Overcoming Public Opposition To New Electricity Infrastructure Projects

Wind power, hydro power

“Affordable energy infrastructure underpins economic competitiveness.”

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April 2013

In “Overcoming Public Opposition to New Electricity Infrastructure Projects” author Emay Cowx outlines the importance of understanding the values of stakeholders when building acceptance for electricity projects. Traditionally, project developers have focused on technical and financial expertise but the soft sciences have much to offer in gaining public acceptance.

The many recent cases where the public has rejected both fossil and renewable electricity generation projects show that economic arguments alone are no longer adequate. A closer look reveals that conducting uninformed and loosely managed public project consultations can do more harm than good. Poorly designed consultation processes increase “social friction” and cause latent community concerns to coalesce into hardened active opposition.

Cowx recommends that to build social acceptance, project developers move beyond education and awareness activities and engage in a collaborative dialogue. To enable such productive two-way discussion, developers need to understand stakeholders’ values and that requires investing effort in upfront research. The result will be a platform from which stakeholders’ understanding of new electricity infrastructure will be improved through a mutual exploration with the developer of risks, benefits and tradeoffs.