Modes of political and economic participation and the acceptance of local renewable energy projects

Stadelmann-Steffen, Isabelle; Dermont, Clau (7 September 2019). Modes of political and economic participation and the acceptance of local renewable energy projects (Unpublished). In: ECPR General Conference. Wroclaw, Poland. 04.09.-07.09.2019.

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In the wake of the transition from fossil and nuclear energy systems to a renewable energy age, the question of how to politically implement local renewable energy projects is a challenge in many industrialized countries. Research on the siting of energy-related infrastructure has emphasized repeatedly that the reasons and mechanisms driving the resistance towards these projects are multiple and complex, and clearly go beyond the famous NIMBY syndrome (Wolsink, 2000). In particular, procedural aspects such as citizens’ involvement, information, or perceptions of fairness have been identified as influencing for whether an implementation process is successful (Batel & Devine-Wright, 2015; Bidwell, 2016; Gross, 2007; Knudsen et al., 2015; Tabi & Wüstenhagen 2017). However, we still lack systematic insights on the mechanisms that drive such process-related factors (Knudsen et al., 2015). In the proposed paper I aim at contributing to this literature by investigating on whether and how varying modes of the local population’s political and economic participation affects their support for local infrastructure projects. Whereas previous research has shown that early involvement and participation matters, I more precisely focus on what kind of involvement citizens ask for, namely whether citizens want to be listened to and informed in the first place, or whether they moreover want to have a say. Similarly, and concerning the financial involvement, I differentiate between different degrees of a municipality’s – and thus the local population’s – (short-term) costs and (long-term) financial gains. Empirically, I use experimental data from a large-scale population survey conducted in Switzerland in 2016. Thus, whereas most existing studies have analyzed acceptance and opposition of renewable energy projects based on specific cases, I adopt a more general approach and compare how citizens’ support for renewable energy projects varies contingent on the different potential characteristics of such projects. Based on conjoint experiments, provisional results lead to the conclusion that involvement through information and discussion is not enough to foster acceptance of renewable energy projects in Switzerland, but only if citizens are allowed to decide politically, do we observe an increase in support. Moreover, the financial involvement of municipalities comes not without risks. If the municipality will potentially profit from future gains, support for the project indeed increases. However, short-term costs, e.g., investments, have a strong negative effect on citizens’ support, and may therefore hinder a project’s implementation. Although the proposed study focuses on Switzerland and cannot necessarily be generalized to other contexts, I argue that the expected results are relevant beyond the Swiss case. The political and economic context of local infrastructure projects may vary across countries and entities, but previous research has demonstrated that quite similar factors and fears trigger opposition. Hence, knowing more about citizens’ reactions to different modes of political and economic involvement provides relevant insights beyond the case of Switzerland.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science

UniBE Contributor:

Stadelmann, Isabelle and Dermont, Clau


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science




Isabelle Stadelmann

Date Deposited:

05 Feb 2020 10:22

Last Modified:

05 Feb 2020 10:22


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