1.1: delays, cost overruns, and in some cases, has

1.1:
Context and requirement for this dissertation

Climate change is the
most significant threat faced by modern civilisation, “emissions are soaring,
projections of sea level rise are higher than expected, and climate impacts
around the world are appearing with increasing frequency” (Kintisch,
2009:p1546). Climate change is here now, requiring immediate action to prevent
it spiralling beyond regulation. The arctic maximum peak winter freezing point,
fell to its lowest recorded value in 2017 (NSDIC, 2017), illustrating current
global efforts are not yet sufficient to curtail rising global temperatures.
Numerous factors contribute to global warming, the most significant being
manmade CO2 emissions produced predominantly through fossil fuel
combustion. 

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Statistically, power
generation is the highest CO2 emitting sector, producing 29% of US CO2
emissions in 2017 (EPA, 2017). For the last 80 years, man has relied
predominantly upon burning fossil fuels to produce electricity. It is clear
however, that if we are to limit climate change impacts and reduce CO2
emissions which contribute so significantly to this phenomenon, a step-change
in global energy production is required. The resulting post-carbon world
(Condon, 2010) must replace fossil fuels with renewable energy technologies,
meeting increasing demand, providing energy security, and being affordable, all
while reducing CO2 emissions. The transition so far has been limited and
fraught with difficulty, many governments simply are not interested in helping
to combat climate change, and those who are taking steps to combat the
phenomenon are struggling to construct enough renewable energy infrastructure,
one of the reasons for which is the poor social acceptability of such projects.

Wind turbines have been
criticised aesthetically, solar arrays denounced for destroying farm land, and
nuclear power doubted over safety. Renewable energy infrastructure developments
are often poorly socially accepted due to their perceived potential negative
externalities. These are impacts upon a 3rd party like local
residents, resulting from an economic transaction (Economics Online, 2017) like
turbine construction, and include lowered house prices, air and noise
pollution. Poor public social acceptance has resultantly caused development
delays, cost overruns, and in some cases, has prevented construction of
renewable energy facilities, limiting them in number and scale (Upreti and Van
Der Horst, 2004). Opposition in some nations has now reached levels causing
legitimate “restriction in the ability of governments and nations to meet
renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets” (Eltham et al.,
2008:p23).

An improved understanding
of why people oppose such projects, it was hoped would allow developers to
integrate findings into their proposals to reduce opposition, and improve
social acceptance rates, aiding affected governments to construct more
renewable energy facilities more quickly, allowing them to combat global
warming effectively. Research to date from authors such as Devine-Wright
(2014), has focussed predominantly upon place based factors. These include
place attachment (Devine-Wright, 2014), NIMBY syndrome (Devine-Wright, 2011),
distance, and development saturation. These factors were selected due to their
perceived impacts upon the level of negative externalities set to impact those
living locally to renewable energy infrastructure. To date however,
implementation of findings from such place based research has been limited, and
the desired increase in social acceptance from the public remains small
(Wustenhagen et al., 2007). However, resolution may lie through analysing
factors outside of the current place based research focus, socio-demographic
factors may hold the key to understanding the social acceptance of renewable
energy, and resultantly be important in ensuring we can combat climate change
effectively through facilitating the construction of larger numbers of
renewable energy facilities.

Social acceptance is
exactly that, social. Whilst place based factors may provide some relevant
insight and application to this issue, they fail to fully integrate the concept
they desire to study. Socio-demographic factors have been widely omitted from
research into the social acceptability of renewable energy infrastructure,
despite such factors being found to be of significance in explaining and
understanding attitudes of individuals towards various research issues. For
example, age has been found to significantly impact individual’s attitudes
towards unemployment (Liat, 2000). Socio-demographic factors like education
level have also been found to be particularly important in explaining attitudes
towards controversial topics, like breast feeding (Kutty, 1989). It is
therefore ascertainable that analysis of socio-demographic factors could be of
measurable importance when attempting to understand attitudes and social
acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure. Factors with prominent impacts
upon attitudes include age, annual income and education level. The findings of
such socio-demographic research could be utilised both independently, or in
conjunction with existing place based factor analysis to reach more solid
conclusions on how to amend renewable energy infrastructure proposals to
improve their social acceptance. Ultimately allowing governments to construct
enough renewable energy infrastructure to combat global warming effectively.

1.2:
Dissertation aim and research questions

This dissertation
therefore aims to investigate the impact of three socio-demographic factors;
age, education level, and annual income, upon the social acceptance of
renewable energy infrastructure. It also aims to understand the extent to which
their importance is comparable to that of place based factors, and how the two
may inter-relate. As such, its proposes these research questions:

·        
To what extent does an individuals’ age
impact their social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure?

·        
To what extent does an individuals’ annual
income impact their social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure?

·        
To what extent does an individuals’
education level impact their social acceptance of renewable energy
infrastructure?

·        
To what extent are socio-demographic
factors of comparable importance to place based factors, in their impacts upon
the social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure?

To
answer these questions, this dissertation utilised a case-study approach,
analysing the Javelin Park energy from waste incinerator in Gloucestershire via
questionnaires issued to local residents (n=150).

1.3:
Dissertation Structure

This dissertation
contains 5 chapters, the first being this introduction, followed by a critical
literature review, succeeded by discussion of the research methodology utilised
and its limitations. The penultimate chapter addresses data analysis and
interpretation, before the conclusion presents findings and suggests implications
for future research in this field and for the development of future renewable
energy infrastructure proposals.