Can we increase public confidence as we move to cleaner energy?
October 13, 2017
University of Ottawa to study public confidence in the energy transition
Have you heard about the upcoming three-year study on a major societal challenge – Canada’s transition to a low-carbon future and how to ensure that the public and all the many stakeholders have confidence in the process?
It’s called The Public Confidence in Energy Transition study. It is being led by the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Science, Society and Policy and involves more than two dozen researchers from a dozen universities who have expertise in areas such as: policy, regulation and governance; transition economics and energy technology; and public opinion, trust in policy making and expert knowledge.
While the project doesn’t officially launch until mid-2018, it’s following the University’s three-year Positive Energy study which has already brought together university experts and key decision makers from industry, government, Aboriginal communities and environmental organizations to bring forward important findings. They have been working together to determine how energy resources can be developed in a way that garners acceptance while benefiting society at large.
A March 2017 paper from the Positive Energy study, System Under Stress, notes that Canada’s energy decision systems are under stress, resulting in poorer outcomes in environmental performance, investment, innovation, cost effectiveness, reliability, and our ability to transition to a much lower-carbon energy economy. The paper offers a number of guiding principles for increasing public confidence in energy decision-making.
The study will build on this research and focus on the key issue of ensuring the public supports Canada’s transition to a low-carbon energy system. It will conduct research on the overall decision-making system that will lead the transition, and engage with the decision makers and the many stakeholders who have an interest in the transition.
Key activities of the research include:
- mapping out how decisions will be made as we transition to a low-carbon future, and identifying the public confidence “stress points” (such as policy, regulation, and public trust);
- investigating what drives support and opposition in key publics such as local and Aboriginal communities, the energy industry, and policy makers;
- identifying how to integrate questions of public confidence into techno-economic models and scenarios charting Canada’s energy future;
- assessing public confidence in further North American energy integration;
- identifying public confidence issues and challenges that are just emerging; and
- soliciting the opinions of energy leaders on future energy transition barriers and opportunities.
This new research is timely for Canada’s wind energy industry.
The transition to new, cleaner energy systems has already begun. More wind energy capacity has been built in Canada over the past 11 years than any other form of electricity generation. Going forward, we must continue and extend this momentum as we strive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 per cent, moving away from the use of carbon fuels in transportation, building heating and cooling, and industrial processes and replacing them with clean electricity.
As we plan for the future, the new Public Confidence in Energy Transition study is a necessary step in understanding the full extent of the challenges we will face, and how to devise a road map to a successful transition to a low-carbon future.
CanWEA is a proud supporter of this project.
Director of Media and Communications at the Canadian Wind Energy Association.