Local Politics of Renewable Energy: Project Planning, Siting Conflicts and Citizen Participation

University dissertation from Environmental and Energy Systems Studies, Gerdagatan 13, SE-223-62 LUND, Sweden

Abstract: Renewable energy will play an important role in the transition to a sustainable energy system. With an increased maturity of renewable energy technologies, issues concerning implementation are becoming more important. The decisions and actions of municipalities and other local actors have a significant influence on the implementation of renewable energy. In this thesis challenges to implementation at the local level in Sweden are analysed for two types of renewable energy technologies: biogas and wind power. The thesis is based on six case studies where written documents and semi-structured qualitative interviews have been the main sources of material. Two research themes are explored. In the first theme the planning and management of locally based renewable energy projects is studied. It is shown that project planning, concerning biogas projects in particular, can be complex and that the conditions of planning can vary considerably between projects. The results indicate that different planning approaches are appropriate for different projects and flexibility is identified as a key aspect of project planning. The second theme deals with conflicts related to the siting of renewable energy facilities, and how these are handled in land-use planning through citizen participation. It is shown that there are both differences and similarities when comparing traditional siting conflicts with those concerning renewable energy facilities. Different theoretical perspectives on siting conflicts and citizen participation are discussed, which have different, and sometimes opposing views, of the goals of participation. It is argued that the expectations of what can be achieved by citizen participation in the handling of siting conflicts must be realistic. More specifically, the results of the case studies show that public consultation, which is the dominating form of citizen participation in Sweden, has some important limitations that must be acknowledged.

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