Energy dialogues and Energy Citizenship

Free Public Lecture

Energy dialogues and Energy Citizenship
Public Engagement in Energy Sustainability Transitions

Knut Sorensen

Knut H. Sørensen

Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Thursday, September 28, 2017
4:00 PM
8417 Social Science
1180 Observatory Drive


In the face of global warming, energy sustainability transitions are needed on a large scale. Technologically speaking, this involves shifts away from fossil fuels to renewable, low emission sources of energy. Such sources are increasingly available, in particular solar and wind power. Notwithstanding considerable technological, economic and political challenges in making such transitions, it is also vital that the public is constructively engaged. This paper analyses such engagement through the concept of energy dialogues and energy citizenship.

Energy citizenship goes beyond the role of the energy consumer. The concept represents political ideals related to democratic participation and empowerment. Energy citizenship is produced through public engagement in policy-making and planning, where the potential for action is framed by notions of equitable rights and responsibilities across society for dealing with the consequences of energy consumption, notably climate change (Devine-Wright 2007: 71). This includes participation in energy dialogues, which comprise a wide variety of exchanges about energy issues among professional stakeholders in the energy industry, among policymakers, in research as well as among the public.

Thus, energy citizenship and energy dialogues are mutually constructed or co-produced. The paper focuses on the situation in Norway, drawing on focus group, interview and survey data. It argues that still, energy citizenship is unstable and uncommitted, due to the segmented, abstract and accidental character of energy dialogues. An additional challenge is what the public see as an opaque climate policy, which does not properly address widespread concerns about climate justice.


Knut H. Sørensen is Professor of Science and Technology Studies at NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and during 2017 Visiting Researcher at Institute for the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. He has an M. Sc. in Applied Physics (1976) and a PhD in Organization Studies (1982). He has previously been employed as research scientist, postdoctoral fellow, founding director of NTNU's Centre for technology and society, and Professor of Sociology. Sørensen was visiting scholar at MIT in 1983, visiting professor at University of California, San Diego in 1996 and visiting scholar at Stanford University throughout 2009.

Currently, a main focus of Sørensen's research is the study of sustainability transitions with emphasis on energy-related policy-making and public engagement with respect to energy citizenship and energy dialogues. He is part of the National Centre for Sustainable Energy Studies (CenSES). Sørensen is also presently engaged with researching the gender balance among university professors and with a study of enactments of responsibility among biomedical and nano scientists. He has extensive experience from interdisciplinary research collaboration with engineers and architects. Sørensen is author/co-author/editor/co-editor of 10 books, has published 33 papers in refereed journals, and 37 book chapters in academic edited collections.

Sponsored by:

nelson institute

hotz center

Event contact: Emily Reynolds