Involve has been commissioned by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) to carry out a study on “Future national energy mix scenarios: public engagement processes in the EU and elsewhere”. Involve worked in partnership with Dr. Paul Dorfman from Warwick University who is Senior Researcher Global Energy at Warwick Business School (WBS) and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust Energy Policy Research Fellow.
Recent reviews of the impact of climate change suggest that, over the next few decades, countries within the EU will be subject to unprecedented change in human health, welfare, energy and environmental systems. Key to adapting to this change is the transition to a low carbon energy economy. A transition to sustainable energy will involve choices between a range of different options. The ‘energy futures’ landscape within Europe is one of major national differences between state and market, as well as choices and trade-offs over supply-side, demand-side, transmission and load-balanced infrastructure.
European energy policy offers a fairly open and flexible framework in which member states could develop collective action on energy issues. The role of public dialogue and the participatory practices that enable it are core to the building of mutual understanding between ‘energy futures’ stakeholders. Achieving change to low carbon energy futures at the pace and scale required will not be straightforward, and public values and attitudes concerning demand-side, supply-side and infrastructure implications will play a critical role. Given the size of the long-term investments that are now needed across the options of energy supply it is clear that European public needs to play a key role in taking these critical, social, environmental and economic decisions. If carried out in a truly involving way, the integration of public, policy and expert knowledge allows for greater accountability, transparency and much better take-up of necessary change and improved long-term likelihood of problem resolution.
The project started with a literature review of relevant initiatives to develop or implement existing public engagement processes in the EU and elsewhere concerning national energy mix scenarios at regional and national level. The aim was to highlight key lessons and barriers to engaging the public in this area. Secondly, we wrote five representative case studies of ‘best’ or ‘better practice’ examples from across the EU of structures or organisations which are fostering public involvement and communication.
The study looks at attempts at engagement in order to learn wider lessons. The findings from the review and the case studies informs a set of recommendations the EESC can take forward in developing a toolkit and process adaptable for each EU Member State to enable the establishment of a national energy mix forum, and involve key national organisations and civil society stakeholders.