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Public values for energy system change

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Publication details

JournalGlobal Environmental Change
DateAccepted/In press - 11 Jun 2015
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 10 Jul 2015
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)59-69
Early online date10/07/15
Original languageEnglish


In this paper we discuss the importance of framing the question of public acceptance of sustainable energy transitions in terms of values and a ‘whole-system’ lens. This assertion is based on findings arising from a major research project examining public values, attitudes and acceptability with regards to whole energy system change using a mixed-method (six deliberative workshops, n=68, and a nationally representative survey, n = 2441), interdisciplinary approach. Through the research we identify a set of social values associated with desirable energy futures in the UK, where the values represent identifiable cultural resources people draw on to guide their preference formation about particular aspects of energy system change. As such, we characterise public perspectives as being underpinned by six value clusters relating to efficiency and wastefulness, environment and nature, security and stability, social justice and fairness, autonomy and power, and processes and change. We argue that this ‘value system’ provides a basis for understanding core reasons for public acceptance or rejection of different energy system aspects and processes. We conclude that a focus on values that underpin more specific preferences for energy system change brings insights that could provide a basis for improved dialogue, more robust decision- making, and for anticipating likely points of conflict in energy transitions.

Bibliographical note

© 2015, Z. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://

    Research areas

  • Public acceptability, Energy system transitions, Public perception


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