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CIERP Fellow Maria Petrova offers insight on Renewable Energy Technology adoption

January 27, 2012

stef Maria Petrova, a postdoctoral research fellow at CIERP, analyzes US climate and renewable energy policy, and studies the impact of social networks on public opinion. In this interview, she discusses in detail her research area, and the role of social networks in influencing renewable energy technology (RET) adoption. She also talks about her past research on wave energy development at Oregon State University.

Q: In your research you’re focusing on US climate and renewable energy policy from a socio-economic and policy perspective. Could you tell us more about it?

Listen to her reply here or read the transcript below.

A: This is a very important topic in my opinion because energy is everywhere. If we look around us, energy drives the economy, fuels our cars, and turns on the electrical appliances that we use. What is happening right now is that there are more people added to the earth - the projections are for nine billion people by 2050 - and it is not only the pure numbers that create the problem.

The problem is also in the fact that everyone wants to have more material possessions, and the US is using more and more energy per capita of the population, and all the rest of the countries are following suit. So, what we need to do in order to preserve the climate as much as possible the way it is, and reduce the human impact on the climate, is turn to renewable energy sources that can aid us in the transition to a more sustainable future.

Q: How can social networks influence RET adoption?

Listen to her reply here or read the transcript below.

A: We know that there are about 300 million public comments made online per day. We also know that the way people interact online is a little bit different than it is in any other channel of communication. Researchers have found that depending on where an ad, for example, is placed in the context of a program, the response is completely different. So, a company has found that among people aged 18-34, a nine percent increase in social media chatter in the weeks before a show premiere correlates to one percent increase in the rating of that show. My thought is that if we can turn those numbers or get people to talk more about the renewable energy, and climate change, and get focused on their actions, and how they relate to those issues, maybe we will get a better public response.

Q: Is public perception, in your view, a driving force or an obstacle in RET adoption?

Listen to her reply here or read the transcript below.

A: Usually, in New England for example, research and government publications show that NIMBY-ism (the Not In My Backyard perception) is a hindrance, or a very big stumbling block for adopting renewable energy projects. You probably have heard about the Cape Wind project, and how it has been in the pipework. It started in 2001 and is not completely accomplished yet, and there are so many projects that have been planned, but the belief is that because of the NIMBY-ism, and other perception factors like static views and reduced values on properties, these projects might have a negative impact on the communities. However, research mainly from Europe and other countries shows that wherever these projects have been implemented, they do not negatively impact the environment. They have a positive impact on tourism because more people come to that location to look at these projects. There is a way of mapping or placing these projects in a compatible way so they can be profitable for the community and society as a whole.

Q: Tell us more about you and your previous research.

Listen to her reply here or read the transcript below.

A: I will be focusing more on wind energy development because this is more suitable for this part of the country, for the northeast. While I was at Oregon State University, which is in the northwest, I was working on wave energy development and implementation. At Oregon State University, as a doctoral student, I researched public perceptions with regards to wave energy, and conducted many interviews and surveys to analyze what people know about wave energy, establish a base line, information of what is known and the base line perception about wave energy. I believe that the research that I started there will be continued with other researchers, students, and organizations because wave energy presents a great opportunity for the state of Oregon. It is believed to be the best place in the US for developing wave energy, at least that is what the Electrical Power Research Institute has said, and it is a good match between the physical resources in the state and the needs of the people there.

-Interview by Sachin Gaur, MALD candidate F13