Public acceptability of energy production does not only depend on people’s opinions of energy projects but also on whether people trust those who are in charge of regulating them. Indeed, research shows that trust in regulating institutions is positively related to public acceptability of energy production, and more generally, to public acceptability hazard-prone activities. Most evidence for this relationship, however, stems from correlational and cross-sectional studies and therefore causal inferences regarding its directionality cannot be made. That is, is not clear whether trust is an antecedent of public acceptability (the causal model of trust) or whether trust is rather a consequence of it (the associationist model of trust). In this study, we aimed to fill this gap by studying longitudinally the association between trust in two relevant regulating institutions associated with energy production in the Netherlands and public acceptability of natural gas extraction. Overall, results provided (partial) support to the causal model of trust –that is, trust in one of studied regulating institutions influenced subsequent acceptability ratings in 2 (out of 5) measurement waves. Further, both trust and public acceptability tended to be stable over time. Results are discussed in relation to the literature on trust in institutions and its effects on the acceptability of hazard-prone activities.

Trust in institutions and public acceptability of risky energy production: Testing the causal relationships in the context of Groningen earthquakes

Gonzalo Palomo-Vélez, Nadja Contzen, Goda Perlaviciute, Linda Steg
February 2023
Energy Research & Social Science

Gonzalo Palomo-Vélez, Nadja Contzen, Goda Perlaviciute, Linda Steg