From nuclear to renewable: Energy system transformation and public attitudes

By Nick Pidgeon, Christina C. Demski | July 1, 2012

Avoiding catastrophic climate change will require rapid decarbonization of the world’s energy supply systems, and achieving such a significant transformation will involve a range of social and psychological challenges. The authors write that public consent and acceptability will need to be fostered if plans for large-scale renewable energy systems are to be realized. Despite highly favorable views in national polls, some renewable projects have already encountered severe public contestation. The authors write that valuable lessons can be learned from existing research on the siting controversies that have surrounded nuclear power and radioactive waste facilities. A range of contextual factors drive local opposition: lack of tangible local benefits, threats to valued landscapes or community identity, and distrust of outside agencies. Poorly executed dialogue and communication processes also serve to rapidly escalate concerns. The “facility siting credo” provides an important set of evidence-based principles for those seeking to engage communities about new renewable energy infrastructure projects.

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