4. Key research findings

The case studies in this report offer a taste of the growing body of research into public engagement with energy technologies; they show that while the issues are diverse and complex there are also a number of common themes that emerge.

Most of the time the problem won't be a lack of information

With suitable support, ordinary members of the public are perfectly capable of understanding and debating the complex issues involved in energy system change. When faced with opposition, try to understand the underlying concerns which may not directly relate to the proposed change and try to engage with the silent majority.

Avoid over-simplistic assumptions

It is vital to understand the consumers' underlying requirements; decisions are not always driven by logic so understanding the 'softer' drivers may be more productive [36].

By understanding the daily reality of people's lives we can begin to appreciate and understand their underlying issues. With this understanding any barriers can then be 'designed out' to help people smoothly integrate with the changing system.

Be transparent and fair

Patience and openness are central to public engagement, trust is slowly won and quickly lost. Ensure that participants' expectations are carefully managed and activities have clearly explained objectives.