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The power of the people: Why managing wind power disputes by marginalizing local oppositional groups in planning processes may backfire
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Geography and Economic History.
(English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Research suggests that efforts to facilitate wind power development often include strategies that marginalize the participation of local oppositional interest groups in planning processes. The argument in this article is that such strategies are misguided as they move planning debates to less transparent, legitimate and predictable arenas, and as they potentially can impede wind power development. The argument is built through a theoretical and empirical exploration of how local oppositional interest groups, formally and informally, can participate in and influence wind power planning processes. The study shows that these groups engage in formal planning procedures when possible, but when they feel excluded from such procedures they find informal ways to bypass and influence the formal process, such as lobbying and networking. Importantly, the empirical results show that these informal activities often have a considerable scalar and spatial scope, involving the national and international engagement of other oppositional groups and of authorities that would normally not be involved in local planning processes. Through these wide-ranging activities, local disputes become part of a broader contestation of wind power, thus putting pressure on authorities to restrict wind power development not only in the local context, but potentially also on a policy level.

Keyword [en]
planning, wind power, public participation, oppositional group
Keyword [sv]
planering, vindkraft, deltagandeplanering, motståndsgrupp
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-129863OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-129863DiVA: diva2:1063317
Available from: 2017-01-09 Created: 2017-01-09 Last updated: 2017-01-11
In thesis
1. Where the Wind Blows: the socio-political geography of wind power development in Finland, Norway and Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Where the Wind Blows: the socio-political geography of wind power development in Finland, Norway and Sweden
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Där Vinden Viner : vindkraftsutbyggnadens socio-politiska geografi i Finland, Norge och Sverige
Abstract [en]

This thesis analysis the planning process for large-scale wind power development in Finland, Norway and Sweden. The aim is to explore the emerging power relations and socio-economic dynamics of the negotiation, planning and realization of this new development. The thesis employs an energy justice framework to capture the opportunities different stakeholders have to take part in and influence wind power development processes (‘procedural justice’), and how the potential benefits and burdens of wind power development are divided between stakeholders (‘distributional justice’). The study’s setup is an embedded sequential mixed methods research design, which includes analysis of policy documents, in-dept interviews, observations, as well as register based population data.

The thesis shows how power relations on both a structural level and an actor level are used to exert power and influence over the planning process for wind power development. On a structural level, the results indicate that transformations in EU directives and national planning laws and guidelines in Finland, Norway and Sweden in recent years have been more focused on speed and efficiency in planning processes than on legitimacy issues. The changes that have been implemented seem to point to diminishing opportunities for broad participation and debate in wind power planning processes, in favour of more top-down processes with a specific, sectoral focus on developing wind power. On the actor level, perceived improper behaviour by different actors within the planning process can further limit the possibilities for participation. People refrain from participating in planning processes, for instance, if they feel that they are treated disrespectfully or if there have occurred procedural errors that undermine the legitimacy of the formal planning process. However, participation in formal planning processes is not the only way to influence planning processes. There are a number of more informal channels, such as using the media or the Internet, lobbying, or rallying local support, that can and have been used by stakeholders to tap into the formal planning process to try to affect its outcomes. Such informal activities have a considerable spatial and scalar reach, the importance of which is that stakeholders utilizing such measures have the possibility to affect not only the local wind power project under debate, but also developments in other places and attitudes towards wind power more generally.

As concerns distributional issues, the results of the thesis show that the evidence of distributional inequality concerning wind power development on the national scale in Sweden is not very strong; but if such inequalities exist, there are possibilities to redistribute the benefits from wind power to those who are burdened by the developments. Distributional injustice related to wind power development is thus not an evident problem, generally speaking, in Sweden today. However, if this state is to remain, procedural aspects related to the continued development of wind power need to be kept in mind, as procedural and distributional inequalities are intimately related. Of specific concern is the need to address formal and informal procedures that marginalize stakeholder participation in planning processes, but it is equally important to also consider who is to be included in or excluded from negotiations and the distribution of local economic benefits connected to specific wind power projects.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2017. 117 p.
Series
GERUM, ISSN 1402-5205 ; 2017:1
Keyword
wind power, planning, land use, participation, power relations, energy justice, mixed methods, Finland, Norway, Sweden
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-129867 (URN)978-91-7601-643-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-01-27, S205H, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-01-13 Created: 2017-01-09 Last updated: 2017-01-11Bibliographically approved

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