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Initial steps toward quantifying the social barriers affecting wind energy deployment

JamesPrice19 December 2017

By Jen Cronin and James Price

The REAccept project aims to quantitatively examine the social acceptance of renewable energy in the UK and use this to improve how such factors are represented in our suite of energy system models.

As described in a previous blog post (by Julia Tomei/Andy Moore on 6th July 2017), a pathfinder project was started in June 2017 with a stakeholder workshop, which focussed on identifying the key drivers affecting social acceptance of renewables, particularly onshore wind. This helped the research team to classify the main physical constraints on wind development and understand the interlocking nature of social drivers, such as attitudes to landscape and habitat conservation, public perception of energy companies and the role of renewables, and concern over house prices.

Following the scoping workshop, the team conducted a survey with workshop participants specifically aimed at quantifying the set-back distances which should be applied to landscape features and residential areas in conservative and ambitious scenarios of social acceptance. Respondents were asked to judge the suitability of different land types for wind development, recommend the minimum distances that should be maintained between wind turbines and features such as roads, grass-land and national parks, and suggest ways in which those distances might be reduced.

Figure 1 Survey results: Recommended set-back distances for 130m turbines.

Ten respondents completed the survey thoroughly, though they were allowed to skip individual questions. Even from this small sample of knowledgeable and engaged stakeholders, a substantial spread of distances were suggested. For example, Figure 1 shows the recommended set-back distances from residential areas, forests and water bodies for a typical wind farm consisting of 10 turbines of 130m height (to the tip).

Respondents suggested that distances to residential areas might be reduced after careful noise studies or if smaller turbines were used. For forests and water bodies, protection of wildlife was a key concern, which could be mitigated by careful site surveys and turbine placement.

Following our pathfinder event, which has allowed us to iterate and refine out methodology, funding is now being sought for a full national-scale project which will seek to quantify the multitude of barriers to the social acceptance of onshore and offshore renewable energy technologies. The survey will be expanded to include other renewable generation technologies and a large sample of members of the public. A series of focus groups and detailed interviews with industry and government experts will also be used to investigate the constraints and the ways in which they could be overcome. The ultimate goal of the project is to understand and quantify the implications of the social acceptance of renewable energy on long term decarbonisation pathways and to value the cost-benefits afforded by potential options to lower these social barriers.

On behalf of REAccept:

Dr Gesche Huebner

Dr Marianne Zeyringer

Dr Julia Tomei

Oliver Broad

Dr James Price

Andy Moore

Jen Cronin

What are the social issues affecting wind energy deployment?

JuliaTomei6 July 2017

REAccept is a project aiming to improve the social acceptance representation of our energy system models, starting with onshore wind energy and highRES, funded by the BSEER Strategic Development Fund and wholeSEM. Our initial scoping exercise took run from May through June culminating in a stakeholder workshop on 22 June in Cambridge.

Tomei

The core concept of the project is to tackle social acceptability without pinning it down to familiar themes in the literature. This meant designing a workshop where the participants were in the driving seat from the start, framing the discussion the way that suited them. With the ultimate aim of getting quantifiable results to then apply to the model, this was a challenge. (more…)

Beyond Marrakech: The resource nexus and eco-innovation

RaimundBleischwitz7 December 2016

RB blog

The major changes that have occurred across the world call for a new approach to sustainability – one that is driven from the bottom up, rather than by governments.

The outcome of the Marrakech climate change conference can be cheered as a cocktail of mixed ingredients. While some hail a dawn of a new cooperation, others see the whole Paris Agreement at risk of being ditched in an era when big polluters such as the U.S. may pull out of commitments.

Better narratives are needed to bolster the drivers of a greener economy that puts people first, and to align the efforts of powerful coalitions across a variety of international goals. Rewiring climate action from the previous top-down approach that put global environmental public goods at centre stage towards transformative action from the bottom up is actually taking place, but will benefit from new narratives to help people making decisions about sustainability.

The “resource nexus” and “eco-innovation” are two of such new narratives. Both have compelling storylines on their own and have been adopted by a variety of actors around the globe. I believe they can well go together and bring along a much needed new and additional bottom-up dynamic.

Without doubt, 2016 has been a year of major changes. Sweeps of aggressive populism and triumphs of a new ethnic nationalism are the other side of a coin in a world where many people feel left behind, and mass migration has become the new normal. Despite such gloomy trends, positive investment trends and political will seem to prevail towards delivering the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, two of the promising milestones reached in 2015. But the road ahead won’t be easy; in fact, it will be quite bumpy, and some actors might choose exit options. (more…)

Renewable Energy in Non-Connected Zones in El Chocó, Colombia

JuliaTomei6 December 2016

Sustainable Development Goal 7 aims to achieve universal access to modern energy services by 2030. A key challenge in meeting this target will be the provision of electricity to remote rural communities, particularly where it is difficult or expensive to extend the electricity grid. Colombia has an electrification rate of 97%, which means that 1.4 million people remain without access to electricity – most of whom live in the Amazon and the departments of Chocó and La Guajira. Located in the northwest of Colombia, Chocó is one of the country’s most underdeveloped regions and faces pressing social, environmental and economic issues. Known for its Afro-Colombian culture, the region is densely forested, rich in deposits of gold and platinum, and highly biodiverse. With both Caribbean and Pacific Coasts, it is also one of the wettest places on the planet and has an average rainfall of between 8,000 – 13,000 mm per year. (more…)

The making of a globally sustainable energy system

PaulEkins24 November 2016

sustainable world (c) istockphoto

Blog by Steve Pye, Paul Ekins, Ian Hamilton, November 2016

As delegates at COP22 in Marrakech convene to discuss how to implement the Paris Agreement, there is a continuing focus on how to move to a sustainable global energy system. The challenge is that fossil fuels have long been the mainstay of the energy system, and an essential driver of growth. Rapidly reducing our reliance on their use is no small task, but one that is essential if we are to succeed in achieving the climate ambition set out in the December 2015 Paris Agreement.  The challenge is brought sharply into focus when we consider that the global energy system accounts for 65% of anthropogenic GHG emissions[1], but will need to be a net zero-emitter at some point between 2050 and 2100.  (more…)

Industry doesn’t have to suffer to protect the environment

NickHughes10 October 2016

london-1205328_1280 pixabayAddressing climate change requires strong measures to decarbonise the supply of energy. However, there are concerns that decarbonising energy supply simply drives up the cost of energy – and that this can have a chilling effect on high energy using sectors, such as manufacturing and industry. In this situation, it is sometimes suggested, carbon reductions are achieved, but only because industry packs up and moves its operations to other countries with lower energy costs, to continue to produce its emissions there. (more…)

A research journey from Italy to UCL

NadiaAmeli14 March 2016

italy-924043_1280I was raised in Italy and every woman raised in Italy loves fashion, and don’t get me wrong, I really do love fashion. The region where I come from (Le Marche) produces some of the best and most famous shoes made in the country. When I was about to graduate I had to choose the topic of my master thesis.  My professors were expecting a thesis on how business clusters could boost the Italian economy. I decided to do something different however because I did not want to follow the fashion path that everyone was expected to do. The first person who pushed me to think differently was my brother. He kept asking me: do you really want to work in fashion? This is not going to change people’s lives, it will make them more beautiful, but it will not solve any real issues. (more…)

Athena SWAN in the Bartlett – Bringing Us Together

EmmaTerama7 March 2016

people-sitting-690317_1280Athena SWAN is the process for accreditation in higher education and research for their work to support women’s equal opportunities and advancement. The Bartlett, UCL’s global faculty of the built environment, chose to seek this accreditation as a whole, instead of the comprising Schools/Centres applying separately. This is a reflection on that process that started in October 2015 by one member of the self-assessment team.

The Bartlett is a diverse faculty, and that was what we found when it came to the challenge at hand. The first point was to compile a picture of the Faculty in terms of the various points along the education and career pathways available. As part of the Athena SWAN application we started gathering data on the share of women in different career stages, recruitment and induction, career progression, work place culture and supporting women’s careers. We were assisted in our data endeavours by numerous professional services staff across the Schools, UCL HR, and many more staff and colleagues via responses to interviews, focus groups, survey and a mini-workshop.

(more…)

The Paris Agreement – A Fresh Start?

PaulDrummond15 December 2015

(c) IstockPhoto

(c) IstockPhoto

On the 12th December 2015, after (just over) two weeks of intensive negotiations between nearly 200 nations, COP21 of the UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement – a new global commitment to address climate change. All parties were keen to avoid a repeat of the disastrous effort to secure such a global agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, where deep divisions and entrenched positions between counties and negotiating blocs prevented any substantive progress towards a common global agreement. (more…)

The Paris Agreement lacks focus on water

SimonDamkjaer15 December 2015

(c) SXCThe world is celebrating the adoption of the Paris Agreement, but the role of water under a changing climate is still sidelined: Time to ride the momentum.

One of the biggest highlights for the water community of 2015 was the adoption of a standalone Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation (SDG 6) on 25th September. The celebrations were high but not long after did the water community’s hangover commence: the first draft negotiating text for the 21st United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) was released late October, 2015 and made no explicit mention to water resources in the upcoming climate change negotiations. As COP21 got underway, several revised versions of the proposed Paris Agreement were made available throughout the two-week negotiation marathon, but all failed to make a single reference to water. Not surprisingly, the final adopted text was no different. (more…)