- Research Article
- Open Access
The social dimension in energy landscapes
© The Author(s) 2018
- Received: 30 July 2018
- Accepted: 17 September 2018
- Published: 1 October 2018
If, nowadays, the Communities’ welfare lies in new expressions of collaboration between different types of subjects for the achievement of common objectives, cultural consensus becomes the collective transformation tool to promote regeneration interventions of life contexts encouraged by new social innovation ideas such as products, services and models. This research considers five aspects of the social dimension to define energy systems location and their acceptability. In particular: social equity: as a fair distribution of costs and risks throughout society; spatial equity: as a fair distribution of risks and costs throughout the territory; intergenerational equity: as a proper assessment of the risks that would entail current locations for future generations; procedural equity: when the location decisions and the same decision making process are perceived as legitimate by all concerned; equity structural: when the localization process involves all aspects and interests, leaving no one out for their approaches (Murphy and Stanley 2006). In relation to the analyzed aspects, this study suggests a point of view on the role of reasoning and interpreting the social activity of individuals in relation to bottom-up decision-making processes for the formation of cultural consensus when changes in the usual life and environmental contexts occur.
When considering renewable sources energy systems related to the social dimension, we face a paradox: renewables are essential to combat pollution from traditional energy sources, but a problem emerges when it comes to plants location (especially with incinerators, biomass plants and wind turbines). All communities derive benefits from the existence of a renewable energy system while the negative externalities are transferred only to the community hosting the facility. The NIMBY (Not In My Backyard)19 or LULU (Locally Unwanted Land Use)20 phenomena arise and lead us to think about the disputes on the localization projects.21
Analogously, a research by Laurent-Lucchetti and Leroux,22 states that the opposition reaction to localization projects by local actors is determined by the perception of their unfairness (inequity perception): benefits for society as a whole and costs focused on the local community.
When analyzing the principle of equity, as assumed in the concept of sustainable development, that ensures the proper distribution of burdens and benefits of each policy and in each sector over time and space, some considerations have to be done on a local, regional, national or global scale and evaluating a time frame.
Social equity: a fair distribution of costs and risks throughout society;
Spatial equity: a fair distribution of risks and costs throughout the territory;
Intergenerational equity: a fair assessment of the risks that would entail current locations for future generations;
Procedural equity: location decisions and the same decision making process are perceived as legitimate by all concerned communities;
Structural equity: when the localization process involves all aspects and interests.
Social equity, along with precautionary and subsidiarity principles,24 is one of the basic principles of sustainable development and Agenda 21. It places human beings (as part of a society) as center of concerns (communities, the relationship between them or individuals). The balance in society is governed by rules relating to forms of fair trade. We achieve an equitable relationship when the same distribution of costs and benefits is perceived. When instabilities are perceived, these can be considered as risks related to the location of an ES in a specific area (NIMBY phenomena).
The spatial equity diverging from social equity focuses on the territory. It can be interpreted by using the concept of space25 as a dimension in relation to location choices, to the configuration of territorial systems, the greater or lesser development of an area and the distribution of activities in space. It highlights the factors that influence the system location choices, through the distribution of activities in space and the various local communities. When the resident community has the perception of a loss of control over the area of influence of an ES, LULU phenomena are likely to arise, highlighting the existence of conflicts related to the perception of the loss of identity of an area and of the origination of non-places in highly recognizable contexts.
The intergenerational equity assumes that the environment belongs to everyone and everyone should enjoy equally its resources for a better life quality. An equity in the distribution and potential uses of the resources and services generated by the ES between present and future generations.
The procedural equity proposes fair rules and equality of opportunity for all members of a community that have the opportunity to achieve a satisfactory project. It’s connected to the procedures with which communities come to an agreement and to the interaction and communication system developed during the decision-making process. The evaluation criteria may include: the use of objective information during the decision-making process, the use of neutral third parties, the fair exchange of information and the consistency of decisions over time (Steg et al. 2013).
