Towards pragmatic narratives of societal engagement in the UK energy system
Energy Research and Social Science
© 2017. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Reason for embargo
Under embargo until 07/11/2018 in compliance with publisher policy.
Issues of societal engagement in the energy system pervade both the study and the doing of energy policy. In both realms, narratives as persuasive 'vehicles of meaning' help us both to make sense of society's role in past and current energy systems, and shape these roles in future energy systems. However, our eagerness to simplify complex histories and unwritten futures means that the narratives we create are often reliant on assumptions. This has implications for the degree to which narratives can find pragmatism, and thus be valuable, to a wide range of stakeholders.Drawing both on historic accounts of societal engagement in energy systems alongside emerging discourses around future energy systems, this paper offers several points of caution for the use of narratives of engagement. In terms of historic narratives, these relate to hindsight bias, predictability, and normative positioning, the combination of which depict histories of engagement as retrospectively obvious, and falsely suggest a controllability of past events. In terms of forward-looking narratives, while optimism and ambiguity play key roles in garnering interest in visions among stakeholders, they also mean that narratives vary in their relevance, and thus value to, different stakeholders. Fundamentally, narratives must find legitimacy in the actors they purport to recruit, and must thus simultaneously attend to regulative, normative and cognitive aspects of energy system engagement.
This work was supported by EPSRC grant number EP/N00583X/1.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Elsevier via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 35, pp.132-139