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  • Writer's pictureStephen Adshead

We The Power: The Future of Energy is Community-Owned - Review

Updated: Jul 17, 2022

Produced by Patagonia, the documentary ‘We the Power’ focuses on energy cooperatives that aim to take back control of energy production from the ‘big companies'.

It centres on The Renewable Energy Source Cooperative (RESCOOP), a publicly owned cooperative with (at the time of the documentary) 60,000 members.

From humble beginnings converting an old mill in his home village to his very own power station, their founder Dirk Vansintjan vows to decentralise energy supply, taking money away from the ‘monopolists’ and back to the local people.

ElektrizitätsWerke Schönau (EWS) is another community-owned energy cooperative that features within the production.

Angered by the Chernobyl Disaster in 1986, local residents of Schönau in the Black Forest, Germany took back control of their power grid in order to implement an ecological energy supply.

Other cooperatives include Som Energia in Spain that have set up a collective-purchase program, making it easier for people to install solar panels by reducing the management, administrative and legal costs that are often involved.

The concept of an energy cooperative is exciting and instills hope of an innovative future where clean energy is produced and supplied by the very people who use it.

Local ownership of the power supply gives members the opportunity to decide where profits are invested, for example putting it back into the community or funding further renewable projects.

It also provides members with an education on the process of energy production and the economics behind it and the opportunity to work with people from all different backgrounds.

This is evident in the documentary in particular through the work of Agamemnon Otero, the founder of Brixton Energy, a cooperative based in south London.

They create renewable energy projects where profits are kept within the community and provides training, volunteering and employment opportunities for local people (Brixton Energy).

Not only does this increase current renewable energy production but by engaging the minds of the next generation it ensures that their values and objectives are carried on into the future.

Whilst the cooperatives and the various people working within them do have clever ideas for cleaner, more affordable energy production, the documentary itself can come across as more of an advertising campaign for the cooperatives involved.

In this respect it comes across fairly biased at times, particularly when discussing current energy production and the players involved. For example, nuclear energy is portrayed as extremely damaging for the environment and public health, despite the fact it is considered by many as one of the cleanest and safest sources of energy.

Described as being ‘responsible for the fastest decarbonisation effort in history’ ( and labelled by the European Commission as a green source of energy.

However, the producers of the documentary fail to discuss these points and instead use footage of the Chernobyl disaster as a cheap scare tactic to sway the viewer to side with a cooperative alternative.

Furthermore, no voice is given to the major energy companies who are branded as the villains in the documentary. Instead an actor, dressed in a suit and placed within an elaborate looking office, is directed to grin and glare at the camera, orchestrating a greedy, selfish image.

This comes across poorly and as a lazy technique to self serve their own narrative whilst not providing the viewer with the necessary information to form their own opinion.

Whilst I feel the documentary does lack an unbiased discussion, it does however, provide a platform from which we and future generations can build upon.

It encourages you to question something you may consider to be the norm of today, of a future where you have greater control over the source of the energy you use and where the money you invest in it ends up.

Particularly poignant in recent months as we see energy prices rising due to volatile global markets and the companies that source it turning over ever increasing profits.

Profits that in the future could be invested locally where they would make a real difference and wouldn’t experience such shifting rates as we see today.

So, if you feel slightly beaten down on rising living costs and the dread of your next energy bill I would definitely give this a watch. It may bring you some optimism and even encourage you to discover your nearest local cooperative.

By Stephen Adshead ©


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