University of Miami Law Review


The concept of “energy communities” has had long-standing and evolving significance in the United States and in other countries around the world. Under the Biden Administration, the term “energy communities” has acquired new legal meanings that differ by context and continue to evolve. This Article traces the shifting meaning of “energy communities” and examines how it relates to other dominant references to “communities” in the context of energy law and policy, including environmental justice, low-income, underserved, and disadvantaged communities, as well as newer community-scale energy system innovations, such as community solar or “advanced energy communities.” International comparisons, such as with the European Union’s Citizen Energy Community and Renewable Energy Community concepts, provide context for thinking about the role of energy/community linkages in the clean energy transition. In tracing these related conceptions, this Article shows that significant variability currently exists across energy community models and sees this variability as a strength. As the energy sector shifts from fossil fuel dominance toward increasingly distributed models for meeting energy demand, this Article cautions policymakers to avoid anchoring legal conceptions of “energy communities” too firmly to the past, so that the broad concept can continue to drive innovation in community-scale energy systems. Ideally, legal frameworks can favor flexible definitions sufficient to create adaptable and effective transition support regimes without limiting the potential for reimagining the “energy communities” of the future.