Who pays for energy transitions?

Previous Cardiff research developed a model of the core values underlying societal preferences for sustainable system transitions (Demski et al., 2015). This highlighted how preferences are bound up with people’s views on the current governance, financing and energy charging arrangements.

Some elements of current structures are particularly opaque for citizens, such as the relationship between generators, suppliers and the infrastructure/grid owners. As are the roles of the regulator and government in ‘policing’ these issues on behalf of society. In addition, widespread distrust of energy companies strongly influences beliefs about who holds the responsibility for financing and delivering change (Butler et al, 2013). All of these issues bear upon the ‘social licence to operate’ that industry and government will need for delivering long-term transitions.

Previous research highlighted the importance of thinking about the conditionals and contingencies associated with public acceptability, and how these are rooted in the identified value system associated with desirable energy system change. Public perspectives on cost and affordability were deemed to be much more multi-dimensional than simple concerns about least cost or low energy bills. Little is known 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 see themselves contributing to the transition.

Project aims:

  1. To explore concerns about energy affordability and cost issues as conceptualised and experienced by the public.
  2. To build understanding of how publics distribute and ascribe roles and responsibilities for funding transitions among different actors in the energy system (e.g. government, private business, consumers); and to what extent these judgements relate to perceived values and motives, and perceptions of trust in relation to those actors.
  3. To examine the conditions and concerns associated with acceptability of different types of cost and financing mechanisms within energy transitions. Considering in detail the ways in which concerns about fairness and justice (across different scales) are bound up with perceptions of how energy transitions are paid for.

We examine the above research questions through a major two-wave national survey (wave 1 n=3,150; wave 2 n=2,037) and four follow-up focus groups in London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Glasgow.

Project outputs:

Evensen, D., Demski, C., Becker, S., Pidgeon, N. (2018). The relationship between justice and acceptance of energy transition costs in the UK. Applied Energy, 222, 451-459.

Demski, C., Evensen, D., Pidgeon, N., Spence, A. (2017). Public prioritisation of energy affordability in the UK. Energy Policy, 110, 404-409.

Linked to previous project outputs:

Demski, C., Butler, B., Parkhill, K.A., Spence, A., and Pidgeon, N. (2015). Public values for energy system change. Global Environmental Change, 34, 59-69. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378015000953

UKERC synthesis report: Transforming the UK Energy System – Public Values, Attitudes and Acceptability.

UKERC research report: Transforming the UK Energy System: Public Values, Attitudes and Acceptability – Deliberating energy system transitions in the UK.