28 May 2019 |

Increasing social acceptance of wind energy in Europe

This article first appeared on CORDIS-EU Research Results


Having evolved from a niche area into a leading renewable energy technology, wind energy is the driving force of the EU energy transition. Despite its huge potential, lack of social acceptance is slowing down deployment of wind energy projects.


Social acceptance of wind energy projects can ultimately affect the extent to which EU climate and energy policy targets are met. With this in mind, the EU-funded project WinWind seeks to increase public acceptance of wind energy in Europe. The project objective is to analyse, test and disseminate feasible solutions for increasing social support of wind energy. The focus is on selected regions in Europe where wind energy is abundant yet market penetration is scarce.


Stakeholder desks

“The debates on wind energy projects demonstrate that stakeholder involvement is essential to drive the clean energy agenda forward. Stakeholder active engagement and fair participation procedures are arguably the most important ingredients for working out a successful strategy to overcome barriers to wind energy acceptance,” notes project coordinator Dr Maria Rosaria Di Nucci.


Project partners strengthened their relationships with stakeholders in different countries through dialogues and workshops with focus on the barriers and drivers for socially inclusive wind energy deployment. The selected regions included Saxony and Thuringia in Germany, Latium and Abruzzo in Italy, the Warmia-Masuria province in Poland, the Balearic Islands in Spain, mid-Norway and Latvia. Each region hosts a stakeholder desk responsible for the project’s operational tasks.


Together, local project partners, selected stakeholders and market actors identified critical factors that hold back social acceptance of wind energy in the target regions. These pertained not only to the technical sphere, such as the visual intrusion and size of the turbines, but also the environmental impact and perceived fairness of the participation procedures in project planning and implementation.


Tailor-made solutions

Throughout WinWind, project partners elaborated a number of good practice measures from their own countries to improve social acceptance of wind energy in the target regions. They developed a portfolio containing a total of 30 good practice portraits that are specific to each region, considering the socioeconomic, spatial and environmental characteristics from a multilevel perspective. These can also serve as valuable examples for replication in other areas at regional or even national levels.


The good practice measures are grouped under five main categories, of which one includes novel participatory models that ensure transparency and encourage involvement of the entire community in the planning process of wind projects. Another two have to do with measures that address the direct and indirect financial participation of communities and citizens and measures that assess the environmental impact of wind farms. A fourth category covers benefit sharing and distributive justice measures to promote fair distribution of costs of renewable energy production, and the last comprises effective communication strategies.


Next steps

“WinWind has enjoyed considerable political recognition in all participating countries,” notes Michael Krug, coordinator of the German country desk. “In some cases, partners were invited by national or regional policymakers to provide recommendations to ongoing policy formulation processes.” Over the coming months, project partners will develop guiding principles and criteria for fair and acceptable wind energy development that should serve as a compass for policy development at regional, national and even European levels. Furthermore, 10 transferable best practice measures and a transfer guide will be complemented by a series of activities with mentor teams in the so-called learning regions.