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07 October 2010

EU worried about waning public image of renewables

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The European Commission is looking into mechanisms to boost public acceptance of renewable energy projects to meet its climate goals, but behavioural scientists warn that obvious solutions like individual compensation do not always work.
The EU's Renewable Energy Directive requires each member state to produce a certain proportion of their energy from renewable sources to reach a common EU target of 20% in 2020.

But renewable projects often run into resistance from local communities, who have to live with the noise of wind turbines or the visual changes to their landscapes.

Mindful that developers of renewables projects often run into public resistance at the permitting stage, the European Commission's energy department has launched a study investigating how to increase local acceptance.

"A lot of time this is an obstacle to economic operators when they want to develop a [wind] park or another renewable project," said Ron Van Erck, policy officer at the European Commission, at a conference in Brussels yesterday (5 October).

He said that the preliminary results of the study show that there are several mechanisms to improve the situation by sharing the benefits of the projects. These include compensation mechanisms such as community funds, where the project banks money for the local community to spend as it sees fit, local ownership, where the developer offers a share of the project to local citizens, and direct compensation.

In addition, more indirect and softer mechanisms, like new local employment, and indirect social benefits, such as prestige to the area and eco-tourism, seem to be "quite effective" in creating local acceptance, Van Erck said.


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