1 Jun 2019
Meet the New Normal: Community-Driven Clean Energy Partnership and Regional Cooperation Between Turkey and Armenia
This paper discusses the project Under the Same Sun that has opened a new intersecting area of solidarity, conflict transformation, environmental rights, and energy democracy between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and communities in Turkey and Armenia. Community-based renewable energy production and active citizenship have been the locomotives of this solidarity.
The paper argues that renewable energy technologies not only have economic benefits and are safer for the environment but are also decentralization mechanisms which work to empower communities to create alternatives that can challenge the normality of the time. The determining agents of normalization can shift from governments and institutions to people. Under the Same Sun serves here as a good case study to discuss participatory rural development and decentralization in energy production in Armenia and Turkey.
This paper discusses the project Under the Same Sun  that has opened a new intersecting area of solidarity, conflict transformation, and energy democracy between NGOs and communities in Turkey and Armenia.
The project partners – Troya Environmental Association (Troya) and Ayrudzy NGO (Ayrudzy) – as two local NGOs have been carrying out projects on renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, energy cooperatives, regulations on renewable energy, and sustainable development in rural and urban spaces in Armenia and Turkey. Despite their long track record, the project partners did not know each other until they came together for the first time in November 2017.
By then, for a while, Troya had been in search of funds for the installation of a small-scale solar power station in the village of Gülpınar located in the southwest of the city of Çanakkale in Turkey. The main livelihoods of the local community are agriculture, precisely olive cultivation and viniculture, as well as tourism. However, the region was hit by severe earthquakes in the last few years which destroyed houses and caused serious infrastructure problems in many villages, including Gülpınar. Troya came together with the village head many times before and discussed how to give the villagers a ground for a renewable energy cooperative to sustain the electricity needs of the agricultural production in the village. Considering that energy is one of the main factors determining sustainability in agricultural production, the local community supported the idea of establishing a renewable energy cooperative. However, when it came to practice, they were reluctant. As in the rest of the country, due to increasing rural poverty, small landowners are turning into landless agricultural workers. Following the devastation of the earthquakes, it became impossible for the local community to create the initial budget required for the installation of a solar power plant. At this juncture, the ATNP sub-grant scheme turned out a good opportunity.
On the other side of the border, Ayrudzy, founded in 2007 by a group of engineers and architects, had also been focusing on renewable energy sources, practices and cooperatives. The association was originally established in 1980 as a horse farm, where activities such as equestrian sports, folk dances, and shadow theatre took place on a 20-acre site. Today a riding club, Ayrudzy is located in the town of Ashtarak that is approximately 22 km northwest of Armenia’s capital Yerevan. Ashtarak is a partially rural town with a population of 18,000 people and fruit growing as a thriving economic activity in the region. As a community and a place that has been able to produce concrete solutions to its own needs, Ayrudzy is a good model of how to keep structures local and sustainable. Similar to Troya, Ayrudzy has been in communication with legislative and executive bodies to improve the laws and regulations on renewable energy production in Armenia.
Before the two partners met, as one of the founding members of the International CLEEN Climate Change Network, Ayrudzy had also been in search for ways to expand its network in the field of renewable energy and to establish the first community-based renewable energy cooperative in Armenia. After the application for Under the Same Sun was selected by the ATNP Consortium, Ayrudzy and Troya rolled up their sleeves in March 2018 not only to launch a short-term project but also a partnership that they hope will last for years.
Following the project implementation, Troya as a member of the European Federation for Renewable Energy Cooperatives (REScoop.eu) became the coorganizer of the International Conference for Renewable Energy Cooperatives, which was held on September 10-11, 2018 in Izmir where experts from the European Union (EU), the Balkans, Turkey, and the Caucasus participated. Ayrudzy was the first ever participant of the conference from Armenia. The project Under the Same Sun was presented at the Conference.
