May 16, 2023
Journal Article

A socio-technical assessment of marine renewable energy potential in coastal communities


Coastal communities face unique socio-ecological risks and vulnerabilities due to their geography and related resource dependencies. The resilience of such communities and their capacity to adapt to social, economic, and environmental change is consequently shaped by the diverse characteristics and values that guide their development. Marine renewable energy (MRE) is one promising solution for augmenting coastal resilience and environmental sustainability while increasing energy security, energy affordability, and socioeconomic benefits. The socio-technical nature of energy transitions more broadly necessitates place-based and multidisciplinary analyses to gain a full picture of the needs of communities. This article uses potential MRE development (specifically tidal energy) in two coastal communities as a lens to explore how social perceptions and MRE’s technical potential might be integrated to improve alignment between community values and energy development. We draw on semi-structured interviews with community representatives from Sitka, Alaska and the San Juan Islands in Washington State and present findings on how energy development objectives are shaped by community values, resource relations, and institutional relations. Through modeling exercises, we also show the grid benefits of MRE deployment in the San Juan Islands, highlighting MRE’s role in deferring costly electric infrastructure upgrades and reducing fuel imports when paired with solar photovoltaic (PV) or battery storage. These findings offer viable pathways for future MRE research, commercial validation, and deployment that directly respond to the place-based opportunities and challenges of coastal communities.

Published: May 16, 2023


Kazimierczuk K., C.D. Henderson, K.P. Duffy, S. Hanif, S. Bhattacharya, S. Biswas, and E.C. Jacroux, et al. 2023. A socio-technical assessment of marine renewable energy potential in coastal communities. Energy Research & Social Science 100. PNNL-SA-178137. doi:10.1016/j.erss.2023.103098

Research topics