Impact assessment of case studies – Assessing the impacts of public engagement in energy infrastructure projects


Consumers and behavioural change


While there is a widespread agreement that public engagement is crucial for a sustainable and just energy transition, the quality of the engagement matters. Recent research demonstrates that the quality of participatory planning is crucial for the acceptability and support of energy technologies and infrastructures, as well as the legitimacy of transition processes. For this reason, a stronger understanding of the impact of public engagement in energy infrastructure development cases can help improve future outcomes. This research assesses 98 cases of public engagement in energy infrastructure projects.

The case studies mainly focus on renewable energy production (e.g., wind and solar) and electricity grids, as these technologies are both widely available and central to decarbonizing energy systems. In addition, 6 cases integrate energy production, distribution or storage, and 6 “exploration” case studies on hydrogen production, storage, and carbon capture, usage and storage were selected. As part of the study, the research team developed and applied a novel framework to assess the impact of public engagement in energy infrastructure projects.

This study finds that public engagement can positively impact the project development process and its outcomes. Nine impact criteria have been defined in the impact assessment framework:

  • Inclusiveness
  • Timing of engagement
  • Ownership
  • Information exchange & learning/clarity and transparency of the engagement process
  • Trust
  • Local/regional added value
  • Project development time
  • Costs
  • Influence on project’s final shape and operations.

Based on the analysis, eight recommendations for effective stakeholder engagement are
made. Stakeholder engagement processes should:

  1. Be inclusive while engaging the public and consider outreach to hard-to-reach groups where appropriate.
  2. Engage the public early and continuously in the process. Engagement can even start before the planning phase with pre-dialogues.
  3. Enable the public to become co-owners of the process by involving them in the decision-making.
  4. Establish a clear and transparent engagement processes where information is shared openly.
  5. Build trust in and between different stakeholders by establishing inclusive, transparent and equitable processes.
  6. Consider creating local and regional added value not only during the construction phase but also in the long-term, for example via employment opportunities, or community funds.
  7. Have a defined budget for stakeholder engagement, as costs for stakeholder engagement can reduce potential costs related to project opposition and delays.
  8. Explain how the results of the engagement processes have influenced the final design and operation of the projects.


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