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Problems, mistakes and good practices in community participation in local renewable energy projects

Rechten: Alle rechten voorbehouden

Problems, mistakes and good practices in community participation in local renewable energy projects

Rechten: Alle rechten voorbehouden

Samenvatting

Citizen participation in local renewable energy projects is often promoted as many suppose it
to be a panacea for the difficulties that are involved in the energy transition process. Quite
evidently, it is not; there is a wide variety of visions, ideologies and interests related to an ‘energy transition’. Such a variety is actually a precondition for a stakeholder participation process, as stakeholder participation only makes sense if there is ‘something at stake’.

Conflicting viewpoints, interests and debates are the essence of participation. The success of stakeholder participation implies that these differences are acknowledged, and discussed, and
that this has created mutual understanding among stakeholders. It does not necessarily create
‘acceptance’.

Renewable energy projects often give rise to local conflict. The successful implementation of local renewable energy systems depends on the support of the local social fabric. While at one hand decisions to construct wind turbines in specific regions trigger local resistance, the opposite also occurs! Solar parks sometimes create a similar variation: Various communities try to prevent the construction of solar parks in their vicinity, while other communities proudly present their parks.

Altogether, local renewable energy initiatives create a rather chaotic picture, if regarded from the perspective of government planning. However, if we regard the successes, it appears the top down initiatives are most successful in areas with a weak social fabric, like industrial areas, or rather recently reclaimed land. Deeply rooted communities, virtually only have successful renewable energy projects that are more or less bottom up initiatives.

This paper will first sketch why participation is important, and present a categorisation of processes and procedures that could be applied. It also sketches a number of myths and paradoxes that might occur in participation processes.

‘Compensating’ individuals and/or communities to accept wind turbines or solar parks is not sufficient to gain ‘acceptance’. A basic feature of many debates on local renewable energy projects is about ‘fairness’. The implication is that decision-making is neither on pros and cons of various renewable energy technologies as such, nor on what citizens are obliged to accept, but on a fair distribution of costs and benefits. Such discussions on fairness cannot be short cut by referring to legal rules, scientific evidence, or to standard financial compensations. History plays a role as old feelings of being disadvantaged, both at individual and at group level, might re-emerge in such debates.

The paper will provide an overview of various local controversies on renewable energy initiatives in the Netherlands. It will argue that an open citizen participation process can be organized to work towards fair decisions, and that citizens should not be addressed as greedy subjects, trying to optimise their own private interests, but as responsible persons.

Toon meer
OrganisatieDe Haagse Hogeschool
AfdelingFaculteit Technologie, Innovatie & Samenleving
LectoraatLectoraat Stedelijk Metabolisme
Datum2020-09-01
TypeConferentiebijdrage
TaalEngels

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