2.1 rising global energy demands, led renewable

2.1 IntroductionThischapter will examine critically the key theories which underpin thisdissertation, initially reviewing research into the social acceptance ofrenewable energy infrastructure, before discussing research into place-basedfactors affecting social acceptance. This discussion reveals a gap in currentresearch, which is addressed by this chapters third sub-section which outlines3 socio-demographic factors; age, annual income, and education level, and theirpotential impact upon social acceptance which is likely missed in current placebased research. This chapter concludes in drawing together its findings, whichinform its research questions.

2.2Social Acceptance and InfrastructureThesocial acceptance of planning proposals is a historic and persistent issuewithin planning, caused by the array of value judgements placed upon a projectfrom various stakeholders who ultimately must all share the built environment.Social acceptance has, over time, become increasingly significant within thefields of geography and planning as they have moved to more fully integratepublic consultation. This is particularly apparent regarding infrastructuredevelopments, and controversial developments such as High Speed Two (Crompton,2015). Of specific interest to this paper however is the social acceptance of renewableenergy infrastructure such as wind turbines, nuclear power, solar arrays andenergy from waste plants. Climatechange has an extensive array of literature originating in the 1960s, becomingprominent in the late twentieth century as the concept was discovered to be onewith accelerating and catastrophic consequences (Kintisch, 2009). Climatechange and the resulting need for a transition to a post carbon energy systemto combat it, combined with rising global energy demands, led renewable energy infrastructureto become one of the largest areas of planning and construction worldwide(Condon, 2010).

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The negative externalities and required land volumes for suchdevelopments has led to widespread opposition against such renewable energyinfrastructure. Researching opposition is important when attempting to combatit, as findings can be used to inform and modify future development proposals,promoting a better chance of public acceptance and success. Research intosocial acceptance became increasingly important in the late twentieth century,as opposition towards renewable energy infrastructure began to form a”restriction in the ability to meet renewable energy and greenhouse gas reductiontargets” (Eltham et al., 2008). Thisbrought the social acceptability of renewable energy infrastructure into a moreintense focus than ever before, which has continued into the present day.

Thesocial acceptance of a renewable energy infrastructure project can be definedas the extent to which it is accepted by the public and other stakeholders inits current format, be it constructed, in construction, or proposed, covering factorsrelating to both acceptance and opposition (Guo and Ren, 2017). Initialresearch focussed heavily upon the oppositional dimension of social acceptance.Burningham et al.

(2006) state that NIMBY, not in my back yard, has been themajor focus of such research. NIMBY they state is a concept encompassing selfishand privately motivated opposition towards developments within an individual’slocality, which they may support if it were located elsewhere. The term isutilised with a pejorative tinge due to this perceived hypocrisy. Hirsch andSovacool (2013) have shown a variety of negative externalities including;reduced property values, localised visual blight, and noise pollution can bemotivations for such opposition. Whilst this initial research explained a greatdeal of local opposition, it failed to explain factors producing acceptancetowards such proposals (Takahashi, 1998), furthermore much opposition alsooriginated from factors outside selfish private motivations, as Boudet (2011) highlightsthrough the concepts of NIABY, not in anyone’s back yard, and BANANA, buildabsolutely nothing anywhere near anything. She explains these opposition typesare not produced by selfish motivations like NIMBY, but by fundamental disapprovalof proposed technologies, or wider views on land development.

Over time NIMBY wascriticised as being a term of multiplicity (Burningham et al, 2006), coming toembody general opposition to development rather than the more selfish motivesit once represented. A lack of research into the acceptability dimension ofsocial acceptance, and the failings of NIMBY to fully outline determinants of opposition,new framework models strongly linked to the social acceptance of infrastructureemerged. Wustenhagenet al.

(2007:p2686) proposed 3 major factors be placed in a social acceptance frameworkfor infrastructure; markets, socio-political and community. They state renewableenergy is a unique issue within social acceptance, due to its developments “beingrelatively small in scale, but… their siting decisions still affecting amultitude of other stakeholders”. Despite initial praise their work has facedcriticism, with opponents favouring separation of the socio-political factorinto two distinct areas, such as in the work of Sovacool and Ratan (2012). Szarka(2012) has also claimed many other factors, acting at personal level, such asawareness of technology failings, strongly contribute to the social acceptanceof renewable energy infrastructure. The phenomenon of social acceptance iscomplex, formed by a variety of factors when regarding renewable energyinfrastructure. Devine-Wright et al.

(2015), further elaborated upon suchframeworks with their application of social representation theory, a conceptaiding the understanding of how knowledge is created, transformed and contestedby social groups (Howarth, 2006). Devine-Wright et al (2015) claim this conceptis critical to understanding responses and social acceptance to the changefaced by individuals impacted by infrastructure development. However,Devine-Wright et al. (2017:1) highlight the distinct lack of framework models”combining market, socio-political and community aspects” and admits currentanalyses are still ‘skewed’ by a desire to understand NIMBY, meaning they are heavilyskewed towards understanding opposition alone.

This in part led to a break awayfrom framework models, into analysis of distinct place based factors.2.3 Place Basedfactors influencing the social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructureThedominant body of research into the social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructurehas focussed upon place based factors.

Such factors relate to the physicalenvironment of an area impacted by development, or the physical nature of thedevelopment itself. These factors were included secondarily in some frameworkmodels, such as that by Wustenhagen et al. (2007), however are a specific areaof emergent research from such frameworks. Place based factors in particulargain prominent attention due to their ties between the historical NIMBY conceptand siting issues, but also due to the concrete nature of such factors facilitatinglogical and empirical research. Krauseet al. (2014) argued that proximity was one place based factor impacting socialacceptance. They outlined how residents within proximity of development will bethose most likely to be in opposition, because of fear that they will bear adisproportionate level of any negative externalities from the development.

