Accepted Paper:

Social conflicts in energy projects: exploring differences in moral appraisals through the lens of epistemic cultures  

Authors:

Shannon Spruit (Delft University of Technology)
Eefje Cuppen (Leiden University)
Elisabeth van de Grift (Delft University of Technology)

Paper Short Abstract:

Energy projects often encounter fierce opposition, such social conflicts depict a difference in normative appraisal of the project. In this paper we explore the mechanisms and structures that bring about differences in moral appraisals of energy projects through the lens of 'epistemic cultures'.

Paper long abstract:

Decision-making procedures concerning the implementation of energy technologies and energy infrastructures in the Netherlands are characterized by a high level of institutionalization. Formal assessment methods such as environmental impact assessment are used to evaluate and ascertain formally established public values, associated with safety, health and economy. As such they provide a normative appraisal of the (future) energy project.

Energy projects often encounter fierce opposition. In the Netherlands, local activism is observed with respect to fossil fuel extraction (conventional and unconventional) as well as renewables (wind and solar). Social conflicts that arise locally can be seen as a form of self-organised participation (Cuppen 2018) and often depict a difference in normative appraisal of the project between formal and public actors challenging the legitimacy of formal assessments and decisions made.

In this paper we explore the mechanisms and structures that bring about differences in moral appraisals of energy projects. We scrutinize the social conflicts that emerge in the planning of a large scale on onshore wind farm in the Netherlands through the lens of 'epistemic cultures' (Knorr-Cetina 1999); Are differences in moral appraisals the outcome of differences in the knowledge practices that create and warrant knowledge? For instance, formal/governmental epistemic cultures are often expert-driven, characterized by technocratic and legal language, and generalizable indicators. Public appraisals, however, involve a variety of public actors, personal stories and are situational.

Recognizing differences in epistemic cultures may help creating and/or identifying opportunities for fostering mutual understanding and moral learning between decision-makers and local communities.

Panel D02
Challenging formal arrangements and decision-making in the energy sector