Keywords: intermittency, social representations, public acceptance, wind energy, United Kingdom, renewable energy, energy policy
Social representations of intermittency and the shaping of public support for wind energy in the UK
The practicality of UK renewable energy policy, given the potential impacts of intermittency, has been contested by expert institutions. At the same time, wind energy developments have engendered local controversy and civic campaign groups have emerged at local, regional and national levels. This research integrates these strands in exploring how intermittency is communicated to the public by campaign groups as part of their arguments against or in favour, of wind energy, using social representations theory. Qualitative analysis was conducted on the web material from ten groups operating at different levels across the UK. The results indicated that sceptics made intermittency familiar using concepts of unpredictability and uncontrollability, as well as notions of work over idleness; while supporters referred to variability and fluctuation. Specific themata suggest, despite polarised views, a common underlying structure to social representations of intermittency, centring on compatibility with the grid, views of the weather, the distinctiveness of wind energy and the virtue of facts over myths. The implications of the results are discussed in relation to the shaping of public perceptions and the legitimacy of UK energy policy.