Stakeholder engagement within the sustainability assessment of bioenergy: Case studies in heat, power and perennial and annual crops from the UK.

Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 73, 2015, Pages 11–22 .

Sinclair1, B. Cohen2, Y. Hansen1, L. Basson1, R. Clift1

  1.  Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
  2. The Green House, 18 Kemms Road, Wynberg 7800, South Africa.



The growth of the fledgling UK bioenergy sector is characterised by the slow development of the market and supply chains for biomass, resulting in part from potential market entrants’ and other stakeholders’ unfamiliarity with its emerging technologies, and in part from lack of coherent policy support. The nature of the sector demands mutually reinforcing activity on local, regional and national scales. TSEC-Biosys is a consortium research project that addresses the development of the sector from economic, environmental, social, regulatory and policy perspectives. A participatory sustainability assessment framework is being developed and tested, based on systems thinking and approaches and using stakeholder engagement methods derived from Multiple Criterion Decision Analysis (MCDA). A series of case studies and workshops is being used to test the framework. The participatory processes involve producers, consumers, other stakeholders, members of the public, experts, regulators and policy-makers. We describe here the initial development of sustainability criteria and attributes from local focus groups on (1) woodfuel for heat and co-firing for electricity generation, held in the county of Yorkshire, and (2) perennial and annual energy crops for heat and electricity generation, held in the county of Dorset. During the focus groups, issues of concern, objectives, and sustainable development evaluation criteria for emerging bio-energy systems, as well as barriers and drivers to the development of the sector were elicited from the participants. The workshops revealed that some chains are resource-driven (i.e. the availability of the resource is the driver for supply chain development), while others are demand-driven. Considerable variations in issues of concern, objectives and evaluation criteria were found between the focus group cases and among the participants in each subgroup. Although the information gathered aided the development of the emerging sustainability assessment framework, it is concluded that with such a diversity in perceptions and perspectives among stakeholders more creative and possibly novel approaches to problem structuring (including techniques for problem identification and system description) are required. Subsequent work on this project has thus focussed on the development of (1) problem structuring processes to enable actions from descriptions, and (2) ways of describing actions within “narratives” or storylines

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Significance Statement 

We held four bioenergy focus groups using Multi-Criterion Decision Analysis (MCDA).  The locations were in Yorkshire and Dorset, UK.  The stakeholder criteria elicited were very diverse, making their analysis impractical.  The criteria and attributes were nevertheless context and scale specific.  Hence the project sought a more structured sustainability assessment framework.

Stakeholder engagement within the sustainability assessment of bioenergy

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