Responsible assessment of energy projects
This project develops a method to link formal assessment tools - such as cost-benefit analysis - to informal assessment as found in societal debates. In this way all relevant values can be taken into account.
New energy projects, such as wind parks, are often met with opposition. Controversies arise from value conflicts between stakeholders. Responsible innovation requires pro-actively assessing and carefully evaluating all relevant values. Formal assessment tools only take a limited number of public values into account, but in informal societal debates more values are revealed as important. Connecting them makes it possible to overcome the limitations of formal tools. The method developed in this project has also potential for other domains of innovation.
Formal assessment tools such as environmental impact assessment (EIA) and (social) cost-benefit analysis (CBA) are used to evaluate and ascertain formally established public values: safety, health and economic growth. However, these formal tools cannot cover the wide and variable range of values that an energy project puts at stake for different groups in society, for example procedural justice, transparency and aesthetics.
As a result, formal assessment methods often become debated in controversy, for instance because their scope and process is not considered appropriate for the project at hand. As such they can be seen as imperfect - and sometimes even counterproductive - in supporting public-private decision-making on energy projects.
Linking formal and informal assessment
Whereas controversy is often seen as a barrier to implementation, this project states that controversies can be used constructively and turned into an informal assessment of the energy project. Societal debates about controversial energy projects lead to the articulation of the conflicting values and reveal unanticipated societal and ethical risks, and associated costs and benefits.
This project develops a methodology to expand the assessment of energy projects by linking formal to informal societal assessment. This is done by means of action research in multiple running energy projects. These cases will be used to develop and evaluate the methodology. The research team will draw on several disciplines: philosophy, anthropology, political science, and engineering science.
Behind the scenes
The societal partners of the project welcome the researchers in their organisation. The forthcoming organisational anthropological research ‘behind the scenes’ will give insight in what goes on within organisations involved in the development of an energy project (e.g. interactions between the legal department and the stakeholder management department) and foster understanding of how controversies emerge and evolve. This research approach is innovative in the field of energy research. Not only interactions within organisations, but also interactions between organisations will be studied.
energy projects, cost benefit analysis, environmental impact assessment, public values, public values, decision making, controversy, societal debate, renewable energy, sustainable energy, action researchOfficial project title: