The role of social acceptance in clean technology deployment

In the framework of the POLIMP project, a policy brief has been published on the role of social acceptance in the acceleration of clean technology deployment within the EU.

Large-scale greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions are feasible to attain, both technically and economically. The consideration of the social aspects that influence the acceptance of climate-friendly technologies and measures is essential as a lack of public acceptance may delay or halt the exploitation of these opportunities.

The following five elements are thought to determine the level of public acceptance of clean technologies:

  • Awareness: Knowledge, experience, social responsibility and environmental awareness are main factors that affect people’s acceptance of clean technologies and measures.
  • Fairness: The perceived fairness of the preparatory and decision-making processes influences how the public will evaluate a technology or measure. Procedures are considered to be fair when they are open and transparent, the public and stakeholders have a voice in decisions, and these inputs are given consideration by the decision makers.
  • Evaluation of costs, risks and benefits: This assessment is inherently subjective, as the public does not usually have complete knowledge or adequate information. The assessment made is therefore either a result of their level of awareness, or based on an assessment made by someone else, such as the project developer, the government, or an interest group.
  • Local context: While the public has a positive attitude towards clean technologies and measures in general, individual projects or policies regularly face resistance from the local community.
  • Trust: Public trust influences the acceptance of technologies and measures. Hereby the public acceptance depends on the trust in the properties of the technology, as well as the trust in the related stakeholders.

A clear strategy should be used to gain public acceptance of clean technologies and avoid (large-scale) public resistance. This applies both to the level of individual projects, where developers and the government should consider all five elements of acceptance, and to higher policy-making levels, where awareness and fairness, in particular, should be taken into account. The policy brief includes two boxes with examples, on wind energy in the Netherlands, and a tidal stream generator in Northern Ireland.

Within the above framework, the 1st POLIMP Policy Brief on Public Acceptance “Acceleration of Clean Technology Deployment within the EU: the Role of Public Acceptance” has been published (April 2014). The policy brief was written by Erwin Hofman and Wytze van der Gaast of JIN Climate and Sustainability.

POLIMP project logoThe policy brief is an output of the EU-funded POLIMP project.

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