Phasing out fossil fuels is inherent to sustainable energy transitions, but implementing energy policies related to phasing out processes involves risks that may affect their public support. Trust in institutions responsible for handling these risks is crucial for public acceptability, as it serves as a heuristic for risk assessment. In the current study, using the Dutch energy scenario, we examine how trust in institutions relates to public support for phasing out natural gas in the Netherlands. We build from previous research by examining this for the two types of trust most commonly distinguished in the literature, namely competence- and integrity-based trust, and for institutions operating at both national and local levels. Results showed that trust depends on the type of trust people evaluate and on the institution’s level of operation. Locally, institutions are seen as more honest and transparent, while nationally, they’re perceived as more skilled and having more knowledge. Further, integrity-based trust in both local and national institutions better explained public support for phasing out natural gas than competence-based trust. We discuss these results in terms of their implications for energy policy, suggesting policymakers consider trust dynamics and tailor strategies based on trust dimensions and institutional levels to facilitate phasing out processes.

Trusting the minister or trusting the mayor? Perceived competence and integrity of central and local Dutch institutions governing energy matters

Gonzalo Palomo-Vélez, Goda Perlaviciute, Nadja Contzen, and Linda Steg
24 April 2024
Environmental Research Communications, Volume 6, Number 4
DOI 10.1088/2515-7620/ad3f7d

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