The transition towards a low-carbon energy system produces significant social effects. Indeed, it involves tariffs and redistribution of benefits, environmental impacts, social and individual lifestyle changes and various other aspects. Therefore, public awareness and social acceptance are central issues in energy policies, in order to ensure the accomplishment of the change process.
European policies aimed at abating emissions and building a fully sustainable new energy system also emphasise the importance of involving social parties at every level.
In fact, insufficient acceptance might even jeopardise projects that could in theory have general consent. Examples of the latter are smart grids for energy efficiency or the construction of plants aimed at reducing pollution and environmental impact (renewable or clean coal facilities, etc.).
The need to focus on social acceptance has since long been a key issue in the policy enacted by Eurelectric, the association that reunites European electricity companies, chaired by Enel CEO Fulvio Conti.
In several advanced countries an approach of participation is already a common practice. The latter implies that communities are involved in the decisions since the beginning, with shared assessments that reduce reasons for opposition and lead to resolutions that are largely accepted by the population.
This approach must be extensively diffused and various studies should be performed to measure the social effects of new energy policies for the short and medium term . This way, industrial and communication strategies can be directed to obtain the best results.