Public Perceptions of Wave Energy Development on the West Coast of the U.S.: Risks, Benefits, and Coastal Attachment

36 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2022

See all articles by Greg Stelmach

Greg Stelmach

Oregon State University

Shawn Olson Hazboun

The Evergreen State College

Diane Brandt

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Hilary Boudet

Oregon State University - School of Public Policy

Abstract

While solar and wind energy continue to grow as significant sources of renewable energy, a global energy transition away from fossil fuels will require an expanding portfolio of generating resources. Marine renewable energy has the potential to contribute greatly in the coming decades, as the more predictable nature of wave energy can support the resiliency of the power grid and complement solar and inland wind generation. Yet, the broad deployment of marine energy technologies like wave energy will depend on public support, making it critical to identify the relevant factors associated with public attitudes and risk/benefit perceptions. This paper draws on social representations theory to specifically examine perceptions of wave energy on the west coast of North America, a site chosen because of the high suitability for wave energy generation and the fact that one of only three wave energy test sites in the world is under development off the coast of Oregon. Using an online survey in June 2020, we recruited a sample of 2000 respondents from California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. We found a majority of respondents held positive attitudes to wave energy, but respondents also had low familiarity – with a quarter of respondents lacking sufficient information to form an opinion. We used logistic regression to identify factors correlated with wave energy attitudes, finding that respondents who were more supportive of wind and solar energy, more optimistic about new technology, and reported more familiarity with wave energy were significantly more likely to have a positive impression of wave energy. Respondents with higher levels of place attachment to coastal areas were more split, as they perceived higher benefits of wave energy – but also higher risks. Our results indicate broad appeal of wave energy on the west coast, but we caution policymakers and developers to not take initial siting processes for granted. As experience has shown for offshore wind, broad appeal does not guarantee a smooth siting process in a local context. The role of place attachment to coastal areas must be taken seriously or risk alienating local communities.

Keywords: wave energy, marine renewable energy, public perceptions, place attachment, social representations theory

Suggested Citation

Stelmach, Greg and Olson Hazboun, Shawn and Brandt, Diane and Boudet, Hilary, Public Perceptions of Wave Energy Development on the West Coast of the U.S.: Risks, Benefits, and Coastal Attachment. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4297864 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4297864

Greg Stelmach (Contact Author)

Oregon State University ( email )

Bexell Hall 200
Corvallis, OR 97331
United States

Shawn Olson Hazboun

The Evergreen State College ( email )

2700 Evergreen College Pkwy NW
Lab 1, 2016
Olympia, WA 98505
United States
3603056408 (Phone)

Diane Brandt

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Hilary Boudet

Oregon State University - School of Public Policy ( email )

Corvallis, OR 97333
United States

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