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Social Acceptance, Path Dependency and the Low Carbon Transition (ESR8)

Queen’s University Belfast

This project seeks to understand the wider determinants of local resistance to energy projects by taking the perspective of path dependency, particularly related to the socio-political context for the deployment of renewable energy. To do this, the project will adopt the concepts developed in transition studies to understand the complexity of society–technology interactions, innovation niches regulatory regimes, exogenous factors and other time/place dependent factors. The project will draw on the wealth of existing studies that suggest that community objection to wind energy projects may be influenced by, inter alia the scale and proximity of the project, distribution of costs and benefits, perceptions of procedural justice and a range of contextual factors relating to historical and geographical context. Each of these attributes are governed, to a certain extent by particular forms of regulatory instrument, industrial structure of the wind industry and the technological evolution of project design. It is also clear that the development paths of energy have strongly shaped by past decisions made by public institutions, private developers and the way communities have responded to these. This has established a complex set of intertwined path dependencies that have resulted in very different context of social acceptance in the different countries of Europe. This project aims to untangle the paths of dependencies in three European countries (UK, Denmark, and Germany) to understand how this has influenced the current context for social acceptance of renewables and how this can be related to long terms prospects for energy transition. The project will be undertaken through comparative studies of these three countries, drawing on existing literature, policy analysis and interviews with high level key stakeholders (n=40 x3) to maps the recent trajectory of the renewable industry in each country, supplemented by a case study in each country of a single policy decision (e.g. the adoption of specific financial incentives for renewables) that may highlight the role of specific incumbents and other policy actors.
The project will involve complex mapping of key trajectories of renewable energies in the three selected studies, related to wider socio-political contexts and initiatives, perform an analysis, based on interviews of the power relations that inform the direction of policy reform and the barriers to this, and synthesise the impact of previous decisions on the progress and mode of energy transition, resulting in recommendations on how nations and regions can adopt more open and flexible approaches to safeguard future technological innovations.

Cick here to download the ESR8 job description


Project supervision

Professor Geraint Ellis
School of Natural and Built Environment
Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Brendan Murtagh
School of Natural and Built Environment
Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Kristian Borch
Senior Researcher
Department of Management Engineering
Technical University of Denmark