Evaluating the Use of Renewable Energy and Communal Governance Systems for Climate Change Adaptation


  • Debora Ley
  • H J Corsair
  • Sabine Fuss
  • Chandni Singh




renewable energy, adaptation, climate, resilience, institutions, governance, Guatemala


Aim: Renewable energy (RE) systems can be effective tools for rural communities for meeting goals for development and climate change mitigation and adaptation. RE systems provide small amounts of electricity fostering community development through improved energy access, livelihood opportunities, and improved quality of life. Communities in rural Guatemala are increasingly vulnerable to climate change impacts, due to increasingly extreme weather events. Distributed RE systems can be more effective than connection to national electric grids in providing power if community members have the agency and skill (technical and in governance) to maintain them. The goal was to evaluate the performance of RE systems used in a rural Guatemalan community and the governance system created around it.

Design/Research methods: The specific RE systems were evaluated eight years ago; they had performed well especially after Hurricane Stan. Recommendations were made for further performance improvement. This study evaluates the subsequent performance given more intense rains, and the current state of related community governance on the basis of semi-structured interviews.

Conclusions/findings: This research highlights the need for enhanced and continuous monitoring and evaluation methods for both energy projects and their supporting institutional structures. Accountability, mediation mechanisms and transparency tools within these institutions can allow more open communication and equitable treatment with agents of power.

Originality/value of the article: The article provides original insights for project implementation and policy information. Strong trust bonds are necessary for community resilience in emergencies, and in the well-being and development of the community, independent of energy sources.


Agrawal, A. (2001). Common property institutions and sustainable governance of resources. World Development, 29(10), 1649-1672.

CEPAL (2017). Estadísticas del subsector eléctrico de los países del Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA). https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/44358/1/S1801216_es.pdf Accessed on 14 Aug 2019.

de Coninck, H., A. Revi, M. Babiker, P. Bertoldi, M. Buckeridge, A. Cartwright, W. Dong, J. Ford, S. Fuss, J.-C. Hourcade, D. Ley, R. Mechler, P. Newman, A. Revokatova, S. Schultz, L. Steg, and T. Sugiyama, 2018: Strengthening and Implementing the Global Response. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.

Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Science 162/1968: 1243–1248.

Huang, P., Broto, V. C., Liu, Y., & Ma, H. (2018). The governance of urban energy transitions: A comparative study of solar water heating systems in two Chinese cities. Journal of cleaner production, 180, 222-231.

Huitema, D., Adger, W.N., Berkhout, F., Massey, E., Mazmanian, D., Munaretto, S., Plummer, R., Termeer, C. 2016. The Governance of Adaptation: Choices, Reasons, and Effects. Introduction to the Special Feature. Ecology and Society 21 (3). doi:10.5751/ES-08797-210337.

IRENA (2018), Off-grid renewable energy solutions: Global and regional status and trends. IRENA, Abu Dhabi. www.irena.org/publications/2018/Jul/Off-grid-Renewable-EnergySolutions. Accessed on 11 Aug 2019.

IRENA (2019). Climate change and renewable energy: National policies and the role of communities, cities and regions. https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2018/Jul/IRENA_Off-grid_RE_Solutions_2018.pdf Accessed on 11 Aug 2019. ISBN: 978-92-9260-136-2

Kumar, A., Ferdous, R., Luque-Ayala, A., McEwan, C., Power, M., Turner, B., & Bulkeley, H. (2019). Solar energy for all? Understanding the successes and shortfalls through a critical comparative assessment of Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Mozambique, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Energy Research & Social Science, 48, 166-176.

Ley, D. (2013). Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Renewable Energy in Rural Central America. PhD Thesis, Oxford University, Oxford, UK.

Ley, D. (2017). Sustainable development, climate change, and renewable energy in rural Central America. In Evaluating Climate Change Action for Sustainable Development (pp. 187-212). Springer, Cham.

Madriz-Vargas, R., Bruce, A., & Watt, M. (2018). The future of Community Renewable Energy for electricity access in rural Central America. Energy Research & Social Science, 35, 118-131.

MEM (2019). Policy for Rural Electrification 2019-2032 Available at: http://www.mem.gob.gt/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Pol%C3%ADtica-Electrificaci%C3%B3n-Rural-2019-2032.p Accessed on 12 August 2019.

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, ISBN 0-521-40599-8.

Ortiz, W., Dienst, C., & Terrapon-Pfaff, J. (2012). Introducing modern energy services into developing countries: the role of local community socio-economic structures. Sustainability, 4(3), 341-358.

Valdivieso, P, Krister, P. A., Villena-Roldán, B. 2017. Institutional Drivers of Adaptation in Local Government Decision-Making: Evidence from Chile. Climatic Change 143 (1–2). Climatic Change: 157–171. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1961-9.

Venema, H.D. & Rehman, I.H. (2007) Decentralized renewable energy and the climate change mitigation-adaptation nexus", Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 12(5), 875-900.

Vink, M.J., Dewulf, A. & Termeer, C. 2013. The Role of Knowledge and Power in Climate Change Adaptation Governance: A Systematic Literature Review. Ecology and Society 18 (4): 46. doi:10.5751/ES-05897-180446.

Wade, R. (1987). The management of common property resources: collective action as an alternative to privatisation or state regulation. Cambridge Journal of Economics 11(2):95-106.

Walker, G., Devine-Wright, P., Hunter, S., High, H., & Evans, B. (2010). Trust and community: Exploring the meanings, contexts and dynamics of community renewable energy. Energy Policy, 38(6), 2655-2663.

Wirth, S. (2014). Communities matter: Institutional preconditions for community renewable energy. Energy Policy, 70, 236-246.

Wolsink, M. (2012). The research agenda on social acceptance of distributed generation in smart grids: Renewable as common pool resources. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16(1), 822-835.