Value conflicts in energy systems

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This thesis introduces an approach to support the long-term social acceptance of energy systems by addressing value conflicts embedded in regulatory and technical designs. When designing energy systems, the realisation of some values can conflict with the realisation of other values. The decision to deploy energy systems therefore inevitably entails a prioritisation of some values over others. Societal groups that do not agree with this prioritisation may decide to oppose or not to support the deployment and use of these systems. Lack of social acceptance may occur during the planning phase, but also at a later point in time as a result of value change. This can be caused by a growing mismatch between values prioritized in energy systems and how societal groups are affected. To support the social acceptance of energy systems, value conflicts embedded in energy systems need to be addressed. Methods to do so were however lacking. This thesis provides a methodological contribution by demonstrating how the literature on data science and the complexity sciences can be used to address value conflicts. This thesis answers the following research question: How can value conflicts embedded in energy systems be addressed in support of social acceptance?

We use probabilistic topic modelling to explore how the academic literature addresses value conflicts. Identified tactics can be used to specify design requirements and policy guidelines in support of the social acceptance of energy systems. Agent-based modelling is used to identify value conflicts embedded in energy systems that result from the heterogeneous properties of the affected population. Agent-based models provide insights about the type of population affected by value conflicts and hence about the severity of the resulting lack of social acceptance. This thesis contributes to the literature on social acceptance by demonstrating how long-term acceptance can be supported by drawing on insights from ethics of technology. Additionally, we provide a systematic and practical approach to integrate human values in the regulatory and technical design of infrastructures, which is critical for supporting the ongoing energy transition.