The Economic Impact of the Solar Energy Stations in Gülpınar and Ashtarak
Within the project Under the Same Sun, two solar energy stations, which can produce energy at a 3-kilowatt (kW) capacity, were installed. The one installed on the roof of the village guesthouse in Gülpınar consists of 11 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels of the “Telefunken” brand. Each panel has a capacity of 300 watt (W), that means the total capacity of the station is 3,300 W. The solar PV panels on the guesthouse’s roof generate approximately 20-25 kilowatt hours (kWh) electricity. The total energy production of the PV panels so far is about 1.25 megawatt hours (mWh) which amounts to 450 Turkish Lira and 1,248 kWh energy saving in the last three months. On the other hand, the solar power station installed on the garden wall of Ayrudzy Riding Club in Ashtarak consists of 9 solar PV panels of the “Topray” brand. Each panel has a capacity of 320 W, which means the total energy generation capacity of the station equals to 2,880 W.
There are off-grid and on-grid solar energy systems: in the former case, solar energy is stored for personal use (accumulated in batteries), whilst an on-grid solar energy system can sell the surplus of electricity back to the grid.
The solar energy system installed in Ashtarak is on-grid with an inverter of the “Sofar” brand. The daily average energy production of the solar energy system is approximately 17.5 kWh during the summer season, hence 525 kWh per month. Considering the hot summer season, this is a good result, given also that the efficiency will increase in the fall season. The annual electricity consumption of Ayrudzy Riding Club is about 25,000 kWh. Previously, 5-kW capacity PV panels had been installed on the roof of a building at the riding club. Since the extra 3-kW capacity was added, the total electricity generation has increased to 13,000 kWh (13 mW). After all, approximately 52 percent of the annual electricity consumption of the riding club is compensated.
The solar energy system installed in Gülpınar is also on-grid. The guesthouse supplies its electricity needs from the PV panels during daytime, but due to insufficient capacity and lack of storage space, the guesthouse uses electricity from the main grid at nighttime. With the current capacity, the guesthouse saves 25 percent of its monthly electricity expenditure.
The Social Impact of Community-Driven Renewable Energy Projects. A Conceptual Framework
This data is important not only to grasp the impact of technical know-how on the economy but also on the society. It is all about decentralization and the empowerment of local communities, particularly in disadvantaged regions. Empowered communities can engage in decision making and have a say in what the new normal will be. Renewable energy technologies (PVs, wind turbines, biomass systems, and so on) are decentralization mechanisms which work to empower communities to create alternatives that can challenge the normality of the time.
In his article entitled “Normalization”, Tanıl Bora says, “the narrative of normalization is miscellaneous” (Bora 2018). In contrast to its lexical meanings as usual, common, conventional, suitable, etc., the representation of normality in sociological discussions may not always correspond to the one that is defined by the norms as a ‘truth’, as what it should be. ‘Normalization’ in statistics refers to the methods of levelling data differences and multiplicity, but human beings are neither codes nor digits. Foucault re-conceptualizes it in his “Discipline and Punish” and refers with normalization to a set of methods for standardization, homogenization, and classification to ensure the disciplinary power in modern societies (Foucault 1995). Considering that Foucault focuses on key institutions such as the military, schools, and hospitals, these methods impose a relation between docility and utility. Through a constant control of time and space, governments build a new political anatomy of power that determines the limits of normalization between docile bodies. In international relations, similarly, there is a mainstream discourse of “normalization in bilateral relations” (Aras and Özbay 2008, Leogrande 2015, Cornago 2010, Duran 2018). Especially the media continuously speaks of normalization with Armenia, Turkey, China, Russia, Georgia, the EU, Azerbaijan, etc. which appears as a pure matter of diplomacy with no real people inside. In reconciliation studies (Barbanel and Sternberg 2006), normalization is a politics of recovery that comes up with forgetting, remembering, acceptance, apology and/or memory work. Although this politics tends to face the facts, it also carries the uncanny possibility of normalizing the abnormal (or the anomaly), if adopted by any authority. Therefore, the norm does not necessarily correspond to the truth.
