This project is led by Jason Chilvers, and also involves Helen Pallett and Tom Hargreaves at the University of East Anglia. The project seeks to develop an understanding of diverse forms of participation around the UK energy system. The central aim is to explore conceptually, methodologically and empirically what it means to think about public participation and engagement in energy transitions from a ‘whole systems’ perspective.

There are two main phases of the project. The first is a systematic review of the evidence on public and civil society participation and decision making in energy systems, which contributes to an apparent ‘systemic moment’ in several social science disciplines and approaches to understanding energy publics and participation. This will consist of a review of emerging approaches to understanding participation and public engagement in complex systems change, followed by a systematic analysis of diverse cases of system-wide participation in energy transitions drawn from the literature.

This review lays the groundwork for the second phase of the project which involves new empirical research to map and engage with distributed forms of participation around the UK energy system, putting the ‘systemic moment’ around participation and the energy system into practice. This work will take forward a particular approach for ‘opening up’ systemic decision making, informed by the review, and will engage system-wide actors in mapping out different framings and priorities with respect to UK energy system change. This phase will result in the development of novel methodological and conceptual approaches to the study of energy participation, as well as generating new empirical insights around potential pathways for the UK energy system.

Rethinking Energy Participation – Scoping note