10 October 2019 | Giorgia Rambelli and Arthur Hinsch, ICLEI Europe

Local Governments Drive Social Acceptance –Support Them!

This blog is a short version of the 3rd WinWind Policy Brief.


Raising social acceptance of wind energy can only be achieved if an effective interplay of stakeholders and organizations is guaranteed. With frictions related to wind energy mostly manifesting themselves on the local level, very often it is local governments that deal with heated discussions on wind energy, be this in the local councils, or in dialogue with concerned citizens. Throughout the EU, it can be seen that a socially inclusive wind energy project typically does not come into existence without clear involvement of the local government. 

Due to their proximity and closeness, municipal decision-makers are often trusted more than external actors. Social acceptance of wind energy therefore strongly depends on the attitude and engagement of local governments. They are the key actors driving fair and socially inclusive wind energy forward. 

More Attention to Local Governments in NECPs 

With the publication of the EU Clean Energy Package, the European Commission has reiterated that the energy transition must be fair and socially acceptable for all. This was also a core aspect to be included by Member States in their draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). Member States have to comply with the provisions set out in the revised renewable energy directive (RED II) which, among other provisions, enshrines the right of renewable energy communities in European law and also calls upon Member States to create an enabling framework providing “non-discriminatory participation of small actors and, where applicable, local authorities” to participate in the tendering procedures for renewable energy. A brief assessment of the draft NECPs of the Member States represented in the WinWind consortium (Germany, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Spain) revealed, however, that national targets and strategies do not always reflect the key position of local governments as drivers of a socially inclusive energy transition. 

In addition, in spite of the huge success and increasing membership of the Covenant of Mayors initiative, the European Commission, in its official review of the NECP drafts,including recommendations to Member States, does not highlight the importance for local governments to be featured in the NEC sporto consulted in the review process. 

The Role of Local Governments for Fair Wind Energy 

The local and regional level are most effective for promoting social acceptance of Wind Energy. While the actions carried out at the local level sometimes differ depending on the respective context, local governments can play several distinct roles, acting as: Leaders, Planners, Informers, Enablers and Mediators for fair onshore wind energy.

Leaders and Mediators: Any major measure or policy change is accelerated if clear targets are set and there are leaders to push for it. In the Polish town of Kisielice the mayor took it on himself to “carry” the wind energy project further despite initial setbacks. unding setbacks overcome much more effectively. Regulatory measures, plans and programmes can thus be implemented much faster and can involve local governments becoming “leaders by example”, for example by financially engaging as shareholders in a community wind farm, signalling the trustworthiness of the entire project and process. local governments frequently serve as, or set up,the necessary exchange platform between developers and citizens

Planners: Local governments build the conditions for good participation of all relevant stakeholders: They have the best understanding on how a particular wind energy project might affect the community, can actively involve local citizens, and often also are land owners themselves with a significant say in the design and the hosting of a project. Local governments, through inter-municipal cooperation, are also carrying out joint planning procedures, as in the case Gran Canaria were local governments have formed an association with the plan to build a water desalination plant powered by electricity from wind turbines. 

Informers: Informing local decision-makers and citizens about the possibilities for participating in the discussion as early as possible is key. Local governments are placed best as they have the most immediate connection with the local people and are easily approachable. They often facilitate informal, transparent and open planning processes involving all stakeholders. Not only does this offer the opportunity to engage in discussion with developers and the local government, they are also an important tool for informing citizens about opportunities and benefits. 

Enablers: Going beyond a planning and informing role, local governments increasingly act as enablers and promoters of community-led wind farms where citizens can act as shareholders. Owned by local shareholders, the whole community feels responsible for, and identifies with the wind farm. In Order to support local governments to act as enablers for socially-inclusive wind energy there is a need for strong and continuous policy commitment and support as well as qualified, dedicated staff and especially funding. 


Local governments increasingly understand the added value wind parks can bring to the community if implemented in a socially inclusive manner. A stable and favourable regulatory framework for community participation, the sharing of economic benefits and the promotion of community (co)-ownership of wind energy projects needs to be guaranteed.This should also include concrete targets for socially inclusive renewable energy deployment. National Schemes for renewable energy should include, and take into account the specific conditions of renewable energy communities in order to guarantee them a fair access to the benefits as well as to allow local governments to buy in part of the shares.  

The specifications laid down in RED II should therefore be considered as a baseline to make sure that adequate financial resources can be made available to local governments throughout the EU. Raising social acceptance of onshore wind energy is a key solution to driving the European energy transition forward. Member states have much to gain from strongly incorporating and acknowledging the important role of local governments as part of their NECPs.