Beingin proximity of such a facility, Sovacool and Ratan (2012) state, would likelylead to higher noise pollution, visual blight, and property value losses notsuffered by those non-local to the site. Proximity, Jones and Eiser (2010) thereforecontend, is why UK residents have demonstrated lower social acceptance towardson-shore wind developments, compared to off-shore wind, as such developmentsare in potential proximity to residents, and viewed as ‘in-sight’. Inresponse to initial proposals that being ‘in-sight’ may impact socialacceptance, an array of place based research into this factor has taken morenuanced approaches. Visual amenity, Wolsink (2007: 1188) states, is “by far thedominant factor” explaining opposition. He states that in landscapes wheredevelopment will become the most prominent landscape feature, residents oftenshow lower levels of social acceptance, viewing such developments as out ofkeeping with surroundings, or due to fears of aesthetic ‘dominancy’ beingextrapolated onto other potential impacts such as noise pollution, which they resultantlyperceive will be overwhelming. The in-sight factor is particularly relevant forwind and solar power, which by their very nature must be sited in highlyvisible areas often with minimal former development (Thayer and Freeman, 1987).

The colour, size, and shape of such developments can also impact their socialacceptance (Devine-Wright, 2005). Visual amenity is therefore a place basedfactor seen to hold great power in influencing social acceptance.Developmentscale is another key place based factor found to impact social acceptance. Leeet al. (1989) proposed a bell shaped’favourability gradient’ for the scale of renewable energy infrastructure, withextreme and micro scale developments being least favourable. Devine-Wright(2005) further investigated scale, stating the gradient found resulted fromsmall to medium sized clustered developments reducing place based impacts likereduced visual amenity within development proximity. He also states fromwind-farm research, that social acceptance is significantly higher for smaller proposals,with those containing 8 turbines or less being most ‘accepted’. Proximityhowever, is often reduced to resemble NIMBY opposition, and although NIMBY doesutilise the concept of proximity when referring to local environment, it is nowan outdated concept (Burningham et al.

2006). Proximity does not, as NIMBYsuggests, alter social acceptance to installations purely via selfishmotivations. Residents living within proximity have a multitude of concernsrelating to such developments, and true NIMBY opposition, Jones and Eiser (2010)suggest, is both rare and inadequate as an explanation for opposition moregenerally. Saturationis another key place based factor impacting the social acceptance of energyinfrastructure.

D’Souza and Yiridoe (2014) argue impacts of saturation uponsocial acceptance are again due to perceived negative externalities ofdevelopments. If individuals feel they already host a saturation of negative developments(LULUs) within their community, he argues they are highly likely to opposefurther developments. This occurs as residents feel their locality is burdened unfairlywith LULUs when compared to non-local areas. LULU saturation can also lead toconcerns regarding environmental injustice, another place based factor found toimpact social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure. The EPA (2017:p1)defines environmental justice of the built and natural environment as “fairtreatment and meaningful involvement of all people”. Such a saturation ofLULUs, Anguelovski (2016) argues, can be viewed asenvironmental injustice, as certain communities are burdened with subjectivelyhigher levels of negative externalities than others.

As such, to protect theirenvironment from further degradation, communities facing injustice anddiscrimination in this way are more likely to oppose further development togain environmental justice. The emotive thoughts of excessive negative externalitiesbeing placed upon one’s home, workplace, and community due to proximity, areevidently impactful upon social acceptance. Consequently, research moved tofocus upon these emotive dimensions of place.Emotionsrelating to place are another factor impacting social acceptance of renewableenergy infrastructure. Research therefore progressed to investigate place basedemotions. Devine-Wright and Clayton (2010) suggest place identity, relationsbetween place and the self, significantly impact environmental behaviour.

Theystate that if a proposal impacts an individual’s ‘dwelling space’, placing itunder threat, such a proposal is viewed as impacting upon the social backdropof daily life due to complex cognitive and social aspects of this relationshipand its importance. Resultantly, place identity can influence socialacceptance, as those with strong place identity are less accepting of proposals,when compared to those with little place identity, as they fear it will altertheir very identity and daily lives. Placeattachment, Hidalgo and Hernandez (2001: 274) argue, emerged as a componentfrom place identity that was particularly impactful upon social acceptance ofdevelopment. They define place attachment as “an affective bond… betweenindividuals and their residential environment”.

Shumaker and Taylor (1983)state this bond is overwhelmingly positive, often equating to unique feelingsabout certain places. The most crucial aspect of place attachment relating tosocial acceptance however is the “desire to maintain a certain degree ofproximity to the object of attachment” (Ainsworth and Bell, 1970:p50). Thus,place attachment may produce “pro-environmental behaviours” (Devine-Wright andClayton, 2010:p269) which can include “attempting to prevent a renewable energyproject from proceeding” (1). Attachment itself was found to significantlyimpact social acceptance, as strongly attached individuals are more likely tooppose development to maintain their emotional bond to their place ofattachment. Thus, research suggests an inverse relationship between placeattachment and social acceptance levels to proposed developments. However,place attachment has been criticised as having multiplicity of meaning(Giuliani and Feldman, 1993), as its definitional remit is unclear, as towhether it embodies terms such as environmental and community attachments.

Assuch, use of these terms and research’s understanding of them is somewhatmuddled. Place attachment has also been criticised for assuming too much aboutthe coherence of place, neglecting how social groups may view place differentlydue to a variety of socio-demographic factors (Jaskiewicz, 2015). Whilst placebased research, ranging from proximity to place attachment, can therefore explainsome variance in social acceptance towards developments, many factors impactingsocial acceptance are likely not place based, and are, as social acceptanceimplies, ‘socio’-demographic.


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