Public values for energy system change

Christina Demski, Catherine Butler, Karen A. Parkhill, Alexa Spence, Nick F. Pidgeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (SciVal)


In this paper we discuss the importance of framing the question of public acceptance of sustainable energy transitions in terms of values and a 'whole-system' lens. This assertion is based on findings arising from a major research project examining public values, attitudes and acceptability with regards to whole energy system change using a mixed-method (six deliberative workshops, n=. 68, and a nationally representative survey, n=. 2441), interdisciplinary approach. Through the research we identify a set of social values associated with desirable energy futures in the UK, where the values represent identifiable cultural resources people draw on to guide their preference formation about particular aspects of energy system change. As such, we characterise public perspectives as being underpinned by six value clusters relating to efficiency and wastefulness, environment and nature, security and stability, social justice and fairness, autonomy and power, and processes and change. We argue that this 'value system' provides a basis for understanding core reasons for public acceptance or rejection of different energy system aspects and processes. We conclude that a focus on values that underpin more specific preferences for energy system change brings insights that could provide a basis for improved dialogue, more robust decision-making, and for anticipating likely points of conflict in energy transitions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


  • Energy system transitions
  • Public acceptability
  • Public perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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