Lack of knowledge and experience are slowing implementation of Energy Strategy 2050
The National Research Programmes „Energy Turnaround” (NRP 70) and „Managing Energy Consumption“ (NRP 71) have investigated the key factors influencing society’s willingness to accept technology and behavioural change and distilled them into specific recommendations. The focal issue „Acceptance“ ushers in the concluding phase of NRP 70 and 71.
„The Swiss have a fundamentally positive attitude to transforming their country’s energy system“, says Andreas Balthasar, President of the NRP 71 Steering Committee.“People’s misgivings about such things as environment taxes or new technologies often stem from not fully knowing how they work and what effects they can have. The same applies to political elites, who also tend to favour existing instruments or solutions that are familiar from other contexts.“
Thus 60 percent of the population believe that, because of redistribution effects, incentive-based taxes have no impact on energy consumption. Architects and their clients do not incorporate building integrated photovoltaic systems because they are unfamiliar with them. However, knowledge deficits are not the only obstacle. Government requirements, excessively short-term cost-benefit considerations and the fact that people always give greater weighting to negative rather than positive information in times of uncertainty present additional challenges.
Comprehensive survey of societal acceptance
The 100-plus projects in NRP 70 and 71 have been amalgamated under the name „NRP Energy“. Among other things, the NRP provides a comprehensive survey of society’s acceptance of measures to successfully transform Switzerland’s energy system.
„Acceptance needs to be generated at three levels“, says Balthasar, summarising the findings. „Credible, transparent information provides the foundation for doing so. Building on that foundation, the population and business must be able to recognise the overall benefit as well as individual advantages. And finally, people will be won over by specific examples that they can understand.“
Actors from energy research, administration and business have drawn on scientific bases to develop specific recommendations for action:
– Use local frames of reference as an effective argument
The Swiss prefer home-grown solutions when it comes to energy production. The more firmly embedded a project is in a particular region – through Swiss investors, regional cooperatives or companies, for example – the broader the support it will gain, even though it may cost more or change the local landscape.
– Communicate positive examples
Good experience – in the close social environment wherever possible – has a beneficial impact on the way technologies are accepted and on people’s willingness to change their behaviour. In addition, involvement in the decision-making process enhances acceptance of infrastructure projects.
– Play up personal benefits
Energy comes towards the bottom of the Swiss population’s list of priorities. The positive spill-over effects that new technologies and changed behaviours may generate for health, quality of life, comfort and time availability play a significantly more important role in shaping opinion than energy consumption.
Full information on the focal issue „Acceptance“ can be found on the new www.nrp-energy.ch web portal.
NRP 70 and 71: the National Research Programme „Energy“
As part of the National Research Programmes „Energy Turnaround“ (NRP 70) and „Managing Energy Consumption“ (NRP 71) funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), over 300 scientists working on more than 100 research projects have gained fresh insights into approaches to substantially reducing energy consumption, new technologies and the societal framework required to implement them in the next 10 to 30 years.
Given the numerous crossover points between the two NRPs and the fact that both have taken place in parallel, NRP 70 and NRP 71 have worked closely together from the outset. Both NRPs will be completed by the beginning of 2020. Starting in summer 2019, a series of syntheses will be published on the main topics of „Energy Networks“, „Buildings and Settlement”, „Market Conditions and Regulation“, „Mobility Behaviour“ and „Hydropower and Market“ as part of the „National Research Programme Energy”, while the final Programme Summary will be published in January 2020.
Further information on the individual research projects and the National Research Programme „Energy“ are now available on the new NRP website www.nrp-energy.ch.
The text of this press release and further information are available on the website of the Swiss National Science Foundation:
Focal issue "Acceptance":
Prof. Andreas Balthasar
President of the NFP 71 Steering Committee
Department of Political Science
University of Lucerne
Phone: +41 41 226 04 06
National Research Programme "Energy":
Dr. Stefan Husi
Swiss National Science Foundation
Phone: +41 31 308 23 43