The structural equity considers that during the localization process, broader societal contexts and policies (e.g. energy/waste policies, power position of stakeholders) that may unfairly impinge particular stakeholder groups must be acknowledged and addressed during the siting process (Murphy and Kuhn 2006). Structural equity is achieved when the localization process involves all aspects and all interests of the communities in the area of influence of the ES.
On the basis of the well-known, study cases of Gussing26 (Koch et al. 2006) and Dardesheim,27 the reference scenario demonstrates how the use of renewable energy systems, creates opportunities for democratic energy development and for the formation of cultural consensus, that, settles in time and becomes part of a communities’ life style, to achieve the fulfillment of equity principles.
Social equity is given by the “Energy plus” residential units in which each citizen has the same distribution of costs and benefits; by participation in decision-making processes with bottom-up initiatives accepted by the Municipality; by the integration and diversity enhancement through the financing of social housing and cultural and symbolic initiatives.
The spatial equity is given by urban gardening that assembles the territorial system through a distribution of activities in spaces.
The intergenerational equity is granted by a sustainable mobility policy for the reduction of CO2 emissions; by the protection of the historical center; by the promotion of “anti-sprawl” urban initiatives; energy savings; the enhancement of open spaces.
The procedural equity is formalized through the urban plan of the Vauban district that achieves the objectives of a community-driven neighborhood with zero emissions. The planning process is divided into several phases. It starts with the definition, by the planning office, of a structure scheme, then the proposal is discussed within the City Council, then with the citizenship. At this point the “Vauban Forum” is established: for a permanent monitoring between the Administration and inhabitants. The records of the town meetings provide insight into the planning scheme and draw up guidelines on transport, environment and energy. This set of options is actualized in the final master plan.
Another strongly representative example of the satisfaction of all the above mentioned equity conditions is the Italian Municipality of Prato allo Stelvio.
Prato allo Stelvio, a town of 3200 inhabitants located in the Alta Val Venosta (Bz), implemented a mix of different technologies29 through which it manages to cover with local and renewable resources the entire energy needs of its population.
The driving force behind the Prato allo Stelvio model is the local social Cooperative, E-Werk Prad, founded in 1926, that manages all the electricity distribution services, heating and recently also of those of broadband telecommunications through optical fibers. The cooperative owns the electrical and heating network and operates 17 renewable plants that fuel them and that are able to cover the entire municipality energy needs.
Social equity is given by the fact that almost all the inhabitants of the municipality are members of the Cooperative that counts 1148 members that consume 85% of the produced energy, involving almost all the families of Prato and the Municipality itself. The citizen is at the same time user, consumer and shareholder of the company that provides the service.
The spatial equity, placing its focus on the territory, considers the small size of the hydropower stations and their housing in low buildings with a wooden roof. In addition, in the occasion of the district heating systems undergrounding, power lines were also installed underground allowing the consequent elimination of the airlines and their infrastructures.
The intergenerational equity is given by the system created in Prato allo Stelvio itself. In fact it allows fairness in the distribution and in ES resources and services potential uses among past, present and future generations. In addition, the project, to improve the plants management efficiency in connection to the variability of demand and production from renewable sources, plans to build an energy storage in one of the hydroelectric plants (with a drop of 840 m) through a pumping station.
The procedural equity is demonstrated by active participation in decisions by the entire community, i.e. all members of the Cooperative. The general shareholders’ meeting, in which members vote general orientation and choices, is held every year.30
However, the equity principle is not, always, fulfilled. “In Italy the development of energy, road and waste treatment infrastructures, continue to encounter difficulties and delays for politics-based, popular, environmental and bureaucratic oppositions causing growth slowdown”.31 What emerges from the NIMBY Forum 2014/2015 shows that the impact on the environment (not respect of intergenerational equity) and procedural and involvement deficiencies (non-compliance with the procedural equity) are the most important reasons that cause opposition to projects. Individuals, committees, organizations, institutions and political parties, promote the protests generally. From the data obtained in 2014 by the Media Observatory, the most widespread protests turned out to be popular ones (32.3%), i.e. the bottom-up, spontaneous ones in which citizens become protagonists and driving force of events and local initiatives.
