Mapping UK energy participation

Our new UK Energy Research Centre report is now available to download from the UKERC website. This report summarises the findings from the systematic mapping of UK energy participation 2010-2015 which I carried out in 2016 in collaboration with my colleagues Jason Chilvers and Tom Hargreaves. As far as I am aware this is the first project which has attempted to map participation related to energy in this way, and this work has brought up a whole host of new insights about public engagement and the energy system.

LCCC

Photo from the UK Government’s Low Carbon Communities Challenge process which was carried out 2010-2011

Our main goal in this piece of work was to explore what the move to ‘whole systems’ thinking around energy over the last few years means for work on public participation. By trying to map participation across the whole energy system, rather than just focusing on individual instances or formal processes, which is still the norm in most participation work, we found a huge diversity of ways in which citizens were participating in low carbon transitions. These included the expected and oft-discussed forms of participation such as consultations, deliberative engagement, opinion surveys and behaviour change projects, but also included forms of activism and protest, arts-based engagement, community energy groups and intentional communities. This diversity of modes of engagement was also accompanied by a diversity of different energy issues and actions which were articulated through these engagements. This in turn suggests that academics, government and the private sector needs to adopt different modes of engaging with and listening to citizens, which acknowledges the diversity of existing engagements, the sheer range of different framings of energy issues and energy action, and the power relations influencing how these play out and are taken up.

I hope this report has helped to show the value of mapping approaches for understanding participation, in order to capture the diversity and dynamism of citizen engagements, and to understand the connections between cases and their broader contexts. Over the summer we will be working on a few academic papers based on this work, so any comments you have on the report in the meantime would be very interesting and useful to us.

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