These miscellaneous meanings of normalization turn upside down when normalization is the turning into the new normal of that which is emancipatory against the norms of the authoritarian. Political scientists Moseley and Moreno used the term “Normalization of the Protest” in the context of democratization in the post-economic crisis in Argentina and Bolivia (Moseley and Moreno 2010). They suggested protest itself as the normalized form of the political voice of the ordinary people and shifted the discussion to the increasing community activism and participation in decision making. In other words, the determinants of normalization have been shifting from governments and institutions to people.
Developed by academic and development practitioner Robert Chambers, the Participatory Rural Appraisal approach uses local NGOs and community-driven initiatives to mobilize local communities in order to determine what they really need; what the limits of their reality are; and the way they can develop realistic solutions on their own. Therefore, Chambers asserts the decentralization of state authority and the empowerment of people as the two main processes to sustain rural development (Chambers 2013). Smoke defines decentralization as a change of mindset that is the result of reforms in the public sector, the fiscal system as well as politics, ownership, and accountability (Smoke 2003). In this context, Under the Same Sun serves here as a good case study to discuss participatory rural development and decentralization in energy production in Armenia and Turkey.
Decentralization, Active Citizenship, and Energy Democracy
Both Turkey and Armenia have centralized state structures, which are the only actors buying, selling, and distributing energy. Even though there are private companies producing energy, the state is the only authority to buy and distribute electricity, which means the state is also the only authority to set the market price of energy. In contrast to the EU, most citizens in Turkey and Armenia cannot choose their power operator. For example, in Germany, with the policy of the Energy Transition (Energiewende in German), community and citizen energy cooperatives have been allowed to generate electricity for their own needs as well as to sell the electricity surplus to other citizens. In this way, the centralized energy industry under the monopoly of the state-driven companies has been dissolved and “the power market has been opened to newcomers, especially those generating renewable energy” (Morris and Jungjohann 2016, 12). As a result of such policies, today REScoop.eu, for example, is a growing network of 1,250 energy cooperatives with more than 1,000,000 active members.
In Turkey, there are 16 community-owned renewable energy cooperatives. These are registered entities with a limited number of members, and due to complicated bureaucracy and/or the lack of start-up capital, none of them have yet been able to enter the stage of energy generation. Even though they could overcome the bureaucracy, the feed-in tariffs to the community-based renewable energy cooperatives are 7.3 US Dollar cents/kWh for hydro and wind energy, 10.5 US Dollar cents/kWh for geothermal energy, and 13.3 US Dollar cents/kWh for biomass and solar energy, but only for 10 years  , whereas this period is 15 years for coal-fired thermal power plants. Feed-in-tariffs are crucial because they bring costs down and represent a kind of state interventionism to ensure greater competition by adding new entrants on an oligopoly market” (Morris and Jungjohann 2016, 169). However, it leaves the ‘how to’ up to the market, and the Turkish government decided that the country needs more energy, but they do not prioritize it as green energy.
Today, in Turkey, there are 7,201 agricultural development cooperatives registered with 775,876 members in total (Cengiz 2017). If the necessary legal arrangements are made, these cooperatives can also produce renewable energy for agricultural production and reduce the massive costs as well as the high carbon emissions. Creating renewable and self-sustainable bodies out of this potential of existing agricultural cooperatives is possible when only the state leaves its monopolistic status in the energy industry and ensures the competitiveness of these cooperatives with feed-in tariffs against international corporations in the market, which usually do not care about the ‘how to’ part of energy generation and do so for the profit.
In Armenia, according to the Statistical Committee’s 2018 Yearbook 620,000 out of 1,084,700 total rural population are working in agricultural sectors (Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia 2017, Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia 2018). 303,900 of them are employed in 7,440 commercial farms (Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia 2018). According to the edatabase of the State Register Agency of Legal Entities of the Ministry of Justice, 3,737 producer and 307 consumer cooperatives were registered till 2013 (State Register of the Legal Entities of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia 2018).
