The development and deployment of novel technologies, including those associated with marine renewable energy, are vital for the ongoing decarbonisation of our energy system. However, technology on its own is not sufficient to realise the energy transition away from fossil fuels. Non-technical barriers – such as regulatory, economic, environmental or social aspects – can be a substantial impediment to widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies. One such impediment, is public opposition to specific deployments of renewable energy and/or indeed to the use of particular technologies. Within the SafeWAVE project, we are cognisant of the importance of good community relations and the need to develop two-way communication with stakeholders to facilitate the successful scaling up of ocean energy device deployments. Accordingly we have worked to co-develop and demonstrate a framework for education and public engagement (EPE), specifically aimed at ocean literacy for communities in France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. This EPE framework aims to go beyond social acceptance, which is often equated to acquiescence to a fait accompli, and is designed to contribute to the development of projects which exhibit inherent social acceptability.
This paper presents the work within SafeWAVE project to develop the EPE framework with input from the communities. The first part of the paper reports on critical review of selected EPE programmes associated with marine energy test sites and infrastructure deployments, with methods adopted in each case analysed, key challenges faced identified, and best practices documented. Next a framework for public education and engagement is presented, which builds on this review and draws from literature across multiple disciplines – including sociology, psychology, political science, education. Finally, leveraging this developed knowledge the collaborative process of deriving tailored EPE programmes on ocean literacy around marine renewables for the four focal communities is outlined and described. These programmes are intended to reach out to, and engage with, local communities, interested stakeholders and the wider public on issues surrounding the deployment of ocean energy devices, including but not limited to: effects on local communities, implications for marine life, potential impacts for water users, etc.
The paper concludes by discussing the experience of developing the bespoke programmes, outlining emergent feedback from trialling of key elements of the programmes, discussing experiences and proffering guidance based on lessons learned.