Solar power and policy powerlessness − perceptions of persuasion in distributed residential solar energy policy development

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Distributed residential solar energy (photovoltaic) technologies have been praised as a mechanism to not only increase the penetration of renewable energy but engage the community in a clean energy revolution. In spite of this it is unclear how much potential there is for stakeholders to influence processes around the adoption of solar energy, including policy development and regulation. As part of a wider research project assessing the social acceptance of residential solar energy in Western Australia a variety of stakeholders, including public servants, network operators, Members of Parliament, energy advocates, renewable energy industry members and community members, were asked whether they thought they had the potential to influence solar policy. The objective of this research was to highlight positions of influence over policy development. In total 23 interviews with regional Western Australian householders and 32 interviews with members of industry and government were undertaken between May and October 2015. Most respondents believed that they had previously, or could in future, influence solar policy by taking advantage of networks of influence. However, stakeholders perceived as having policy influence did not necessarily demonstrate the capacity to influence policy beyond providing information to decision-makers, namely Cabinet members. Instead, networks of renewable energy advocates, industry and community members could apply political pressure through petitions, media coverage and liaising with parliamentarians to develop support for policy changes. Furthermore, while policies for the promotion of solar energy, and renewable energy more generally, could be implemented at various levels of government, only those policies delivered at the state level could address socio-political barriers to renewable energy adoption. These barriers include: a lack of political will and funding to overcome technical issues with network connection; reductions in fossil fuel subsidies to encourage an “even playing field”; and removal of regulatory barriers for innovative renewable energy solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14
JournalRenewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


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