Tilting at Windmills? An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Renewable Energy Conflicts

Dr Claire Haggett
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Never has there been greater concern about where our energy will come from. Increasingly dire warnings about climate change are matched by heightened political tensions about international supplies, and predictions that our sources are simply running out. Yet, at a time when renewable energy could be coming to the fore, developments are often met with vocal and vociferous public resistance. Indeed, in the UK, half the applications for wind farms are rejected by local councils because of opposition from local people, a pattern that is repeated across Europe. This paper reports on a project that was designed to find out why.

In it, researchers from a range of different disciplines (including psychology, economics, sociology, planning, and environmental management) developed analytical insights, theoretical understandings, and practical recommendations into the issue. Renewable energy is a topic which by its very nature crosses interdisciplinary boundaries, and has direct relevancy for practitioners and policy makers. This project was designed to address this, and this paper discusses the conclusions reached and proposals made. It outlines the importance of such interdisciplinary work, the value of bringing together the social and natural sciences with practice, and openly discusses the challenges of doing so.

Keywords: Interdisciplinarity, Renewable Energy, Linking Research and Practice
Stream: Research Methodologies, Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Claire Haggett

Lecturer, Landscape Research Group
University of Newcastle, University of Newcastle

Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, UK

Dr Claire Haggett is Lecturer in Sustainable Development and Research Fellow in the internationally renowned Landscape Research Group at the University of Newcastle. She specialises in a range of energy issues, including understanding opposition to renewable energy, and the wider implications of its implementation on people, communities, and landscapes. She is a sociologist by training, and is formally of the Home Office Research and Statistics Directorate in London, but for several years has been based in an interdisciplinary academic research environment where she teaches students from a range of social and natural sciences. Claire is involved with the management of several ongoing multi-disciplinary research projects, and is concerned to link research and practice, making research both useful and useable. She regularly presents at a range of international conferences for social scientists, natural scientists and practitioners, and publishes in both well respected academic journals and specialist policy and industry publications. Her work is characterised by a critical analysis of theory and method, the presentation and synthesis of research findings for different audiences, and an engagement with and appreciation of the challenges of interdisciplinary work.

Ref: I06P0181