However, it is difficult to identify the number of agricultural production cooperatives separately within this total number because Armenia does not have a single comprehensive law on cooperatives. The cooperatives are mainly regulated by Article 51.3 of the Civil Code which says that “Depending upon the nature of activity, cooperatives may be organizations pursuing the extraction of profit as the basic purpose of their activity (commercial organizations) or not having extraction of profit as such a purpose (noncommercial organizations)” (National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia 1998 (2018)). However, renewable energy cooperatives are a completely new phenomenon in Armenia. With this in mind, starting from 2014 and for three years, in cooperation with Women Engage for a Common Future and Tapan NGO, Ayrudzy organized a series of trainings on cooperatives and democratic business models (Women Engage for a Common Future 2016).
Today, in the countries with centralized state structures such as Armenia and Turkey, taxation is one of the most direct control mechanisms on citizens. In contrast to Chamber’s Participatory Rural Appraisal method, the state collects taxes through its institutions and makes decisions on behalf of citizens and decides how to allocate these taxes for public service, if deemed necessary. However, such centralized fiscal systems are mostly associated with higher corruption leading to the embezzlement of public resources, and citizens are mostly passive at the disposal of public goods and services. Although decentralization varies across countries, fiscal decentralization is an established practice (Fisman and Gatti 2002, 325) encouraged by international financial supporters or investors to enhance auditability, the effective use of resources, and the participation of people in the planning and implementation stages of development projects in their environments. These practices of decentralization trigger new grounds to reexamine the concepts of citizenship and land. Shifting the concept of citizenship from a unilateral state-citizen relation to a pluralistic model (Young 1989) has led to new definitions of the concept such as active citizenship (Lister 1997), participatory citizenship (Gaventa 2002), inclusive citizenship (Kabeer 2002), and global citizenship (Carter 2001).
When it comes to energy and environmental policies in conflict and post-conflict contexts, conservatives and conservationists are united on one point – the interests of the community (McKibben 2007, 112). Both groups support the principles of energy independence and the right to fair and clean energy. This allows citizens from different social, ethnic, and economic strata of the society to negotiate and cooperate on the use of natural resources and renewable energy production as well as the independence of such a use from the state’s intervention. Bürgerenergie (literally “citizen-energy” in German) is the name of residential and groundmounted solar, biogas, and wind farms in Germany, funded by citizens as shareholders and businesses as investors. In Germany, when a small town talks about going renewable, it is mostly about installing solar panels on the roofs by citizens as community energy. This collective consciousness is grounded in the century-old law of Eigentum verpflictet which could be translated as “with property comes responsibility” which means that property ownership entails a responsibility toward other stakeholders (Morris and Jungjohann 2016, 101-102).
Under the Same Sun has opened a new intersecting area of solidarity, conflict transformation, environmental rights, and energy demween nongovernmental organizations ocracy bet(NGO) and communities in Turkey and Armenia. Community-based renewable energy production and active citizenship have been the locomotives of this solidarity. How did these play out?
Not only earthquakes disturbed the village of Gülpınar in the recent period. In 2017, an energy company started drilling operations in olive groves, 700 meters away from the village, in order to establish a geothermal energy plant in the region without taking into consideration the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report. Thereupon, the Gülpınar villagers, predominantly women, started a sit-in protest against the cutting of legally protected olive trees and the threatening effects of the geothermal drilling works on the environment and public health (Vardar 2017). The protest lasted for 33 days, making the energy company leave the area.
