Will local residents welcome wind turbines and solar farms in their backyard?

Solcelleanlæg på 340 hektar omkranser landsbyen Hjolderup vest for Aabenraa, tirsdag den 21. februar 2023. Landsbyen Hjolderup består af 12 husstande. Solcelleparken på 300 MW bliver Nordeuropas største og bygges af danske European Energy.. (Foto: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix)


Several studies indicate that the general population supports the green energy transition. However, local opposition could delay or even obstruct some projects. This has led to proposals for more and better public involvement, for example from Green Power Denmark and CONCITO.

Several studies indicate that the general population supports the green energy transition. However, local opposition could delay or even obstruct some projects. This has led to proposals for more and better public involvement, for example from Green Power Denmark and CONCITO.

At the current rate, the deployment of wind turbines and solar farms will not meet the 2030 targets. According to the Danish Energy Agency’s climate status and outlook report from 2023, not one single onshore wind turbine will be set up in Denmark in 2023 and 2024. This is despite a political agreement on green power and heating in June 2022 to quadruple onshore wind and solar energy capacity up to 2030. Local opposition to onshore and nearshore energy installations risks delaying electrification of Danish energy consumption.

Four recommendations for public involvement from Green Power Denmark

Green Power Denmark has proposed a number of recommendations for how to ensure local support for green energy. According to Green Power Denmark, we have to think outside the box when ensuring local support if we are to secure a rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

More specifically, Green Power Denmark proposes that municipalities be given more leeway when spending funds from the so-called green pool. Municipalities receive green pool funds as a lump sum in connection with the launch of new renewable-energy projects. Greater spending freedom will mean that municipalities are better able to apply the funds where they yield the best benefits.

Green Power Denmark also proposes allowing residents to buy the electricity produced in their backyard at a cheaper price than other consumers. Revising the supply obligation will give producers and electricity companies greater flexibility to offer favourable local electricity deals. Today, the supply obligation means that all electricity customers must be able to buy the same electricity product. Electricity companies are therefore prevented from offering special deals to only some customers. Green Power Denmark believes that the existing supply obligation for electricity companies should be replaced by a more flexible scheme allowing them to offer cheap electricity to neighbours of renewable energy installations.

Finally, Green Power Denmark recommends that more municipalities set up local climate councils. Involving randomly selected representatives from the local community from the onset of a project can help foster representative and reasoned dialogue about local green energy projects. According to Green Power Denmark, local climate councils could secure representative and informed dialogue and cooperation between local communities, politicians and developers.

Joint recommendations from CONCITO, DeltagerDanmark and the Danish Board of Technology

In its joint statement on 8 March 2023 in the online news media Altinget, CONCITO, DeltagerDanmark and the Danish Board of Technology also point to local partnerships as a new and more efficient means of ensuring local support for renewable energy projects.

The three think tanks praise the Danish Government for taking an important step in this direction with the establishment of a partnership (“Sammen om klimaet“, partnership for climate) to support accelerated climate action across government, business and civil society.

According to the think tanks, the partnership must resolve the difficult challenge of facilitating a dialogue and decision-making process that takes account of local interests and needs, and leads to robust solutions. This approach will ensure that administrations and politicians have a deeper understanding of local needs and public demand in general, while citizens and stakeholders gain insight into the priorities needed to achieve the political objectives.

The think tanks recommend that the partnership develop new models for co-ownership, so as to ensure a better distribution of the financial benefits from renewable energy projects. Co-ownership could also strengthen the sense of community and help finance nature projects in the local area. 

The think tanks believe the new partnership should have a national track as well as several local partnership tracks that bring together relevant local players on the basis of tested methods for public and stakeholder engagement. This will allow central government to initially prioritise the geographical areas with the greatest potential. 

10-15 large onshore energy farms on the way

The obvious place to start testing new methods for local involvement is in the areas where the Government is considering placing 10-15 large onshore wind and solar projects, the so-called onshore energy islands.

In the last half of 2022, municipalities were invited to submit proposals for areas to be included in a screening by the Government of areas suitable for energy farms to address the need for onshore renewable energy deployment up to 2030. The results of the screening are still pending. However, the media has reported that some of the areas considered for solar panel installations in the screening are as large as all of the existing solar panel capacity combined.

The areas that end up being selected could therefore be significantly larger than any existing area with renewable energy installations. The screening process therefore presents an opportunity to develop and test new approaches. Any successful processes to ensure social approval could be significant for the rate and success of spatial planning, as well as for attractive investment cases for energy installations and infrastructure.