A Great Opportunity for New European Leaders
The European energy landscape is experiencing a huge transformation and the Clean Energy for All Europeans package puts citizens at the center of this transition, but opposition to new energy infrastructure, grids and renewable technologies at the local level persists. Although this is not a new phenomenon, decision-makers remain uncertain on how to deal with the lack of social acceptability.
Technological developments offer citizens unprecedented possibilities to participate in the energy transformation – for example via the production and consumption of self-generated power. However, despite this, many social aspects of the energy transition are still hardly understood, insufficiently addressed and in some cases, also just simply ignored. We need to increase general communication efforts to better understand and address the societal elements of the energy transition.
How the changing energy system landscape is socially constructed and embedded will play a crucial role in its final functioning. This is of special importance, because the decarbonization pathway can only be successfully and timely achieved, if done with the support of society at large. Traditionally, there is a belief that involving civil society and citizens in decision-making processes, especially related to large infrastructure projects, is time-consuming, costly and often useless. This is wrong!
This belief has shaped policies and processes for decades, but in the past years forward-looking actors have started to realize that, although it is challenging, meaningful stakeholder engagement actually creates huge opportunities for all actors involved. Europe needs to discover and embrace its role in supporting local realities, protecting the interests of citizens not as a generic whole, but as individuals, while achieving the agreed targets of energy security and climate protection.