What Values Underpin Attitudes Towards Energy Options?

CNS News

CNS collaborator Nick Pidgeon and five of his colleagues in the UK have published a groundbreaking paper that delineates the shared values underpinning public acceptance of energy systems. Based on on six deliberative workshops and a national survey, this study is novel because it seeks to understand public attitudes towards entire energy systems including "supply and demand technologies, resources, infrastructures, behaviours and practices" rather than any one specific source of energy (such as nuclear). To do so, the interdisciplinary team of researchers focused on consistent "social values" rather than "preferences," the latter more likely to change with context. Understanding a community's core values will aid in predicting acceptability of future energy transitions.

Based on their data, the researchers identified six clusters of values: efficient and not wasteful, environment and nature, security and stability, social justice and fairness, autonomy and power, and process and change. Given these values, 73 percent of respondents agreed that Britian should reduce the amount of energy it uses and 79 percent believed the UK should reduce its use of fossil fuels.

Study authors emphasized three conclusions. First, the six value clusters impact each other, and cannot be understood as completely isolated phenomena. Second, publics are concerned about social and cultural impacts in addition to those that are purely technological or ecological. Thirds, publics take a long view on energy systems change, focusing on "trajectories" rather than "short-term solutions."

Published in the open access journal Global Environmental Change, the entire article can be read or downloaded at the link below.