Can industries be parties in collective action? Community energy in an Iranian industrial zone

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The industrial sector plays a huge role in creating economic growth. While energy is vital for industries to thrive, various factors are undermining the availability of energy including phasing out of fossil fuels, CO2 emission caps and, the large gap between the fast developments of industrial clusters and the energy supply, especially in developing countries. Recently, enabled by renewable energy technologies, a transition process is taking place towards decentralized settings for energy provision where households in neighbourhoods initiate renewable electricity cooperatives. The question addressed in this research is if or to what extent the model of collective action deployed by citizen cooperatives is applicable to collaborations between industries in an industrial cluster. We identified the conditions for the establishment of Industrial Community Energy Systems (InCES) from a collective action perspective by using Ostrom's Institutional Analysis and Development Framework. The case study selected is the industrial city of Arak, one of the largest and most diversified industrial clusters in Iran. Besides desk research, data was also collected by conducting semi-structured interviews and by holding stakeholder workshops. The results of this study highlight the importance of community spirit and trust for the establishment of InCES, unlike citizen cooperatives where finance and environmental attitude are essential. A transparent legal framework to resolve conflicts that might emerge in industrial partnerships is another crucial element given the many differences among industries such as differences in energy demand and in usage patterns.