Public engagement in energy planning and its impact on low-carbon energy controversy
Low-carbon electricity technologies are central to the transition to a lowcarbon energy system necessitated by the urgent need to address issues of climate-change mitigation and energy security. Beginning in 1999, policies have been put in place in the UK with the aim of facilitating the deployment of low-carbon technologies in the light of increasingly challenging deployment targets. The ever-shifting policy landscape has brought a renewable obligation, technology targets at different scales, the regionalisation of energy policy, new planning bodies and, most recently, a shift away from planning at a regional to the local scale. Overcoming issues of public opposition to new energy developments has been seen as key to increasing deployment of low-carbon electricity technologies, particularly in the case of renewables, where government and business actors consider that this opposition has hindered deployment (Devine-Wright 2011). Thus, policies have sought to overcome opposition by changing the opportunities for public engagement in energy planning. Stirling (2005) identifies three main rationales for public engagement in planning and other forms of environmental policy-making: it can result in better decisions, it may be a means of engendering support for a particular decision or it may be regarded as the right thing to do from the point of view of democracy. Engagement may be approached in different ways ranging from informing people about a decision to taking decisions collectively. Using case studies of renewable energy targets, biomass and carbon capture and storage, this chapter considers opportunities for engagement in energy planning and explores the impact of different engagement approaches on low-carbon energy controversy.