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Stormont Conference report

Communities, Renewables and the Low Carbon Transition

A conference coordinated by MISTRAL and the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queens University Belfast

Over the last 20 years we have witnessed the beginnings of an energy revolution, as we begin to shift to a more sustainable, decentralised, energy system. This has not only marked key responses to climate breakdown, but also introduced major changes to energy ownership and procurement while challenging the way we all interact with energy generation. Until now, this transition has been primarily stimulated by a combination of technological innovation, financial incentives and investment, while neglecting the social aspects of the low carbon economy: one underrepresented dimension of the changes in energy revolution is the widespread community opposition that faces individual energy projects throughout Europe, and which may ultimately shape the extent and nature of energy transition.  

Against this context, MISTRAL and the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queens University Belfast organised a one day conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, which included a range of internationally recognised experts in the field of social acceptance of energy technologies, and local leaders in the transition to a low carbon economy.

Presentations will be available to download below.

Please do not reproduce any downloaded content without the prior express permission of the speakers.


Session 1:  Renewables and communities: Research Perspectives

Chair: Professor John Barry, Queen’s University Belfast

Social acceptance and an obsession with the ‘public’: understanding social engagement with renewables

Maarten Wolsink
University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


The US national survey of wind project neighbours

Ben Hoen
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA                                                                                                                                    


Overview of social acceptance research

Dr Susana Batel
University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal


Session 2: Introducing the MISTRAL Network

Wind, communities and the low carbon transition: An introduction to the MISTRAL Network

Professor Geraint Ellis
Queens University Belfast


Session 3:  Policy and Practice perspectives

Chair: Dr Geraldine Ryan, University College Cork, Ireland

Social engagement from the industry point of view

Rachel Anderson
Chair of Northern Ireland Renewables Industry Group


Community Engagement – a developer’s perspective

Andy Fox
Coillte, Republic of Ireland


Social engagement and the low carbon transition in the Republic of Ireland

Dr Jeanne Moore
National Economic and Social Council, Ireland


Community perspectives

Paul Kenny
Tipperary Energy Agency, Ireland


Session 4:  Communities & transition: International Perspectives

Chair: Professor Geraint Ellis, Queen’s University Belfast

Doing low-carbon business in a direct democracy: challenges & opportunities for wind energy in Switzerland

Professor Rolf Wuestenhagen
University of St. Gallen, Switzerland


Future directions for research and policy for communities, renewables and the low carbon transition

Patrick Devine-Wright
University of Exeter


Panel discussion on comparative perspectives and experiences

Dr Jan Hildebrand (Institute for Future Energy and Material Flow Systems, Germany)
Prof. Jamie Baxter, (Western Ontario University, Canada)
Dr Garry Keegan, (International Energy Agency Task 28)
Dr Kristian Borch, (Danish Technical University, Denmark)



Ben Hoen
Chair of MISTRAL External Expert Board