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Experiences from surveys: Social acceptance of CCUS by the general public

Infographic on CCS

Sabine Preuß, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), Germany (with valuable input from WP3 colleagues)

In Work Package 3 of STRATEGY CCUS, we have been examining the perception and social acceptance of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). Our planning has included surveys with the general public in France and Spain, which we conducted last year together with colleagues from Fraunhofer ISI and CIEMAT-CISOT.

We were interested in discovering potential differences between the perception and acceptance of CCUS – not only between France and Spain but also between national and regional perspectives in each country. Preparations for the survey started early last year with collecting ideas for the questionnaire based on the literature and related hypotheses as well as earlier research.

To cover the regional perspective, respondents were recruited from regions (Ebro Basin in Spain and Rhône Valley in France) for which CCUS could be an option in the future, given that emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as possible CO2 storage sites are part of these regions.

With the help of a market research institute, we received four different representative samples from the general population with about 1300 respondents each, leading to a total of 5167 respondents.

Moreover, we aimed to explore differences between the perception and acceptance of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU). Thus, participants in the survey received information and a graphic depicting the different processes (Figure 1).

We wanted to present neutral key information about both technologies and their consequences in the survey as we assumed, based on research findings from other countries, that knowledge about CCUS in the general public is not very high. We were right: most respondents reported not having heard about CCUS technologies before participating in the survey.

Only around one in ten respondents reported being familiar with CCS or CCU technologies. Results showed that there were no statistically significant differences in levels of familiarity between the different samples in France and Spain or on a regional and national level.

Figure 1: Example graphics on CCU in Spanish (upper part) and CCS in French (lower part) that were presented in the survey accompanied by a short description. Credit: Fraunhofer ISI

Regarding the acceptance of CCUS, about half of all respondents (45-65%) stated that they found further development of CCUS or the implementation of a CCUS project in their region "acceptable" or “totally acceptable” (Figure 2).

However, we found differences with regard to the two technologies, CCS and CCU, and differences between the two countries as well as at national and regional level.
Firstly, regarding the technologies, the acceptance of CCU was higher than the acceptance of CCS, namely:

Acceptance of CCU

  • National: France 56%; Spain 65%
  • Regional: France 63%; Spain 62%

Acceptance of CCS

  • National: France 46%; Spain 54%
  • Regional: France 45%; Spain 49%

Compared to CCS, respondents perceived CCU as more innovative, necessary, economical, safe, less tampering with nature and more beneficial for the regional and national economies.

Secondly, comparing the countries under study, acceptance for both CCS and CCU was higher in Spain (CCU: 65%; CCS: 54%) compared to France (CCU: 56%; CCS: 46%).
Thirdly, on the national level, more than half of respondents (46-65%) stated that they would accept the development of CCUS technologies in their country. On the regional level, acceptance of CCUS was a little lower (45-54%), which is often the case when people perceive themselves as potentially directly affected.

Figure 2. Results on the acceptance of CCU (left chart) and CCS (right chart) for France and Spain comparing national and regional results. Credit: Fraunhofer ISI

Conducting such an international survey is always exciting. Firstly, it is a great feeling to finally reach the determined number of respondents and to close the field work; and secondly, seeing the results of your research.

On the one hand, part of the results were as expected (e.g. that CCU is evaluated better than CCS) as they confirm previous research. On the other hand, other results were rather surprising (e.g. that acceptance in Spain is higher than in France - potentially caused by different policies and public discourses).

This and the new questions that arose from the results are the beauty of (social) research. So I am looking forward to continuing researching the social acceptance of CCS in the follow-up project, PilotSTRATEGY.

More details also on the research results regarding the perceived costs and benefits as well as key determinants of CCUS acceptance can be found in our report, Public acceptance of CCUS technologies, a survey study in France and Spain.