The local community in Gülpınar is aware of the hidden costs of the geothermal power plant operating next to their village. For this reason, instead of waiting to be included by the authorities into the decision making about their living environment, they took action. During the protest in Gülpınar, the villagers received the support of many NGOs and the general public. It seems that the normalization of protest raised a kind of consciousness of active citizenship among the local community. People realized that they are more than passive consumers, but potential prosumers in the face of promises such as cheap energy, employment, and regional development. Projects such as Under the Same Sun provide them real evidence to rule out the accusations of “naysayers” or “utopians” by the officials and big capitalists that there are no alternatives. The reason why Under the Same Sun has become a case study for this paper is that it has implemented something little in the short term (two 3 kW solar energy stations) but sustainable and progressive in the long run (inter-communal cross-border cooperation) between two local NGOs. As a result of this cooperation, Ayrudzy has become the first Armenian organization that participated in the annual International Conference of Renewable Energy Cooperatives that is held in Turkey and became a part of a community-tocommunity network.
While, the Gülpınar Sustainable Life Association, the organizational body of the villagers, represents the participatory characteristic of active citizenship, within the project Under the Same Sun, Ayrudzy has shown another characteristic that is necessary for a self-governed community- knowledge.
Ayrudzy has reached hundreds of young people so far and has become a place where the new generation establishes a deep bond with nature, animals, and traditions. In such a place, the solar PV panels are not only the embodiment of energy efficiency, but also an inspiration and role-model for the visitors. The design of a space affects human behavior: a sustainable space vests individuals with an awareness of renewable energy.
Besides Ayrudzy, Power of Light is another local NGO developing solar power systems in order to use solar energy for fruit drying and water heating. A feature shared by Power of Light and Ayrudzy is the profile of members. They do not need anyone to measure and calculate how much energy they consume; which spot and angle is the optimum; and accordingly, how many solar panels they need to install. In contrast to the stereotype of a rural community member in a developing country (Chambers 2013, 64), they are well-educated engineers and architects who have technical know-how as well as capability to build their own PVs.
For developing countries, competing with China and the United States (US) products in the global solar energy industry under present conditions may not be possible in the short term, but such local attempts are challenging the norms through positioning ‘ordinary citizens’ into the hearth of production and consumption relations that bring with it fundamental structural changes in the long term. Thus, they do not stay only as the innovators but also the maintainers of the technologies that empower them against large international investors and centralized state structures.
When community residents become “innovators, planners, and decision-makers on how to use and create energy that is local and renewable” (Center for Social Inclusion n.d.), energy solutions become more democratic; places become environmentally healthier; and carbon emissions and costs fall. This has recently started being discussed in environmental movement and advocacy as energy democracy:
“In recent years, the notion of ‘energy democracy’ has proliferated in Europe, especially in reference to ongoing energy transitions and their directions. It has two meanings: it either denotes the normative goal of decarbonization and energy transformation, or it describes already existing examples of decentralized and mostly bottom-up civic energy initiatives” (Szulecki 2018, 23).
Between New and Old Nuclear Power Plants
As the destructive effects of global warming have increased more and more every year with the irresponsible use of natural sources, the political boundaries have become blurred and the meanings they represent are gradually eroded. The Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant is located 36 kilometers away from the border of Turkey. If a nuclear accident happened at the power plant today, would it be a problem of only Armenia? Or would it constitute a problem for Turkey as well? What about the other neighboring countries? Located more than 1,000 kilometers away from Chernobyl, Turkey still suffers from the negative effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident today. According to the latest World Nuclear Industry Report, the Armenian Government insists on continuing to operate Metsamor until a new nuclear reactor is introduced by the planned date of 2026, because it is one of the three main energy sources of Armenia by meeting 32.5 percent or 2.4 TWh of the country’s total energy requirement. However, the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group warns about safety-related problems” (Froggatt and Schneider 2018).
