Making electricity networks "visible": Industry actor representations of "publics" and public engagement in infrastructure planning

M. Cotton, P. Devine-Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This interview study with UK electricity distribution and transmission network operators (DNO and TNO) and the regulator Ofgem, examines how key industry actors conceptualise “publics,” “stakeholders” and “customers” and how these conceptualisations subsequently inform their engagement practices with these heterogeneous groups. The results show that regulatory changes to the structure of distribution networks have encouraged greater levels of “stakeholder” involvement. However, DNO regional monopoly powers and the regulatory environment serve to conflate network actors’ representations of “the public” with “customers,” and also “hides” DNO roles in a manner that precludes direct citizen engagement. TNO respondents employ public exhibitions in transmission line siting, although at a stage “downstream” in the decision-making process whereby citizens have little decisional influence. We conclude that network operators adopt the rhetoric of deliberative engagement whilst lacking a clear rationale and effective means to incorporate citizen perspectives in long-term network development or specific infrastructure siting proposals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-35
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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