Influences on public acceptance of grid extension across Europe

J. Porsius; M. Hinse (chair); E. Bailey. Location: Heymanszaal

Symposium: Influences on Public Acceptance of Grid Extension across Europe

Organiser: M. Hinse

The European directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources entails the extension of the high voltage transmission grid. The grid extension produces significant changes in landscape, property values, tourism as well as in the perceived health impacts. Furthermore, controversies about the balance between national and local benefits and costs exist. The concerns and needs of stakeholders (e.g. TSO’s, residents, policy makers etc.) need to be explored in order to better understand public responses to grid extension. Scientific findings can be used to adapt methods of information provision, consultation and participation, as well as in the proper handling of compensation payments in order to increase social acceptance. In this session, contributors from three European countries (UK, Netherlands, and Germany) will present empirical findings concerning different aspects of the grid extension. Two presentations show quantitative results of case studies that explored predictors of acceptance of new transmission lines, one is a longitudinal study.  These findings get complemented by qualitative findings dealing with stakeholder concerns and needs. Another presentation will deepen the influence of the perception of electromagnetic fields and risk evaluation.

“They give you lots of information, but ignore what it’s really about”: Residents’ experiences with the planned introduction of a new high-voltage power line

J. T. Porsius, L. Claassen, P. E. Weijland, & D. R.M. Timmermans

Cases of strong local opposition to the planned introduction of new high-voltage power lines (HVPLs) have been documented in the past. During and after the planning process of a new HVPL, local residents will be informed about the siting process and its outcomes. Although it has been suggested in the literature that this communication plays an important role in residents’ responses to a new HVPL, it has been rarely empirically studied. In this qualitative study we conducted in-depth interviews with 15 residents about their experiences with the planned introduction of a new HVPL near their homes. Thematic analysis revealed that residents’ experiences were centred around negative expectations of living near the new HVPL and perceived injustice of the planning process and its outcomes. Residents’ perception that communication was not tailored to their information needs played a significant role in these negative experiences. Suggestions for improving communication will be discussed.

Acceptance of new transmission lines - results of a longitudinal study

M. Hinse, S. Rühmland, J. Hildebrand, & P. Schweizer-Ries

For renewable energies to be implemented and climate goals to be reached, the electricity infrastructure needs to be altered (RGI, 2013). This alteration generates a changed perception of local impacts in terms of health, landscape, tourism and property values. Consequently, it is important to take into consideration how acceptance or non-acceptance of grid extension arises. Within the context of the German grid extension a longitudinal study was conducted in three regions at two times (t1 (2012): N = 611; t2 (2014): N = 1067) to examine potential predictors of acceptance towards new transmission lines. Due to the differences of the regional project processes, all three regions are analyzed separately with hierarchical regression analysis that reveals differences between regions, caused by project developments. In one of the regions, the proposed transmission line was only known by a few stakeholders in 2012. The first analysis revealed that project related predictors had no influence on acceptance. Two years later, predictors like negative economic impact (ß -.142; p<.05), change of landscape (ß -.190; p<.05), perceived health risk (ß -.163; p<.05), interpersonal justice (ß .115; p<.05) and distributed justice (ß .253; p<.001) as main predictor explained 60% of variance on acceptance (adj. R2 .596).

Explaining public acceptance of UK transmission grid development – combining place and project-based research pathways

E. Bailey, P. Devine-Wright1, & S. Batel

With a projected increase in low-carbon energy generation in the UK, expansion of the existing electricity network is required (DECC, 2011). In going beyond the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) concept, a number of research pathways have investigated the role of place and project-based factors in understanding responses to powerline siting (Devine-Wright, 2009; Cotton & Devine-Wright, 2011), yet little research has combined these research pathways. This study therefore sought to establish the relative importance of socio-demographic, place and project-based variables in explaining stance towards a powerline project in South-West England. Hierarchical linear regression analysis was conducted amongst a representative sample (n=264) of Nailsea residents where active opposition to the powerline arose. Results showed that procedural justice, positive impacts and the perceived fit of the proposed power line in nearby countryside emerged as significant predictors of stance toward the project. Greater project acceptance associated with perceptions of the powerline as blending into surrounding countryside areas, suggesting that electricity grid developers may benefit by integrating project-based symbolic meanings more effectively into communication and intervention strategies with divergent stakeholders. Furthermore, perceived procedural justice associated with project acceptance which may indicate improved perceptions of fairness in the planning progress following recent developer-led siting concessions.