Transitions toward sustainable energy paths entail significant cultural and societal changes, and new generations actively contribute to such transformation in their own communities.

In this contribution we present a participatory research conducted with preadolescents and adolescents: we examined their views on sustainable energy and we engaged them in public discussion on energy issues. The study - part of the wider project ACCESI (socio-Constructivist Analysis of the Italian Sustainable Energy Communities) - was conducted in Narni, a small town in the centre of Italy, that is an exemplary case in the management of energy issues. The relationship between Narni and energy issues started with the early developments of hydropower, and continues today with the implementations of renewables (especially solar and biomass). Ideally, Narni is close to be a Sustainable Energy Community: communities recognised by the European Union that are characterised by the cooperation of local policy makers, stakeholders and - most of all - energy citizens.

In this context, - even if they are crucial for the development of a proper energy citizenship - psychological and psychosocial factors and processes in new generations remain undervalued.

Environmental and sustainability education programs usually include the active participation of young people as pivotal elements. These programs often assume the paradigm of young people as ‘citizens in the making’: a metaphor that recognises the essential role of educational agencies in promoting the transition towards adulthood and full citizenship. On the contrary, this contribution contends that education programs can be further extended by acknowledging that young people already are ‘actual citizens’. Within this perspective, young people are actively engaged in the community life and are involved in building meanings and actions that are part of the current transition towards sustainability.

From these premises we conducted a participatory research with N=80 pupils (age 11-13), attending the secondary school of Narni. We used photovoice, a visual methodology that promotes collaborative relationships between researchers and participants. The procedure requires three steps, conducted in our study as followed. First, research team invites pupils to take part at the research through individual production of images (one to three photographs and/or drawings with a short written comment for each image) about their own idea/representation of sustainable energy. After a month, pupils discuss their images (N=120) in small groups and with the entire class - supervised by researchers - with the task to identify differences/similarities, presences/absences, consistencies/discrepancies. Last, a public event - in which all the images were collected in an exhibition - is organized in order to present the research to the larger community.

Preliminary results suggest relevant insights on the way new generation look at sustainable energy issues: images show the prevalence of ‘new renewables’ power plants (especially solar and wind) as well as the absence of human beings and everyday devices aimed at energy saving/efficiency; moreover, during the discussions pupils raise concerns about power plants localization and disclose sensitiveness toward the necessity of an energy mix.

Theoretical, applied and policy implications of the results will be discussed.