In Turkey, three separate nuclear power plant projects, one each in Akkuyu, Sinop, and Iğneada, are being developed. Despite the controversial EIA report and construction permit processes, the construction formally began in Akkuyu in early 2018. The financing company, the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, same company that constructed Chernobyl, will own 51 percent of the shares, when the plant will start operating in 2023 at an estimated budget of 22 billion US Dollars. However, in 2017 the European Parliament warned Turkey to consider its earthquake-prone location and to negotiate with neighbor countries – Greece and Cyprus. The Sinop project has similar safety risks, which has caused the increase of the budget to 46.2 billion US Dollars. The Iğneada project is planned to be built in the heart of Europe’s largest floodplain forest reserve by a Chinese corporation with a budget of 25 billion US Dollars. What is more, these international companies are backed by governments with high feed-in tariffs and incredibly low taxation. After all, these billions are wasted for the sake of “cheap energy” and “energy independence” as two classic arguments of governments to legitimize such expensive projects in the eyes of the public, but it mostly returns to citizens as higher consumption taxes in order to compensate the investment of the companies and the government. On the other side, the wind and the sun are available there free and clean.
In all this nuclear madness, it is crucial to repeat and multiply the questions: What is the abnormal? Who is the ‘Other’ threatening the values of the people living in the region? Whose natural sources? Do environmental rights recognize national boundaries?
We have carried out this reflection on the project Under the Same Sun to think over those questions from different perspectives, because it puts the ‘community’ in the center. Thus, “community identity is defined in terms of that which is endangered by something ‘Other’. It is often simultaneously an expression of fear and a token of defiance, a rearticulation of some traditional themes but in new ways in a new context” (Dalby and Mackenzie 1997). The project Under the Same Sun embodied a local community-network, which consists of people from two nations with a common history of a conflict, by using solar energy stations against the environmental threat in the context of economic and political neoliberalism. In this period, Troya and Ayrudzy NGOs had applied two methods: a participatory approach and international funds for civil society organizations. In this way, they could find financial resource to purchase and install solar panels as well as to equip citizens with legal, technical, and economic knowledge. In this sense, international funds for civil society organizations and community-based energy cooperatives can be utilized as a start-up strategy against governments’ inadequate incentives and loans, low feed-in tariffs, and a monopolistic tax system. It is also important that the project had the opportunity to make its name to a broader community in an international conference. Likewise, it is much encouraging to see that this new local community-network between Armenia and Turkey has also developed a common vision to establish their own energy cooperatives that will contribute to the formation of a cross-border decentralized sustainable energy and environmental policy.
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 The project Under the Same Sun was funded by the program Support to the ArmeniaTurkey Normalization Process (ATNP). The ATNP is a sub-grant scheme which was created in 2014 by a Consortium of eight civil society organizations from Armenia and Turkey with the financial assistance of the EU (Support to the Armenia-Turkey Normalization Process 2017).
 The authors of this paper were volunteers of Troya and Ayrudzy within the project Under the Same Sun. They also undertook the editorship of the project publication that serves as the source for all the information regarding the project in this paper (Under the Same Sun 2018).
 Renewable energy uses energy sources that are continually replenished by nature – the sun, the wind, water, the Earth’s heat, and plants. Renewable energy technologies turn these fuels into usable forms of energy – most often electricity, but also heat, chemicals, or mechanical power (National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2001). The potential of renewable energy sources is enormous as they can in principle meet many times the world’s energy demand. A transition to renewables-based energy systems is looking increasingly likely as their costs decline while the price of oil and gas continue to fluctuate. The development and use of renewable energy sources can enhance diversity in energy markets, contribute to securing long-term and sustainable energy supplies, help reduce local and global atmospheric emissions, and provide attractive options to meet energy needs, particularly in developing countries and rural areas, that help to create new employment opportunities (Herzog, Lipmann and Kammen 2001, 8). Renewable energy has advantages over hydropower plants as well that produce no air emissions but can affect water quality and wildlife habitats (National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2001).
 Photovoltaics is a term denoting the conversion of light into electricity.
 For comparison, here is the data for the energy consumption of some home appliances. The average energy consumption of modern refrigerators is 400-600 kWh per year. That is 33-50 kWh per month, or an average hourly power consumption of 46-69 Wh. The energy consumption of a washing machine during an average cycle is 900-1,350 Wh. For an iron, the average hourly energy consumption is 1,080 Wh; for a vacuum cleaner it is 750 Wh, and for an air conditioner it is 1800Wh (The Center of What’s Possible n.d.).
