European citizens want ownership of wind and solar projects in their neighborhood
Brussels, 21th of October – A study by YouGov commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, that mapped public attitudes to wind and solar power in ten European countries, has revealed strong support for more renewable energy projects, as well as for the direct involvement of people with solar and wind energy generation.
The results underline that European citizens not only want a lot more renewable energy, but they also want greater control over it at the local level, and when they are exposed to renewable energy in their communities, they become even more supportive of it.
Dirk Vansintjan, president of REScoop.eu states that "local opposition to energy projects can be a major barrier to renewables." Experience in the REScoop.eu network shows that "energy communities are a solution to foster social acceptance for solar and wind energy projects. When people are involved in the project, or even better, when they own it so that all profits stay in the local community, acceptance and support can massively increase." Moreover, energy communities are also empowered to mitigate negative effects, for example by carefully choosing where to place windmill sites in their local area.
The study was conducted by YouGov in 10 European countries (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria) to better understand the public support for wind and solar.
Clean and local energy
Across Europe, 86% of people questioned said they would support new wind and solar projects near to where they live. 84% of people interviewed support more solar in their neighbourhood, while 70% support wind turbines being built in close proximity to where they live. Support for onshore wind farms increases even further to 76% when communities are engaged through the creation of local jobs, shared profits and ownership, and planning and nature protection consultations.
In contrast, 65% of Europeans oppose the construction of a new nuclear power station and 67% oppose a new oil- or gas-fired power plant being built near to where they live.
Renewable energy as part of the landscape
Moreover, the study reveals that support for wind and solar projects is even higher among people who already live near one in every single country. Across Europe 77% of people who live near a wind farm would support more turbines being built near to them, with 84% of those living near a solar park welcoming more panels.
A majority of people support requiring all new buildings to have solar panels in all counties (68%). The highest support for this measure was in Italy (84%), Spain (83%), Greece (77%), Bulgaria (74%), the UK (70%) and Romania (70%).
Involving citizens in the Energy Transition
Support for wind and solar increases substantially when people co-own the projects and there are local benefits (lower bills (81%) or local jobs (72%)). The study revealed the huge untapped interest in ‘energy cooperatives’ - where groups of neighbours own wind turbines or solar panels and generate their own electricity. Across Europe, 61% of those questioned said they would be likely to join an energy cooperative if one was set up in their local area. Support was highest in Romania (85%), Italy (75%), Bulgaria (75%), Poland (74%), Greece (71%) and Spain (69%).
REScoop.eu welcomes those numbers as they are in line with the potential that was calculated in a study by the University of Delft shows that half of all European Union citizens could be producing their own electricity by 2050, either individually or through an energy cooperative meeting 45% of the EU’s energy demand.
Financial support for community energy
The study not only shows that people want to be able to generate their own wind and solar electricity, it also reveals that they want the governments to provide knowledge and finance to support them.
The study shows very wide public support to governments providing more finance to community groups to generate their own energy - with very low opposition to the idea. Across Europe, 79% of those polled support this, with just 9% opposing.
Public support for more financial support for community groups looking to generate their own electricity was lowest in Germany, but even there 69% of people support the idea. The highest levels of support were in Romania (89%), Italy (88%), Spain (87%), Bulgaria (86%), Poland (84%) and Greece (84%).
Still today the majority of the energy consumption in the EU comes from fossil fuel and nuclear. We need to urgently speed up the Energy Transition. Community energy projects not only significantly cut carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuels, they also put renewable energy into the hands of people, therefore increasing social acceptance and making a 100% renewable and democratically owned energy system possible.