Date of Award
Master of Business
School of Business
Dr. Angela Wright
The energy landscape in Ireland is being transformed. Energy policy is geared towards substantially decarbonising the electricity system by 2050. The implementation of large scale renewable energy generation remains a key policy objective. The scale of the transformation presents challenges in terms of policy and technology, as well as social acceptance.
This study was conducted to explore social acceptance of renewable energy within the context of a broader energy transition. A concurrent mixed method design integrates three distinct strands of primary research. A series of semi-structured interviews with multidisciplinary energy professionals explored contemporary social issues, from a developer, utility and community perspective. Quantitative research included a bespoke online survey, with data obtained from 455 participants. The survey examined participant's attitudes, opinions and behaviours relating to climate change, renewable energy and citizen engagement. Furthermore, social media research gauged public discourse through the lens of the microblogging platform Twitter®. This comprehensive three-pronged study provides a plethora of new primary findings for consideration.
Quantitative findings reveal overwhelming support for all renewable energy technologies considered in the study, with over 75% of participants agreeing with the notion of hosting a renewable energy development in their community. Furthermore, 52% of participants would be interested in investing in largescale renewable energy. In contrast, qualitative findings confirm an escalation in social opposition at the community level. Community based opposition groups appear to be effectively leveraging social media to escalate local concerns, and are prominent contributors to renewable energy discourse on the social media platform Twitter®. This study reiterates a familiar dichotomy; public acceptance of renewable energy at a socio-political level contrasts with social opposition in a local context. This study has found, while participants are broadly supportive of renewable energy, they appear disinterested and not at all engaged in energy and climate change matters. There is little evidence, however, of a coordinated, sustained and strategic initiative by government or industry to engage citizens and inform public discourse in Ireland. Encouragingly, interviews with industry leaders found a strong appetite for increased stakeholder collaboration, and quantitative research reveals an acceptance by participants that, as citizens, we all have a greater role to play in fighting climate change.
A new finding emerging from this study reveals that having microscale renewable energy in the home correlates favourably with the survey participant's acceptance of large scale renewable energy development. Based on empirical data, a number of specific initiatives have been recommended. A strategic action plan, based on cross-industry collaboration has been developed to leverage the findings in this study. The recommendations focus on engaging citizens to the positive benefits of renewable energy at a domestic level, with a view to furthering social acceptance of large scale renewable energy. These recommendations introduce the novel Empowered ‘Energy Citizen’ Framework. This model, which is based on empirical data, proposes a set of core values and behaviours designed to embed the concept of the ‘energy citizen’ within society, embracing a citizen centric paradigm.
O'Brien, Paul, "Social acceptance of renewable energy : exploring a citizen centric paradigm" (2016). Theses [online].
Available at: https://sword.cit.ie/allthe/65
This dissertation is submitted in part fulfilment of the HETAC requirements for the award of Masters in Business Studies.