Social Acceptance of Renewable Energy

By: Paula C. Baez Santiago

The Sociology Student Union (UES for its acronym in Spanish) celebrated their last meeting, in honor of Sociology Month, on Tuesday September 25, 2012 by hosting a conference about renewable energy in the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez.

Dr. Marla Pérez Lugo, coordinator of the Sociology Student Union and member of the sociology faculty of the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez, gave a conference in Chardón Building, room 128.

Dr. Pérez lectured on renewable energy and the different types of energy that exist, the social impact that these projects cause along with the impact that they have on the economy. She also talked about the differences between renewable energy and fossil fuels.

Dr. Pérez  started out by  defining renewable energy,  which according to her, is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlightwindraintides, and geothermal heat. She also mentioned how sociology influenced the subject of renewable energy and how it contributes specific elements that sociologists are interested in this type of environmental issue for research purposes.

Then she talked about  the issue of social acceptance of renewable energy and how important it is for society to support and understand these types of projects, because the energy market  is having a great impact on the their lives, the economy and on environment, especially in Puerto Rico . Presently, Pérez explained that economy is depending on fossil fuels to create energy to sustain the entire island, which is causing a lot of damage to the environment and a great stress to the economy.

Reconstructing the paradigm shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy, she explained that fossil fuel pollute the environment more than renewable energy because of the chemicals they contain. Also that green projects (renewable energy), compare to other projects, have to think on a small-scale, generate energy at a low density, the extraction is below the surface, and have a greater visibility once they are finished.

“Renewable energy is a very good alternative to create energy and that is time to change the way we create energy so we can be able to preserve our environment and that society changed their perspective and start supporting these types of projects”, UES President Joseph Bonilla said in an interview after the conference was finished .

Later on she presented the triangle of social acceptance which is divided into three: sociopolitical (government), market (companies), community (the people). The average of the participants in the assembly of the projects to be undertaken in the community (the number of people giving their support to the project) distrusts the decision making processes because of the slow technological acceptance the society has, even if it’s good for them and the environment.

One controversial case addressed by Pérez was the windmills of Santa Isabel, are located in an area that belongs to farmers. She explained how the people were opposed to it and that it is very difficult for the society to accept them because the foreign companies that bring these projects are making money out of their lands and it affects them socially.

“These projects about renewable energy are very good for society environmentally and economically, but when there are executed correctly and they give the opportunity to the people of the community to express their opinion and participate in the decision making. Other than that I support the idea of renewable energy in our island”, UPR-RUM Geologist Student Fabiola Cartagena said.

During the questions session, students who attended dialogued with Dr. Pérez and exchanged different views about renewable energy.

Dr. Pérez, at the conference, explaining what renewable energy is. The conference was given in a classroom at the building of Chardón where students who attended learned the importance of this type of energy.

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