How can we involve local populations in Renewable Energy Projects?
Contribution of Philippe Barret to initiative “Which Europe do we want?” initiative . April 2009
Date of writing: April 24, 2009
Author(s) of the proposal: Philippe Barret
The European Union set an ambitious target in terms of the development of renewable energy. Projects are multiplying across Europe with the erection of many wind farms. More recently, the fields of photovoltaic panels have been sprouting up throughout rural areas.
Often, these projects are organized by private companies and they are received by locals in various ways. Local authorities are generally favorable, since they see a new source of revenue, but the opposition of local residents is sometimes very active. These people have a feeling of suffering the bulk of the nuisances (mostly noise and an ugly landscape), without directly profiting from the benefits. In effect, they do not receive, in principal, any compensation, except if a plot of their land is rented for the erection of a windmill. Besides, the participation of populations in the design of projects is still very limited, possibly non-existent. Most of the time, the process is reduced to a belated consultation.
As a consequence, the development of renewable energies, though generally appreciated by the population as a whole, is restricted by local opposition movements.
Make a real concertation process between all concerned parties obligatory. This concertation needs to begin very early, before the main field studies have been carried out, in order to avoid the development of rumours and to give time for different parties to compare and reconcile their positions. This concertation should lead to the formulation of joint proposals and, if the need arises, give prominence to sticking points.
Strongly encourage industry to propose to local residents one or more ways of sharing in the benefits generating by the installation of renewable energy projects. For example, in terms of sharing in the capital, an annual financial compensation contingent on proximity and benefits in kind (electricity at a reduced cost…)
Facilitate the carrying out of productive projects brought by local authorities or groups of residents, by proposing investment guidance and assistance.
Contribution of Philippe Barret to “Which Europe do we want?” initiative
Philippe Barret, co-president of the European network Forum Synergies, responsible for programmes at the Geyser Association.
Environmental mediator, consultant and trainer in regional dialogue.