by Sven Alsheimer, Tamara Schnell, Camilla Chlebna and Sebastian Rohe
The large-scale deployment of low-carbon energy technologies is crucial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ideally limiting climate change. The success of this transition towards a carbon-neutral society depends on how these technologies are perceived by civil society and whether key societal stakeholders support or oppose their roll-out. Two major debates addressing this issue revolve around the concepts of acceptance and legitimacy. Acceptance literature examines the drivers and levels of support of novel technologies and socio-technical systems. Legitimacy literature captures how these technologies are aligned to their institutional environment. Thus far, there is little cross-fertilisation between the two debates. For this contribution, we conducted a systematic literature review of the two research streams to gain a better understanding of how the social dynamics of low-carbon energy technology deployment are conceptualised. Our review involved the analysis of 240 articles from SCOPUS that empirically studied the acceptance or legitimacy of low-carbon energy technologies. Our findings suggest that the two literature strands are indeed rather disconnected – few articles use both concepts conjointly. They further illustrate that both have distinct research foci and intellectual roots. Acceptance studies tend to focus on individual perspectives towards specific technologies and relate these to the individuals’ backgrounds. In contrast, legitimacy studies tend to focus on the overall alignment of specific technologies or entire innovation systems with the institutional context. Based on our findings, we propose a framework, to allow for a better understanding of the dynamic interplay between macro-level legitimacy evaluations and micro-level acceptance evaluations.
Cite as: Alsheimer et al. (2023) Competing terms for complementary concepts? Acceptance and legitimacy of low-carbon energy technologies. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2023(01), GEIST Working Paper series.