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A Positive Shift in the Public Acceptability of a Low-Carbon Energy Project After Implementation: The Case of a Hydrogen Fuel Station


Public acceptability of low-carbon energy projects is often measured with one-off polls. This implies that opinion-shifts over time are not always taken into consideration by decision makers relying on these polls. Observations have given the impression that public acceptability of energy projects increases after implementation. However, this positive shift over time has not yet been systematically studied and is not yet understood very well. This paper aims to fill this gap. Based on two psychological mechanisms, loss aversion and cognitive dissonance reduction, we hypothesize that specifically people who live in proximity of a risky low-carbon technology—a hydrogen fuel station (HFS) in this case—evaluate this technology as more positive after its implementation than before. We conducted a survey among Dutch citizen living nearby a HFS and indeed found a positive shift in the overall evaluation of HFS after implementation. We also found that the benefits weighed stronger and the risks weaker after the implementation. This shift did not occur for citizens living further away from the HFS. The perceived risks and benefits did not significantly change after implementation, neither for citizens living in proximity, nor for citizens living further away. The societal implications of the findings are discussed.

Funding source: The first author conducted this study largely while working for the Delft University of Technology, and has been supported financially by the Delft University of Technology and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO; grant numbers 276-20-012 and 313-99-312; the latter grant is co-funded by industry).
Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics
Countries: Netherlands

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