Paying for energy transitions: Public perspectives and acceptability

20 Dec 2018

Energy policy in the UK aims to achieve a diverse, reliable and affordable transition to a low-carbon energy system, necessary for meeting future carbon budgets agreed by the UK Climate Change Committee.

The UKERC project Societal Preferences, Affordability & Trust, conducted at Cardiff University, explores public views on who should pay for energy transitions. This project builds on previous research showing high public support for changes in the energy system to increase renewable energy and reduce fossil fuels, as well as ensuring affordability and reliability.

However, changes in the whole energy system (ranging from production across distribution to consumption) are associated with significant costs and it is unclear how these costs will be met. 

Citizens have a role to play in the transition

Members of the public are a necessry part of energy transitions in multiple ways, not only as consumers of energy, but increasingly also as

  • producers,
  • citizens who vote and
  • citizens who might engage in protest if they oppose changes in policy or energy infrastructure

Moreover, some costs of energy transitions are likely to be passed onto the public, such as through energy bills or taxes which will affect current and future citizens. The research examined public views on responsibility to pay for energy transition costs and the roles that government, energy companies and the general public ought to play.

 We conducted a major survey of the British public, followed by focus groups in four locations across Great Britain (Cardiff, Birmingham, Glasgow and London). Our findings show that members of the public assigned greatest responsibility for financing energy transitions to energy companies and government, because they were seen to have the structural power and financial means to implement large-scale changes. Nonetheless, participants also attributed some responsibility to the general public as consumers of energy.

In our research we outline the extent to which, and under what conditions, participants expressed willingness to accept additional costs associated with sustainable energy system change.

Our findings show that members of the public assigned greatest responsibility for financing energy transitions to energy companies and government, because they were seen to have the structural power and financial means to implement large-scale changes

Furthermore, distrust significantly marked focus group participants’ views on the role and responsibilities of energy companies and government; we examine the underlying drivers of distrust and the implications for people’s willingness to contribute financially to energy transitions.

Join us as we launch our  policy briefing

On the 15th January we will be launching a new policy briefing based on this research

We invite you to join us, where we will be presenting key findings and recommendations, followed by a panel discussion on policy implications and financing energy transitions.

Panel speakers will include Joe Perkins (Chief Economist at Ofgem’s Office for Research and Economics), Sharon Darcy (Director at Sustainability First) and Jeremy Vincent (Head of Energy Social Research, BEIS).

Book now here.