Category Renewable Energy and the Public

From the Material to the Imagined:. Public Engagement with Low Carbon. Technologies in a Nuclear Community

Catherine Butler, Karen Parkhill and Nick Pidgeon


In debates around low carbon energy technologies, renewable forms of generation are often the focus. In contrast, nuclear power, while being a low carbon form of electricity generation, does not invoke quite the same synonymy with the concept of low carbon energy. In this chapter we examine public engagement with these differing forms of low carbon technology – nuclear and renewable – focusing on tidal and onshore wind power as renewable technologies.

Both renewable forms of electricity production and nuclear power have been the source of vociferous public contestation...

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Policy Implications: Context Matters

There are likely to be increased tensions between public opinion in rural and coastal areas in the UK and developers and advocates of new energy infrastruc­ture, as climate and energy targets become more urgent, and as the UK’s planning system becomes more centralized for major infrastructure projects under the 2008 Planning Act. If the UK seeks to decarbonize not only the power and heat sectors but also transport, with electric and hydrogen options for the latter gaining prominence (Palmer, 2009), then these conflicts will only intensify.

There will inevitably be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in this situation; the least that rural and coastal residents are owed is more explicit indication of the extent of new infrastructure that their locality may be required to support (Upham and Shackley, ...

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Making Connections: General Inferences

The case of the strongly opposed 21.5MW(e) bioenergy gasifier in Winkleigh, Devon, and the contrast with the public welcome for bioenergy for heat in the North York Moors National Park, Yorkshire, serve as a microcosm of much of the variety of public engagement issues relating to energy transitions in the UK. Social science research undertaken during phase 1 of the EPSRC Supergen Bioenergy and Biomass Consortium (for more detail, see www. supergen-bioen – ergy. net/) involved scanning many literatures in search of satisfactory explanatory accounts and policy-viable solutions.

In terms of the political dimensions, we argue elsewhere that enhanced local participation in renewable energy planning and enhanced accountability for regional development agencies could have led – in this case at le...

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Use of Bioenergy for Local Heat and. Combined Heat And Power (CHP)

The Winkleigh case study of a relatively large-scale, technologically advanced bio­electricity plant contrasted with our findings on public perceptions of 2030 bioenergy scenarios for the Yorkshire and Humber region of the UK. Use of the Yorkshire and Humber region’s wood resource for small and medium-sized CHP and heat plants was found to be much more attractive than the use of the same resource for large or small electric power plants...

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Governance and engagement in the Winkleigh case

In addition to assessing perceptions of the planning and related governance system through direct interview questions and focus group discussion, we also used questions relating to perceptions of the level of communication by public bodies on the planning proposal. Between 2004 and 2007, the proportion of people approving of related communication by Torridge District Council and Winkleigh Parish Council rose from 5 to 22 per cent and from 34 to 67 per cent, respectively. Approval of communication by the Regional Development Agency (RDA) and Devon County Council (DCC), whose officers respectively promoted and supported the proposal, remained low, at 2 per cent of respondents in 2004 and 5 per cent in 2007 for the RDA, and at 2 per cent in 2004 and 9 per cent in 2007 for DCC.

In this case, t...

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Attitudinal detail: the 2004 and 2007 surveys compared

The respondents were not identical in the two surveys, as a high level of sample control was not possible. Thus the 2007 respondents were older than the 2004 respondents, with people aged 65 years and older constituting 33 per cent of the 2004 group and 43 per cent of the 2007 group. Both sets of respondents were also older than the average of those in the locality, and there is also a greater number of older people in the locality than in the region as a whole and in the UK in general. Nonetheless, although age may well have been a factor in opposition to renewable energy infrastructure (Upham, 2009), statistical investigation showed that age, on its own, did not consistently correlate with attitudinal differences between the two surveys (Upham, 2009).

There were a number of statistically...

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A Bioenergy Siting Controversy

Research on attitudes to energy infrastructure repeatedly finds disjunctions between ‘in principle’ positive opinion of renewable energy options and opposi­tion ‘on the ground’. In the UK, national and regional public opinion surveys have found widespread support for renewable energy in general in Great Britain and Northern Ireland (e. g. Barker and Riddington, 2003a, b; MORI, 2003; TNS, 2003; GfK NOP Social Research, 2006; also repeat surveys by BERR, 2008b)...

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Heat and Light: Understanding. Bioenergy Siting Controversy

Paul Upham


This chapter draws together some of the insights from an interdisciplinary research programme that has investigated public and stakeholder attitudes to the cultivation and use of biomass for energy in the UK. The key empirical focus here is a bioenergy siting controversy involving a nationally significant advanced bioenergy gasifier, which serves to illustrate the very real tensions between national level energy targets and local expectations of democratic decision­making. While suggestions are made for mitigating these tensions, they are unlikely to be fully resolved, given the pressure of energy and climate change targets (BERR, 2008a). The chapter suggests that the politics and psychology of objection, particularly place attachment, are interconnected...

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