The Observatory for Societal Engagement with Energy (SEE) and net-zero transitions is a new core capability of UKERC.

What is the SEE Observatory

The SEE Observatory will develop new approaches for mapping diverse forms of societal engagement in energy and net-zero transitions to generate openly accessible whole-system evidence about public participation on an ongoing basis. It will serve as a platform for stakeholder learning and exchange, and translate the social intelligence produced to help make low carbon energy transitions more just, responsible and responsive to society.

Why a public observatory

Low carbon energy transitions depend on the meaningful engagement of society. This is key to achieving urgent social transformations and decarbonisation in ways that are responsible, just and publicly accountable. Forms of societal engagement with energy and climate change are rapidly multiplying – ranging from communication, behaviour change, deliberation and citizens’ assemblies through to activism, protest, digital participation and grassroots community action.

Yet, existing engagement approaches are piecemeal, often occur in isolation, and narrowly focus on discrete forms of participation in particular issues, technologies, decisions or parts of the energy system. In response, UKERC has pioneered a whole-system approach to better understand and map the diverse ways publics are participating in energy and net-zero transitions and how multiple forms of engagement interact in wider systems. This work underpins the Observatory capability.

What will the Observatory do

The SEE Observatory comprises three interlinked areas of activity and research.

Mapping participation:

Novel digital, systematic and crowdsourcing methods for mapping participation will be developed and applied to map societal engagement with energy and net-zero transitions across the whole UK energy system and in more focused mappings around key emerging issues.

Observatory network:

The Observatory is a hub that connects UK and international actors interested in societal engagement with energy and climate change from different disciplines, approaches and sectors. It will be co-designed with this network and serve as a platform for learning, exchange and capacity building on systemic approaches to public participation and engagement.

Shaping responsible innovation and just transitions:

New social intelligence produced by the Observatory will be translated to help make decisions, innovations and participation processes more responsible and responsive to society. Mapping evidence will be visualised through a website, briefings and an interactive online database and put to work in responsible innovation experiments with partner organisations in government, business and civil society.

The Observatory team:

The Observatory is directed by Professor Jason Chilvers, supported by Dr Helen Pallett (as deputy lead), Dr Tom Hargreaves and colleagues in the Science, Society and Sustainability (3S) Research Group at the University of East Anglia.