3.1: IntroductionAschapter 2 outlines, little research exists into the impact of socio-demographicfactors upon the social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure, despite Devine-Wright(2017) and others indicating their potential importance to this topic.
Thisdissertation will therefore explore the impacts of age, annual income, andeducation level. This chapter begins, discussing the rationale for theselection of a case study method, before outlining the development anddeployment of its questionnaire, concluding by discussing limitations of deployedmethodology whilst addressing ethical and positionality concerns. 3.
2 Research ApproachThisresearch utilises a critical positivist ontology, asserting that knowledge,nature, and reality are objective, but influenced by social actors (ResearchMethodology, 2017). Resultantly this dissertation utilises a positivistepistemology, employing research methods facilitating collection of validempirical data to utilise in testing research questions through statisticalanalysis. This was appropriate for this dissertation as it would facilitate theproduction of definitive answers regarding the impact of each socio-demographicfactor, also allowing direct comparison to place based factor research whichutilises a comparable research epistemology. A case study methodology wasselected, producing a form of sampling frame for research questionnairedistribution.Acase study method:”Investigates a specific case …toanswer specific research questions…seeking a range of different kinds ofevidence, evidence which is there in the case setting, …to be abstracted andcollated to get the best possible answers” (Gillham, 2000 p.1).Casestudies are highly suitable methodology to investigate the research questionsof this dissertation, carrying a multitude of benefits.
Firstly, case studiesallow research to focus upon smaller samples, ensuring more time is available toeffectively analyse and manage research findings (Yin, 2009). Furthermore, casestudies place research into context which is important to unearth hiddenfactors which may underpin research findings. Yin (2009:p40) states that a casestudy used in a critical fashion, excels when used to conduct “critical testingof a significant theory”. This dissertation aims to employ a case study forthis exact purpose, with a working theory that social factors may be of similarimportance as place based factors. This case study can be seen as anexemplifying case “capturing the circumstance and conditions of an everydayor commonplace situation” (Yin, 2009:p48).
JavelinPark energy from waste incinerator, Gloucestershire, was chosen for this dissertationas it represents the increasingly widespread construction of energy from wasteplants in the UK, often pushed by waste industry officials to solve theintermittency of existing renewable power. The incinerator was proposed in2012, and received Gloucestershire County Council funding of £30 Million(Perchard, 2015). Independent corporation Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) wascontracted to construct and operate the plant for 25 years (Ibid).
The plant iscurrently under construction despite delays and initial planning rejection, withlocal opinion divided. The developer claims, upon completion, the plant willincrease renewable energy generation in Gloucestershire by 50% (Urbaser BalfourBeatty, 2017), “enough to power half of the homes in the district of Stroud”(Urbaser Balfour Beatty, 2017:p1) where the incinerator is located. Some residentshowever, cite fears over air and noise pollution, congestion, landfill sectorjob losses, project cost, and visual impact (Stonehouse Town Council, 2013).
Othershowever are more positive, thanks to claimed CO2 emission reductions, landfill reduction,new apprenticeship schemes, and 100% job offer guarantees to Gloucestershireresidents (Urbaser Balfour Beatty, 2017). Such disparity in the socialacceptance of local residents towards such a project is not uncommon. The casestudy is also well sited, capable of providing the required data whilst being easilyand repeatedly accessible, key attributes for any case study (Gillham, 2000).Gloucestershire was the home of this dissertations author for 18 years,ensuring easy access via the family home, and ensuring the researcher had manycontacts in the area, providing a broader sample of respondents. Potential biaswas accounted and adjusted for. 3.3 QuestionnairedesignWhilstinterviews may have unveiled potential explanations to research questions notforeseen by case study based questionnaires, this dissertation was unable toconduct both methods due to time constraints. This dissertation believes a casestudy based questionnaire, including some open-ended questions, would be mosteffective as empirical results would allow effective statistical analysis, withopen-ended questions used as a secondary supplementary data source, unveilingpotential themes which would occur through interviews.
Questionnairesare a research method used within social sciences to obtain both “factual andattitudinal information” (Bulmer 2004 ,XIV). They differ from interviews,attempting to gather less extensive data from a larger sample of respondentswithin shorter time periods. This makes questionnaires an ideal research methodfor this dissertation.
Questionnaires are a versatile, dependable methodology,capable of collecting multiple data types, becoming rich data sources whenutilising mixtures of open and closed questions (Hague, 1993). Furthermore, with thesocio-demographic factors of this research being potentially sensitive,questionnaires provided an additional layer of anonymity (particularly whencompleted online), which can effectively combat social desirability bias (Hague,1993). This helps produce more valid, reliable results and conclusions. Openended questions were also included to ensure context was provided, and perhapsun-considered themes were brought to light,also helping participants feel involved, preventing boredom and non-completion (Bulmer, 2004). Questionnaires canalso be highly standardised, being easier to analyse than interviews (Bradburnand Sudman, 1979), also providing participants time to think upon their responsesas they largely remove time pressure (when administered online).
Whilst they possessmany advantages, questionnaire weaknesses were also considered in subsection3.5. Apilot study of 15 respondents was conducted from the 26-29th ofNovember. It resulted in various amendments to the questionnaire, ensuringwording was clear and non-leading, whilst checking that responses reflected thetrue nature of the question asked, and assessing the questionnaires length andquestion order.Thefinalised questionnaire was made available online on 30/11/2017, ending05/12/2017, receiving 130 responses. Face to face questionnaires, identical to theonline component were conducted on 01/12/2017, receiving 20 responses.Total responses totalled 150. Conducting both online and face to facequestionnaires ensured this dissertation reached the widest possibledemographic.
Face to face questionnaires were key in assessing olderdemographics, who may not utilise computers, thus being otherwise omitted from thisstudy. The questionnaire contained no mandatory questions, which could deterparticipation. A copy of the questionnaire is attached to this document; pleasesee Appendix ‘B’. Onlineparticipants were recruited through Toluna Quick Surveys. This online programmeallows questionnaires to be shared via a link, which can be uploaded to socialmedia or sent electronically to respondents. This dissertation utilised apurposive sampling technique, sending links to individuals via Facebook andemail who knowingly resided within Gloucestershire, requesting they forwardedthe link to others within Gloucestershire to increase response rates. This wasa form of snowball sampling, helping to increase response rates, and reach awider demographic than purposive sampling alone.
Face to face questionnaires utilisedconvenience sampling, with the researcher stood in Gloucester City centre’s publicspace, ‘The Cross’, asking passers-by to complete the questionnaire. Surveyswere issued during three, one-hour periods on 01/12/17. Periods were 8-9AM,11AM-Midday, and 7-8PM, aiming to reach the widest demographic possible, notrestricting data collection to respondents using the city centre at a giventime, such as workers arriving at 9AM.Thequestionnaire contained 19 questions, commencing with demographic questionssuch as location within Gloucestershire and gender, before collecting responsesfor the 3 independent-variables of study, age, annual income and educationlevel. Data for these variables can be seen below for age (Table 3.
1),Education Level (Table 3.2), and Annual Income (Table 3.3). 50 (33.33%) malerespondents and 93 (62%) femalerespondents made up the sample, with a further 7 (4.
66%) respondents selecting ‘prefernot to say’. Whilst these responses fail to directly correlate with census datafrom Gloucestershire in 2011 (ONS, 2016),which showed a more even gender balance than this sample, this should notbe detrimental to the statistical analysis of this study, as it does notinvestigate gender directly.