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Societal preferences, cost, and trust associated with UK energy transitions

The UK has committed to undertaking a massive energy transition over the next 35 years, reducing its carbon emissions to 20% of 1990 levels by 2050.  Central to achieving this ambitious goal will be public efforts to reduce emissions on the local level and public support for large projects on regional and national levels.  Previous Cardiff University research revealed that numerous values motivate societal preferences for sustainable energy system transitions and the ways in which those transitions are achieved.  Little is known, however, about the public’s thoughts on the extent to which government, energy companies, industry broadly, and the general public are responsible for funding this transition.  To the degree that the general public is responsible, little knowledge exists about the ways in which they prefer to contribute to the transition and extent to which they are willing to contribute.  This project aims to fill these fundamental knowledge gaps by exploring public perceptions of responsibility for and acceptability of costs associated with transitions as well as the values and beliefs that predict such perceptions. 

The project is funded by the UK Energy Research Council (UKERC).  It forms part of the core activities of the UKERC Phase 3 research effort involving investigators from numerous UK institutions.  A major focus is to investigate empirically the extent to which key values, beliefs about fairness/justice, and perceptions of (dis)trust in governmental and energy system actors influence people’s judgements of: (1) the extent to which different actors (e.g., consumers, energy companies, market actors, and taxpayers) are responsible for paying for energy transitions and (2) how much and in what ways it is acceptable for the public to contribute to funding energy transitions.  The work utilises interdisciplinary methodologies, combining secondary qualitative data analysis (from a previous phase of this research) with two ‘informed choice’ surveys of a nationally-representation sample of the public in Great Britain and with follow-up qualitative focus groups to explore further the survey responses. 


Cardiff University – Christina Demski, Nick Pidgeon, and Darrick Evensen

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