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Getting the engineering right is not always enough: Researching the human dimensions of the new energy technologies


  • Webler, Thomas
  • Tuler, Seth P.


Achieving the ambitious targets for carbon emissions reductions that are necessary to reduce the risks associated with climate change will require significant changes in the way people use energy. Redesigning energy technologies at a societal level is certainly a major scientific challenge, however, succeeding in this endeavor requires more than getting the engineering right. Technologies can fail to win public approval for a variety of reasons. Good social science research, coordinated properly with technological R&D, is an essential part of the solution. Social science research is needed to: clarify the behavioral changes that can reduce energy consumption; characterize public understandings and concerns of new energy technologies; help overcome barriers to public adoption; maximize the benefits for users; and better understand society's needs and abilities to make energy transitions. We argue that social science research into the human dimensions of new energy technologies be promoted and overseen by a new office of social science research to be established in the United States Department of Energy. The funding levels needed for these endeavors are a tiny fraction of the amount that was allocated to carbon sequestration research in the 2009 stimulus bill.

Suggested Citation

  • Webler, Thomas & Tuler, Seth P., 2010. "Getting the engineering right is not always enough: Researching the human dimensions of the new energy technologies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(6), pages 2690-2691, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:38:y:2010:i:6:p:2690-2691

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Firestone, Jeremy & Kempton, Willett, 2007. "Public opinion about large offshore wind power: Underlying factors," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 1584-1598, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chiu, Mei-Shiu, 2013. "Tensions in implementing the “energy-conservation/carbon-reduction” policy in Taiwanese culture," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 415-425.
    2. Kowsari, Reza & Zerriffi, Hisham, 2011. "Three dimensional energy profile:," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(12), pages 7505-7517.
    3. Kesicki, Fabian & Anandarajah, Gabrial, 2011. "The role of energy-service demand reduction in global climate change mitigation: Combining energy modelling and decomposition analysis," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 7224-7233.
    4. repec:eee:enepol:v:109:y:2017:i:c:p:10-21 is not listed on IDEAS


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