New/Open Cooperatives must (co-)produce commons.
*New/Open Cooperatives must include all stakeholders in their management. Coops need to be multi-stakeholder governed.
*Finally we must address the issue of global social and political power. Following the lead of David de Ugarte and the lasindias.net global cooperative, we propose the creation of global phyles. A phyle is a global business-ecosystem that sustains commons and their community of contributors.
It is a global response of local character working with the maxim: “If its light its global, if its heavy its local” implying that knowledge, research, design etc, which are ‘light’, constitute a global commons protected by reciprocity license. Manufacture, production, cultivation etc, which are ‘heavy’ are done locally. The wider network mutualize needs through participatory mechanisms like ‘open book accounting’ forming a globally connective, but locally autonomous network.
Within these local nodes, commons based physical production as well as contributory/participatory labor/exchange systems are accounted for via localized analog systems interfacing digitally with the global. This means that people can live in the context of enforced austerity, be ‘cash-poor’, but be rich in terms of local services and opportunity, while establishing networks of communication, supply and exchange spanning the globe.
How does this model work with Open Community Cooperative Energy? Here scale is important. We see, through the process of countless local coops emerging around the EU, that localization diminishes costs and significantly raises the quality of life and health in the communities where it is most active and variegated. (the liberalisation of agricultural cooperatives in Ireland from 1950-1980+ is a clear example of the failings of single function models and the necessity for variety and participant-producer ownership and governance) The adherence here is to ‘distributed models’, – with ‘distributed’ as in ‘systems’, not as in ‘transport’,- but not yet to ‘coordinated distributed systems’, which is where we need to go.
The connection between Open Source as applied, in order, to research, design, distributed production, and application as per open cooperativism, has been little investigated in relation to Renewable Energy. There is a naturally emergent alignment between this step by step process and the development of community cooperative energy such that we can thoroughly avoid the mistake of currently advancing centralized RE utilities.
How does this work?
To understand the emergent model it helps to contrast with the old model. To summarize: Oil is extractive by character, it is based on extractive processes both materially and by intent. In turn it generates more practices following that same logic of extraction. The ensuing development of capital, coming from oil extraction and what it enabled, was protected and enshrined by ‘intellectual property’ rights, copyright, and patent-protection. Today we see a transition, and one definitive characteristic within this transition is the shift from this model of extraction, IP, copyright, and patent protection to its inverse, generative mutualisation, OS, copyleft, and commons based ‘reciprocity licensing’.
(to note: Commons-based ‘Reciprocity’ licensing is so based due to its implication that anyone contributing to the commons can use the commons, even for commercial purposes, but those not contributing to the commons must pay via the license agreement.)
To continue with the principle of transition above we can note a recent story in the media that attracted a lot of attention regarding the status-symbol par excellence of the era of capital, the (formerly) oil guzzling automobile. Two months or so ago, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, the worlds leading electric car manufacturer, Open Sourced all of its patents and research. Within three days Mercedes, BMW, and Volkswagen signed up to the program. This story encapsulates the initial stages of the transition in terms we can clearly understand: “the shift from this model of extraction, IP, copyright, and patent protection to its inverse, generative mutualisation, OS, copyleft”
– but whats missing? –
The creation and protection of a commons that is horizontal and respects the collective rights of all beings.
And so how in practice has this model operated in terms of renewable energy in the old model and what does this ‘natural alignment’ imply in practice?
Well, in the academic research and development of renewable energy technology the universities put young ‘knowledge capital’ to work via highly specialized and technical application to the development of technologies already sold prior to even beginning research programs that form the body of the student’s masters program or doctoral work. I recently met a German RE technology student who was about to begin his masters in the technical institute in Berlin. His work involved the development of an atomic layer switch on solar panels such that they do not exceed a temperature limit beyond which they boil the water in the cistern, damaging both the heating system and eventually melting the panel itself. His masters program included a lead researcher and 5 students and the result was already patent protected with a buyer for the technology sourced prior to the program even beginning.
The question here is one of global context, given the urgency for change – who benefits? Not the students doing the work, nor the greater world but by a rent-model. It is rather the holder of the IP, who sells it, and the company to whom it is sold for development and concurrent sale as a product, who are the immediate benefactors of this marriage of academia, R&D, IP/Patent Protection and Commerce.
Research Gate (www.researchgate.net) is the largest global repository of fully Open Source scientific research on the web. Here scientists and researchers of all fields publish their research outside of journals, making them freely accessible to all. In the former case of the masters student, the student, who is really the primary producer of the value, has no rights to the value created. Due to their ‘specialization’ in their particular field they have no understanding of how to develop their research into a working model, and that model into a product, nor of how to get that product to its logical market. This is where the alignment of community cooperative energy with open research, open design, distributed manufacture, and open cooperativist application becomes clear.
In the new model, the creator of the research can protect their work with a reciprocity license. This gives them rights to the research as available in and to the commons. From here, if a private company want to develop this research for profit, the original creator must be remunerated as according with the terms of said license. Likewise, the open design community can access said research in the open source design of renewable energy devices which become a new constituent of the RE commons. From here distributed manufacture, using OS application of 3d printing, laser-cutting, CNC routing, machining, and for a site-specific example, open source print photo voltaic, can form the last step of localized production and application of Community(Open)Cooperative RE projects.
Value generation and distribution in terms of this process can be mapped, accounted for, and distributed accordingly with the use of models such as the OVN (Open Value Network) and the VAS (Value Accounting System) as in development by Sensorica in Montreal, and the cooperative economic structure can be innovated to include the participatory designation of ‘indivisible reserves’ by translocal participants of the emergent Open Cooperative Economy.
This allows communities worldwide to develop localized applications in areas inclusive of and beyond Renewable Energy. The creation of a Renewable Energy Commons of open research, open design, distributed manufacture, in league with community share release strategies to raise the local capital for community cooperative energy generation by these means – This – is a viable model, and a potential strategy for community cooperative renewable energy development. Not only this, this same model applies across the board in a variety of sectors.