The role of environmental framing in socio-political acceptance of smart grid: The case of British Columbia, Canada

Research paper by DerekPetersa, JonnAxsena, AlexandraMallettb

Indexed on: 26 Oct '17Published on: 01 Jun '17Published in: Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews


Various “smart grid” technologies can help achieve a region's environmental and climate mitigation goals by facilitating the deployment of renewable energy sources, transportation electrification, energy conservation and load-shifting of electricity use. This study reviews and explores the role of environmental framing in the socio-political acceptance of smart grid technologies by citizens, media, and key stakeholders, using the case study of British Columbia, Canada—a low carbon electricity-based region where smart grid deployment has been mandated as part of climate change legislation. We collected and analyzed data from British Columbia via a survey of Canadian citizens implemented in 2013 (n = 2930), a media analysis of newspaper articles from 2007 to 2012, and interviews with key stakeholders in 2013. We find that overall citizen acceptance of one smart grid technology (smart meters) is relatively low in British Columbia, but acceptance doubles when the survey explicitly describes smart meters according to positive frames, namely environmental benefits without installation costs or mandatory enrolment. In contrast, we find that media and key stakeholders in British Columbia focus more on economic frames of smart grid deployment (e.g. reducing electricity costs) than environmental frames (e.g. climate abatement). Further, we find that news media mention smart grid risks 50% more frequently than benefits. By comparing these different aspects of socio-political acceptance, we suggest that key stakeholders seeking to deploy smart grid technology could better stimulate citizen support in certain jurisdictions by more actively using positive, pro-environmental frames and by better engaging with citizens earlier in the technology and policy design and deployment process.