‘Mind the gap: Accounting for equitable participation and energy democracy in Kenya’

Morven MacEwen*, Darrick Evensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article advances theory and policy debates which focus on equitable participation in renewable energy. We follow the methodological approach of grounded theory, whereby we theorise on the basis of qualitative empirical research. Patterns in human behaviour are identified through a case-study concerning women's inclusion in the decision-making processes, surrounding the uptake of solar energy in Makueni County, Kenya, highlighting a pitfall in current energy democracy theorising. We conclude that current conceptualisations of energy democracy are limited as theorists and activists have failed to look at the phenomenon through a gendered lens. Although energy democracy is principally concerned with breaking down power structures and increasing public participation in energy-related decisions, it has hitherto failed to recognise the inherently gendered dimension of the transition to distributed renewable energy production that it promotes. Furthermore, our empirical findings from Makueni highlight that women's empowerment can serve as a useful means of evaluating the holistic reach of energy democracy. We demonstrate how processes of women's empowerment have aided the democratising of energy structures in Makueni County. If energy is to move closer to the people, it is important to interrogate who is winning and who is losing in this transition; therefore, energy democracy theorising can be advanced by incorporating feminist epistemologies, which analyse constructions of the self and of social hierarchies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101843
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Early online date3 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Dec 2020


  • Africa
  • energy democracy
  • gender and development
  • Kenya
  • solar energy
  • women's empowerment


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