Informed Public Preferences for Electricity Portfolios with CCS and Other Low-Carbon Technologies

Published in: Risk Analysis, v. 30, no. 9, Sep. 2010, p. 1399-1410

Posted on RAND.org on September 01, 2010

by Lauren A. Mayer, Wandi Bruine de Bruin, M. Granger Morgan

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Public perceptions of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and other low-carbon electricity-generating technologies may affect the feasibility of their widespread deployment. We asked a diverse sample of 60 participants recruited from community groups in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to rank 10 technologies (e.g., coal with CCS, natural gas, nuclear, various renewables, and energy efficiency), and seven realistic low-carbon portfolios composed of these technologies, after receiving comprehensive and carefully balanced materials that explained the costs and benefits of each technology. Rankings were obtained in small group settings as well as individually before and after the group discussions. The ranking exercise asked participants to assume that the U.S. Congress had mandated a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to be built in the future. Overall, rankings suggest that participants favored energy efficiency, followed by nuclear power, integrated gasification combined-cycle coal with CCS and wind. The most preferred portfolio also included these technologies. We find that these informed members of the general public preferred diverse portfolios that contained CCS and nuclear over alternatives once they fully understood the benefits, cost, and limitations of each. The materials and approach developed for this study may also have value in educating members of the general public about the challenges of achieving a low-carbon energy future.

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