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A systemic approach to mapping participation with low-carbon energy transitions

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 12 March 2021

This article has been updated


Low-carbon transitions demand long-term systemic transformations and meaningful societal engagement. Most approaches to engaging society with energy and climate change fail to address the systemic nature of this challenge, focusing on discrete forms of participation in specific parts of wider systems. Our systemic approach combines comparative case mapping of diverse public engagements across energy systems with participatory distributed deliberative mapping of energy system futures. We show how UK public participation with energy is more diverse than dominant approaches posit. Attending to these more varied models of participation opens up citizen and specialist views, values and visions of sustainable energy transitions, revealing support for more distributed energy system futures that recognize the roles of society. Going beyond narrow, discrete understandings of communication and public engagement towards systemic approaches to mapping participation can provide plural and robust forms of social intelligence needed to govern low-carbon transitions in more socially responsive, just and responsible ways.

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Fig. 1: A heuristic framework for mapping diversities of public participation across wider systems.
Fig. 2: Distributed deliberative mapping appraisal maps of energy vision performance.

Data availability

Data and documentation for all 258 cases in the mapping participation comparative case analysis can be openly accessed at: Data and material that support the findings of the DDM study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request after two years from publication of this article.

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The research presented in this article was funded by the UK Research Councils as part of the UKERC Phase 3 research programme (EPSRC grant reference EP/L024756/1) and also benefited from UKERC Phase 4 funding (EPSRC grant reference EP/S029575/1). We are grateful to the citizens and specialists who participated in the DDM study.

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Authors and Affiliations



J.C. led the research and its overall design as principal investigator. The comparative case mapping was led by J.C. with data collection and analysis being undertaken by H.P. with inputs from J.C. and T.H. All authors contributed to the design and data collection of the DDM, with analysis being led by J.C. and undertaken by R.B. Figure 1 was developed by J.C. and Fig. 2 was prepared by R.B. J.C. wrote the article with contributions from R.B., H.P. and T.H.

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Correspondence to Jason Chilvers.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Energy thanks Andy Stirling and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1 and 2 and Tables 1–3.

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Chilvers, J., Bellamy, R., Pallett, H. et al. A systemic approach to mapping participation with low-carbon energy transitions. Nat Energy 6, 250–259 (2021).

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