Societal Values for Future UK Energy System Changes: Public(s), Participation and Uncertainty
In the UK there are strong policy imperatives to transition toward low carbon energy systems but how and in what ways such transitional processes might be realised remains highly uncertain. In this paper, public acceptability is identified as an indeterminate form of uncertainty that presents particular challenges and risks for energy policy making, which until quite recently has tended to focus more upon assessment of traditional engineering and economic risks to energy transition. It presents some of the conceptual and methodological challenges of building qualitative and quantitative data sets, collected in the UK regarding public values for energy system change as part of a major UK Energy Research Centre project, and explore how uncertainties associated with public acceptability can help to interrogate UK transitions policies. Public values as identified through our research bring into view alternative and quite different problem and solution framings to those currently evident within UK policy. We argue that engagement with a wide range of different framings can offer a basis for better understanding and anticipating public responses to energy system change, ultimately aiding in managing the complex set of uncertainties and risks associated with energy transitions.
About the speaker
Nick is Director of the Understanding Risk Research Group within the School of Psychology at Cardiff University. His research looks at public attitudes, risk perception and public engagement with environmental risks and energy technologies. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the British Science Association in 2011, an MBE in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to climate change awareness and energy security policy, and chaired the 2006 Cross-Party Parliamentary inquiry whose report ‘Is a Cross-Party Consensus on Climate Change Possible – or Desirable?’ recommended the setting up of the UK Climate Change Committee. He is a co-investigator with the EPSRC funded CIE-MAP Energy Demand Centre, a collaboration between Leeds, Bath, Nottingham Trent and Cardiff Universities.