The current energy system is mainly based on fossil energy sources. To minimise or prevent severe negative consequences in terms of costs and the effects on mankind and the biosphere, this system has to undergo radical changes.
Today, a switch to renewable sources of energy is viewed by many as the only realistic alternative for a secure energy supply system. Research and development play a crucial role for this transitory process. However, technology alone will not be able to tackle this challenge. If this complex, multi-faceted system is gradually going to change radically, the population has to support the decisions made.
FSA-Energy – FSA stands for Future Search & Assessment – is therefore seeking a broad dialogue with the population. Energy research should take more account of society's visions and wishes.
Energy research with one ear to the ground
Lomg-term research programmes are usually based on a model and attempt to identify topics for research and development that are as precise as possible. Participative technology assessment (pTA) can contribute to this process, allowing account to be taken of society's points of view.
The results of citizen participation can add valuable knowledge to – and critically question - expert views. Throughout the project, we discussed and assessed above all those research topics that are directly intended for end users.
Citizens conference in Vienna broke new ground
Against this background, the ITA organised a multi-stage participative process. The method chosen consisted of a well balanced mix of, plenary sessions and moderated working groups in which citizen opinions on expert input were discussed. The main event, attended by around 30 citizens from all over Austria took place in Vienna on 24-25 November 2007.