Broadening public engagement with energy

3S researchers Jason Chilvers, Helen Pallett and Tom Hargreaves have today launched an important policy briefing calling for a new approach to public engagement with energy.


The UK Energy Research Centre briefing – entitled ‘Public engagement with energy: broadening evidence, policy and practice’ – translates findings from our Remaking Energy Participation project to policy-makers and engagement practitioners.


The briefing calls for a broader, whole systems approach to energy participation underpinned by new methods that can map system-wide public engagements with energy. It reports on one of the first examples of this, a systematic mapping of UK public engagement with energy between 2010-2015.


The briefing note demonstrates how mapping public engagement can provide more comprehensive social intelligence to inform policy developments and social change. It reveals forms of engagement that exist beyond mainstream social acceptance and behaviour change approaches, including grassroots forms of innovation and activism, through to new and emerging forms of energy engagement. It reveals broader evidence about public values and concerns that may present barriers to the adoption of energy technologies like fracking and smart meters. And, importantly, it provides new insights into how multiple engagements interact as part of a wider ecology of participation.


In a key policy recommendation, the briefing calls for the establishment of a UK Observatory on public engagement with energy and low carbon transitions. This novel organisational arrangement for science and policy advice would provide continually updated and usable evidence of diverse energy public engagements to a help make energy transitions more responsive and accountable to public values.