 The station was installed on May 5, 2018, and the data was taken on August 13, 2018.
 A solar panel produces a direct current (DC) where the electric current only flows in one direction. An inverter converts a DC to an alternating current (AC).
 The PV panel productivity decreases by 0.5 percent per each degree above 25 degrees Celsius of outside temperature.
 In Morris and Jungjohann’s “Energy Democracy”, there is a great chapter comparing the Chicago School and the Freiburg School approaches to neoliberalism in terms of how they interpret Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” as the pricing mechanism of the market. Although both approaches have the same roots as liberalism, the Freiburg School considers the intervention of the state necessary at some point, so it emphasizes “order” in the market to protect the small, the local, and the new against the energy giants. For this, taxation and feed-in tariffs are effective tools. Ordoliberalism, instead of less taxation, promotes environmental taxation for private companies and long-term feed-in tariffs for communityowned energy cooperatives (Morris and Jungjohann 2016, 161-196).
 A feed-in tariff is a payment made to households or businesses generating their own electricity through renewable sources.
 This limit is set by Article 6/A of the Law 5346 on the Use of Renewable Energy Resources for the Purpose of Generating Electrical Energy, amended on May 10, 2005 by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of the Republic of Turkey.
 The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund defines environmental rights as immanent to community rights: “Community Rights include environmental rights, such as the right for clean air, pure water, and healthy soil; worker rights, such as the right for living wages and equal pay for equal work; rights of nature, such as the right of ecosystems to flourish and evolve; and democratic rights, such as the right of local community selfgovernment, and the right for free and fair elections” (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund n.d.).
 Although geothermal resources are both legally and scientifically considered as renewable (because the heat from the Earth is essentially limitless), geothermal energy has some disadvantages as well. The first one is the substantial amount of greenhouse gasses under the earth’s surface. These underground reservoirs contain toxic heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic that can be released to the surface of the earth while operating the power plant. This causes pollution and related chronic diseases. All the more interesting, in case of an excessive generation of electricity, geothermal emissions can be higher than coal. According to the 2016 report by the Ministry for the Environment of New Zealand, geothermal power plants emit 724,000,000 kg of greenhouse gas per year compared to the coal-fired power plants with 635,000,000 kg (Ecotricity 2016). The second disadvantage of geothermal energy is the surface instability. The construction and operation of geothermal power plants potentially triggers earthquakes. While drilling, hot water and gas entrapped in natural fractures may erupt to the surface, and the sudden fall of pressure might cause collapses (Kukreja 2013).
 In Chambers’ comprehensive work “Rural Development: Putting the Last First”, the stereotype of the rural appears as “ignorant,” “lazy,” “poor”, and even “stupid”. Chambers strongly disagrees with it.
 Prices of PVs are falling, and green employment is rising every year as the solar sector grows in the whole world. In 2016, the global employment in solar PVs increased by 12 percent to 3.1 million jobs, and at least 75 gW of solar PV capacity was added worldwide – equivalent to the installation of more than 31,000 solar panels every hour (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century 2017). These developments have also reflected on the prices in Armenia and Turkey. In 2015, the price for a 1 kW capacity solar station was 2,500-2,800 US Dollars in Armenia. In 2016, the price range decreased to 1,200-1,400 US Dollars and to 970-1,100 US Dollars in 2017. Today, the prices of PVs in Armenia range between 870 and 950 US Dollars for 1 kW solar station. In Turkey, with a similar decrease over the years, the price for solar panels with a capacity of 1 kW is 800-900 US Dollars today.
*The feature photo of this publication is taken by Suren Sargsyan. It portrays the installation of solar energy panels in Ararat region, Armenia.
**This article was written within the project “Building Sustainable Trans-Border Communities in the South Caucasus”, funded by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) / Funding program zivik with resources provided by the German Federal Foreign Office.