Public Values for Energy Futures: Framing, Indeterminacy and Policy Making

Research output: Working paper



Publication details

DatePublished - 2014
Original languageEnglish


In the UK there are strong policy imperatives to transition toward low-carbon energy systems. The Carbon Plan (DECC, 2011) represents the current key policy document that sets out the UK Government’s proposals for energy system change necessary to meet the carbon budgets enshrined in the Climate Change Act (2008); within this document public attitudes and acceptability are identified as key uncertainties with regard to the development of future energy systems. In particular, it is highlighted that there is little agreement over how to transform the energy system in order to meet climate change targets.

In this paper, public acceptability is identified as an indeterminate form of uncertainty that presents particular challenges for policy making. We build on our existing research into public values for energy system change (see Parkhill et al. 2013) to explore how the outcomes of the project can be applied in thinking through the uncertainties associated with public perspectives.

To inform our analysis, we draw on concepts of uncertainty and framing arising from the work of Leach et al. (2010) whereby they argue for the importance of engaging with a wide range of different framings in order to better anticipate inevitable shocks that arise from systemic uncertainties. We highlight how the range of public values identified through our research bring into view alternative and quite different problem and solution framings to those currently evident within UK policy.

In concluding, we argue that incorporating insights into public values within policy framings can offer a basis for better understanding and anticipating public responses to energy system change, ultimately aiding in managing the complex set of uncertainties associated with public acceptability.

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