Socially smart grids? A multi-criteria mapping of diverse stakeholder perspectives on smart energy futures in the United Kingdom

Hargreaves, Nigel, Hargreaves, Tom ORCID: and Chilvers, Jason ORCID: (2022) Socially smart grids? A multi-criteria mapping of diverse stakeholder perspectives on smart energy futures in the United Kingdom. Energy Research & Social Science, 90. ISSN 2214-6296

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Smart grids have been heralded as means to build more efficient, connected and sustainable energy systems yet they bring forward many possible futures and potential downsides. Whilst most existing analyses have been technical in focus, emerging social studies of smart grids have separately considered their imagined sociotechnical futures, generalised public perceptions, or micro-scale responses in domestic and community settings. In this paper we aim to address the ‘social smartness’ of smart grid research by connecting these hitherto distinct strands of work through a distributed appraisal of potential future pathways for smart grid development in the United Kingdom. We involved diverse system actors (n = 26) ranging from experts and policy makers through to interested citizens in a multi-criteria mapping process to systematically appraise a range of sociotechnical smart grid visions. We present the core criteria that respondents developed to determine what it means for smart grids to be both technically and socially smart. These were: technical feasibility, environment, supply security, data security, governance, finance, user engagement, and equity. We show how both citizen and specialist appraisals support more distributed smart grid visions and call for solutions that democratise the energy system through inclusive forms of ownership and decision-making. We suggest that the challenge of developing smart grids in ways that are both socially and technically smart requires processes of responsible innovation to become more distributed across scales.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Acknowledgements: This paper has benefitted from the support of the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in funding a one-year postdoctoral fellowship (Nigel Hargreaves) and the Realising Transition Pathways project (Grant number: EP/K005316/1). The research also benefited from UKRI funding as part of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) research programme in Phase 3 (Grant number: EP/L024756/1) and Phase 4 (Grant number: EP/S029575/1). The authors would like to thank all participants for devoting their time and energy to the project. Thanks also to: Noel Longhurst for trialling the MCM tool with us; Andy Stirling and Josie Coburn at the University of Sussex for their technical support with the MCM software; and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the original submission. Any errors remain the responsibility of the authors.
Uncontrolled Keywords: sdg 7 - affordable and clean energy ,/dk/atira/pure/sustainabledevelopmentgoals/affordable_and_clean_energy
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia Research Groups/Centres > Theme - ClimateUEA
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Environmental Social Sciences
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Science, Society and Sustainability
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2022 08:30
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2023 10:51
DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2022.102610


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