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Clean Energy Ministerial 6 (CEM6) 

27–28 May 2015, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico

Achieving a Social License for Clean Energy Deployment 


Uptake of clean energy solutions requires public acceptance of new technologies and successful and efficient operation of clean energy installations. The experience of such deployment around the world is marked by community rejection and conflict. Technologies that on face value offer broad societal benefits such as wind, hydropower, solar, carbon, capture and storage and bio fuels have experienced significant local opposition leading to delays, closures and loss of value. To promote clean energy technology uptake and realize sustainable growth trajectories, the drivers of social acceptance must be understood and reflected in private and public policy making. 

Issues of community rejection of industrial activity have been encountered in many sectors, and in particular the extractive industries, where public acceptance, or holding a social license to operate, is now an accepted condition for industrial operation. There is a deep body of practical knowledge and methods that may be shared regarding the drivers of social license for industrial operation that may be deployed in the clean energy area.

Drawing on results and experience from work on the drivers of social acceptance of new technologies in the energy and extractives sectors at local and national scales, participants in this session will explore pragmatic pathways toward social acceptance of new, clean energy technologies and processes. Outcomes from this session include reflection on how these methods and results may enhance human capacity to deal with the challenges of climate change through informed private and public policy options.

Outcomes will also encompass opportunities to use the methods described to enhance the capacity of excluded or minimized groups (such as women, minorities) to be heard in public debates, and barriers to energy access to be identified in developing contexts.

View the pre-read presentation.

Discussion Topics   

  • What is social license and why does it matter?
  • Learning from other sectors – what can the renewable energy sector learn from extractive industries experiences?
  • How does the public form judgments about clean energy, and what role can, are, and should, Governments play in fostering social license?
  • How is public sentiment regarding the deployment of renewable energy technologies, and the role of industry actors in shaping it, understood and considered?
  • How are different intercultural contexts considered in the development of social license (i.e. through the inclusion of Indigenous communities)?
  • How important is organisational behaviour and attitude to influencing social risk around new and existing technology deployment?
  • What does social rejection of technology deployment look like and what are the drivers of this state?
  • Do we make the case for technology deployment in the right way - how do we bridge science driven and value-driven perspectives? 
  • What needs to be understood more clearly?
  • What institutional arrangements facilitate clean energy technology?
  • Do we understand how new renewable energy technologies are perceived and experienced by the public?
    • How do we effectively provide voice in technology development and deployment decision making for affected communities?
    • How do we build trust in the institutions and processes that underpin decisions to deploy and then regulate renewable energy technology development?
  • What roles can government, industry and other actors play to build public acceptance of new renewable energy technology deployment?
    • Do companies have the skills, capacities and resources to meet the needs of affected stakeholders prior, during and through the life of new developments?
    • What do governments need to do more effectively to develop an atmosphere of acceptance among their constituencies?
    • Do we include all stakeholders in important decision making – are the unique rights of Indigenous peoples acknowledged and respected, are human rights respected in these processes, are we learning all we can from existing processes such as Environmental Impact Assessment to support effective engagement?
  • Are there mechanisms and processes that we can explore and experiment with to shape a different type of dialogue around new renewable energy technology development and deployment (e.g. Technology Assessment, deliberative democratic processes, formal inclusive dialogue processes)?