Energy  |  Publications  |  29.05.2012

Wind energy and justice for disadvantaged communities

How should communities benefit from wind-farm developments? Though rapid investment in large-scale, low-carbon energy infrastructure is urgent to address the twin challenges of climate change and energy security, there is a social dimension to it, and not only in terms of social acceptance. 

The Green New Deal asks for a 100% use of renewable energy by 2050 at the latest. To reach this target, large-scale investment is urgently needed, in particular in the field of wind energy infrastructure. Yet something needs to be done to prevent public opposition from delaying or derailing major energy generation schemes. Governments usually respond by reforming planning processes, to introduce centralised procedures for major schemes that are less susceptible to local challenges. Another response has been to consider ways in which communities might benefit from low-carbon energy, and encourage public support.

This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation examines community benefits from renewable energy projects in the UK, particularly wind power, but places two different concerns at the forefront of debate.

Firstly, it seeks to establish the principles of justice for requiring wind-farm developers to provide some form of benefits to communities. Viewing community benefits simply as devices for fostering social acceptance misses important issues of justice for communities living with large energy facilities.

Secondly, it examines how these benefits might be used to best serve the longterm resilience of the communities living with wind farms. Again, the emphasis on fostering social acceptance has eclipsed this question but it is vitally important; especially because much wind-farm development has taken place in rural or coastal areas suffering from economic, social and environmental disadvantage.

This report argues that:

  • urgent action is needed to ensure that investment in renewable energy infrastructure benefits the communities affected;
  • community benefit funds are one mechanism for doing this, but should redress the harms caused to communities, not just foster acceptance of a scheme;
  • redirecting a proportion of community benefits away from very localised initiatives to tackle more fundamental issues can be unpopular, but it is more widely accepted where there are greater benefits for more people;
  • introducing local policies can increase the level of community benefits that wind energy developers provide;
  • one way of translating community benefit funds from large-scale renewable energy projects into local resilience would be to channel a proportion of these funds into locally-owned renewable energy projects.




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