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SHP-Strategiske høgskoleprogram

Renewable Energy Projects: Local Impacts and Sustainability

Alternative title: Fornybar energi-prosjekter: Lokale konsekvenser og bærekraft

Awarded: NOK 16.5 mill.

WP1 has three parts. In the first part, we have developed a global sustainability model that we apply at country level. The model is based on three sustainability imperatives: satisfying basic needs, ensuring social justice and respecting environmental limits. Key theories for each imperative point to six key themes. We then suggest a headline indicator and a threshold value for each theme, which in turn defines a sustainable developement space. In the second part, we have tried to translate the global model to the local level. It turns out that such a translation involves significant translation problems because the local actor often has a limited room for maneuver. In the third part, we present 13 dominant narratives of sustainable energy. In order to bring about major, societal changes, we need narratives that people can (i) understand and be motivated by. We present narratives that span all key themes in the global sustainability model. The narratives reflect the research-based knowledge we have today about what it is possible to achieve. There are many sustainable development narratives and just as many storytellers. Therefore, there is a struggle between different actors to tell the dominant narrative. In WP2 we have used theoretical (mathematical) and empirical (statistical) models to examine how changes in policies affect investor. We have focused on the Norwegian-Swedish market for tradeable green certificates. We show that the market risk under this scheme is manageable. The risk of receiving two stochastic streams of revenue (certificates and electricity), is often less than receiving one. Political risk from introducing, revising or terminating such support schemes are often significantly higher. Such risks have resulted in erratic investments in Norway. We find clear differences across investor groups, and local landowners? decisions reflect to a smaller extent such risks, in particular in an early phase of the scheme. Changes in policies will often reflect changes in social acceptance. In a nation-wide survey on wind energy in January 2021, we find a clear preference for offshore and nearshore compared with onshore wind energy. What the power is used for and who owns the wind energy is even more important. Citizens strongly prefer national control over our natural wind energy resources. The topic of work package 3 has been social acceptance of renewable energy, and what influence different forms of ownership models have on social acceptance. We have also investigated how change of ownership influence social acceptance. During the project period, the focus on ownership has increased, both within small hydropower and wind power. We have found that the actors interviewed preferred local ownership of renewable energy projects, based on local ownership contributing with increased activity, income and employment in the local community. Small hydro power have been emphasized as an important contributor with respect to keeping small farms and farming profitable. There has been little concern regarding the possibility of projects being sold, often to foreign investors, as we have seen lately. In WP4, we have investigated the vegetation development of spoil heaps: do they start resembling their pristine surroundings over time, and thereby become satisfactorily recovered? We have developed a novel method for prediction of time to recovery, calculating the time it will take to bring back the same species, or at least the same type of species as in the pristine surroundings. We show that the spoil heaps recover very slowly; often it will take 100-200 years, in some cases up to 1000 years. Hence, the former restoration practices have not been successful and otherwise common flowering species, such as bilberry, strive to germinate and grow on the stone heaps. The robust dwarf shrub crowberry is quickly established, in particular along the edges of the spoil heap. This indicates that short distances to seed sources promote establishment. Moreover, young plants establish especially well around older individuals. One should pick species carefully and sow your seeds nearby already established individuals of the same species. The main responsibility in WP5 was to ensure continuous communication and interaction between researchers in the work packages, and to communicate with the project's user group. In the research project, it has been important to keep close contact with actors outside academia. As part of this, 5 tailored and facilitated workshops was held. In these meetings research issues was in focus, and communicated through interesting discussions between researchers and staff in various disciplines. Annual international partner meeting was held for all the researchers in the 4 work packages. The final conference for RELEASE was arranged in collaboration with the international conference for the 30th anniversary of "Our common future", Oslo, autumn 2017.

Prosjektet har bidratt med ny kunnskap om hvordan man kan vurdere bærekraft på ulike nivå, og utviklet en bærekraftmodell som kan brukes nasjonalt. I tillegg har vi bidratt med ulike narrativer om bærekraft, basert på forskningsbasert kunnskap. Prosjekt har ført til viktig kunnskap om hvordan politisk usikre rammevilkår påvirker investeringer i vindkraft og vannkraft i Norge. Når det gjelder lokale, samfunnsmessige konsekvenser av fornybar energiutbygging, har prosjektet bidratt med kunnskap om hvordan eierskap vurderes. Kunnskapen prosjektet har bidratt med ang. restaurering av steintipper vil være viktig for senere arbeider, og metoder utviklet i prosjektet vil kunne predikere hvordan utfallet av restaurering i fremtiden vil være. I tillegg til de vitenskaplige virkningene av prosjektet, har det blitt dannet nye nettverk og faglige relasjoner av stor betydning.

Meeting the EU's and Norway's ambitious renewable energy targets will have significant local consequences. Policymakers must make decisions that balance the consequences for the economy, the society, and the environment. RELEASE develops knowledge that as sists them in such decision-making, while simultaneously providing new theoretical and empirical contributions to real options theory, social theory, restoration ecology, and local sustainable development. We choose the concept of sustainable development as our theoretical point of departure. The concept is often interpreted as consisting of three dimensions that should be balanced: economic, social, and environmental. Broadly speaking, these dimensions capture the aspirations for improved welfare, just distribution of welfare, and for leaving future generations with an unchanged natural resource base. Applied to local impacts of renewable energy projects, these dimensions can be interpreted as the aspirations to create economic value locally, to balance between local stakeholders these projects' social impacts, and to mitigate local environmental impacts. We have for each of sustainable development's three dimensions selected a research area in which Sogn and Fjordane University College has a professio nal record of accomplishment. We use real options theory to study how uncertainty concerning future energy policies affects what kinds of projects are developed and how they are organized and financed. We use restoration ecology to examine how degraded, d amaged, or destroyed ecosystems can be recovered and whether such negative impacts vary systematically across project and investor types. Finally, we use social theory to study the distributional consequences - including both economic and environmental im pacts - of different projects and ownership models, and how these distributional consequences affect the projects' social acceptance.

Publications from Cristin

Funding scheme:

SHP-Strategiske høgskoleprogram