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Title: The social amplification of benefit : risk, identity and renewable energy
Author: Roberts, Andrew James
ISNI:       0000 0004 9347 6330
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2020
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Climate change and its impacts present an urgent need for transitions towards more low-carbon systems. Part of this transition entails changes in how we generate energy for our consumption, with renewable sources offering a potential solution. Within Wales and the UK, Government targets for the amount consumed and produced from low-carbon sources inevitably means the further deployment of renewables infrastructure. However, the deployment of this technology is not without controversy. Opposition to renewable energy projects have been characterised as deviant and an obstacle to overcome (Aitken, 2010); with theorisations producing narrow understandings such as the Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) paradigm (Burningham, 2000; Wolsink, 2007). However, more nuanced understandings are required of local opposition which account for how individuals attribute value and meaningfully connect with the world around them (Bell et al, 2013). There is a need to pay particular attention to the ‘hidden losses’ (Witter and Satterfield, 2014) which are difficult to articulate, yet remain important to the individual. A promising lens through which to analyse these contestations is the concepts of risk and identity, particularly relational perspectives which give due consideration to social context (Boholm and Corvallec, 2011; Andersen and Chen, 2002). Similarly, the Social Amplification of Risk Framework (Kasperson et al, 1988; Pidgeon et al, 2003) presents a useful frame through which to understand this social context and how highly unique and personalised “discussion-scapes” surrounding individual projects can be built by individuals as active agents (Horlick-Jones et al, 2003) and how proposed ‘benefit packages’ (Walker et al, 2010) are understood. A ‘risk to identity’ perspective (Henwood and Pidgeon, 2013) pays attention to the “unsayable threats” which individuals are faced with when dealing with these issues, shining new light on the ethical dilemmas with which individuals are faced. The study explores the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, a proposed marine tidal project based off the coast of the city of Swansea in South Wales. Tidal lagoons present a promising new form of renewable energy infrastructure that can offer the production of a reliable source of clean energy, simply by harnessing the power of the tides. With some of the highest tidal ranges in the world the UK is well positioned to benefit from this technology. Utilising an interpretivist and relational approach, the study looked at the accounts of stakeholders, publics and local opposition groups. The study also used a number of cultural probes as means of engaging participants in meaningful discussion on a yet to exist technology. The research found that as the lagoon project became to be perceived as for the ‘public good’, a process of social amplification of benefit saw this narrative reproduced and perpetuated through the exploiting of pre-existing risk issues and narratives within Swansea surrounding unemployment and the economy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General)