Julie MacArthur, Ph.D.


University of Auckland

Country: New Zealand

About Me:

Dr Julie MacArthur is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations and the Master of Public Policy program at the University of Auckland where she teaches environmental politics and public policy. She is the author of Empowering Electricity: Co-operatives, Sustainability and Power Sector Reform in Canada (UBC Press, 2016), as well as a range of articles and book chapters on sustainable community development, participatory environmental governance, and comparative energy policy. 

Research Interests

Energy And Climate Policy

Political Economy

Environmental Policy

Public Policy

Energy Democracy

Social Economy

Co-operative Enterprises

Participatory Governance

Countries of Interest


New Zealand

My Research:

 My research is focused on finding best practices and policy innovations that can enable the development of climate resilient infrastructure. It will also assess the potential of small-scale projects and social economy organizations to shape new policy initiatives through comparative investigation of bottom up renewables in various political contexts. I am working on three current research projects. The first investigates the nature and politics of community renewable energy in New Zealand, Denmark and the United Kingdom, and is funded by the RSNZ Marsden Fund (2017-2021). The second explores the role of women in New Zealand's electricity sector (2018-2020), and is funded by a University of Auckland Early Career Research Excellence Award.


Journal Articles:

(2018) From tip to toes: Mapping community energy models in Canada and New Zealand, Energy Policy

Community energy is associated with a wide range of benefits, for example, providing new social mechanisms for learning, facilitating economic development, and in engaging local populations in energy policy implementation. However, empirical research continues to uncover many differences in the specific forms, functions and policy settings that relate to community initiatives across jurisdictions. This paper examines community energy projects in Canada and New Zealand, two understudied countries with high per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, distinct practices of community energy, and Indigenous community participation. This comparison reveals a range of striking differences in what communities do and how community energy projects are structured. We use institutional theories to highlight the role of incumbent resources, actors, and political context to explain the variations of forms and functions of community energy. We provide a reconceptualization of community energy practice as a much broader in both energy activity and ownership structure than presented in much of the current literature. The distinct national practices of community energy found are explained predominantly by the policy settings: less privatization and more new renewable energy support in some Canadian provinces, with more uniform liberalization and legal support for trusts in New Zealand.

(2018) Populist resistance and alternative transitions: Indigenous ownership of energy infrastructure in Aotearoa New Zealand, Energy Research and Social Science

The energy transitions necessary to address climate change mitigation and adaptation manifest unevenly, varying in nature, context, distribution of benefits and radical depth. While populist developments and economic protectionism are often viewed pejoratively, we argue that a critical reading reveals clear connections to progressive social struggles. Frustration with elite capture of political processes and economic assets manifests in a populist desire to redistribute political power via nationalist or localist economic policies. Debates over the benefits of ownership by 'the people' and representation of marginalized actors are particularly acute in settler states. We examine Indigenous led energy transitions in Aotearoa New Zealand, via a critical reading of scholarship on populist resistance and protectionist responses to energy market liberalization, together with a distinctive Māori sustainability ethic as articulated by Māori scholars. Despite significant and ongoing challenges, we find that Māori principles and energy initiatives,particularly in geothermal heat, power and energy efficiency, hold unique and radical potential to lead the coming energy transition.

(2016) Empowering Electricity? Co-operatives, Sustainability and Power Sector Reform in Canada, UBC Press

Canada is known for being an energy-producing nation – with much attention being paid to the Alberta tar sands and their large carbon footprint. This book looks at a very different part of the Canadian energy sector: the hundreds of renewable energy co-ops that have sprung up across the nation. These co-ops are democratically structured, community-based organizations that use sun, wind, rivers, tides, and plant and animal waste as sources of local power generation. Empowering Electricity offers an illuminating analysis of these co-ops within the context of larger debates over climate change, renewable electricity policy, sustainable community development, and provincial power-sector ownership. It looks at the conditions that led to this new wave of co-operative development, examines their form and location, and shines a light on the promises and challenges accompanying their development. This analysis of electricity co-ops in Canada will interest industry experts, policy makers, sustainability advocates, community development leaders, and students.

(2016) Challenging public engagement: participation, deliberation and power in energy policy design and implementation, Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

Citizen engagement in policymaking represents an increasingly popular mechanism for both civic rejuvenation and environmental policy innovation. Its application in many different policy fora from city budgeting to housing and energy systems across various national contexts provides, in theory, space for the public to feel empowered, connected to new policy spaces and positions them to aid in design and implementation of more effective solutions to complex social and environmental problems. This engagement takes many different forms, including deliberative polling, citizen’s assemblies, online referenda and creation of community-based ownership. However, various forms of engagement are also accompanied by challenges of poor design and limited local capacity that can undermine their effectiveness and, ultimately, public confidence in government actors and processes. This article challenges renewable energy advocates to consider more serious insights from political and institutional theorists about the complexities of participatory designs. It draws on three initiatives in Canada and Denmark to illustrate both the promise and the challenge of public engagement in this significant policy subsector.