As for the data related to electricity production plants contested in 2014, the absolute evidence is the prevalence of renewable sources plants compared to conventional sources. In 2014, 139 plants for the production of electricity from renewable resources have been contested: this data represents 92% of the total value. The plants from conventional sources correspond to the remaining 8%.
This research represents a new interpretation of the concept of cultural consensus in relation to energy landscape. In fact, if the energy from RES was perceived as a source of well-being by the community, then it would create new forms of collaboration and cooperation between subjects of different nature that would find an alignment of interests to achieve a common goal. Participation becomes the tool for well-being of individuals and collective transformation, at the same time need and goal, to promote social gathering measures aimed at transformation of life contexts locally.
There are strong connections between the debate on local bottom-up development and the one on sustainable development. Concrete is the hope that local strategies can be oriented and contribute to sustainability creating new theories, approaches and tools. Innovation is not only invention and research capacity but also the ability to create new patterns of social life; it must consider what was produced (energy systems, services, etc.) but also how to produce and how to use what has been produced in the best way (processes, markets, organizations). The relationship between energy systems and landscapes assumes that we consider the concepts of development and innovation as cultural change strategies.
A combination that is able to change the planning and programming horizons thanks to the transition from centralized policies to subsidiarity, to the strengthening of democracy, cooperation, networking, partnership and participation of people, requiring holistic and synergic methods that assume the importance of diversity and unity, limits and well-being.
See Ref. Sclove (1995).
See Ref. Kleinman (2000).
See Ref. Phadke (2013).
See Ref. Cowell et al. (2011).
See Ref. Miller (2012).
A new interconnection ethics can be achieved if communities go beyond rivalries that become an obstacle to new experiments.
From the Milan Charter drafted by the “Coordination Board for the redaction of the Milan Charter”, Milano 2015.
Ministry for Agricolture, Food and Forestry Policies.Steering Committee for the EU Scientific Programme for EXPO 2015—Milan Municipality.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea.
Ministry of Health.
FAO—Food and Agriculture Organization.
President of the Steering Committee of the Participant Countries.
Expo Milano 2015.
Laboratorio Expo—Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.
We—Women for Expo.Feeding Knowledge.
Food Waste Observatory—University of Bologna.
Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition.
RES are Renewable Energy Sources. According to the IEA (International Energy Agency), renewable energy sources can be grouped into the following categories: a. Biomass, biofuels and waste: solid biomass, animal products, biomass gases/liquids, solid urban waste (renewable portion); b. Hydraulic energy: large & small hydro; c. Alternative or new sources: geothermal energy, solar energy (thermal and photovoltaics), wind energy, tides, waves and oceans energy. while, the classification according to ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development), is broader. In addition to the renewable energy sources classified by the IEA, ENEA includes among biomass, all the solid urban waste portions and the category “wood and similar”.
MSW stands for Municipal Solid Waste. These include waste generated in residential settlements and in public areas. The definition is given by the Decree. n. 152/2006, art. 184, paragraph 2 in which municipal waste is defined as: (a) household waste, as well as bulky waste, from areas used for residential purposes;
(b) non-hazardous waste from premises and sites used for different purposes than those referred to in subparagraph a), treated as municipal waste in terms of quantity and quality, in accordance with article 198, paragraph 2, letter g);
(c) waste originating from street sweeping;
(d) waste of any kind or origin, lying on public streets and areas or on private streets and areas subject to public use or on sea and lake beaches and on the waterways’ banks;
(e) vegetal waste from green areas, such as gardens, parks and cemeteries;
(f) waste from exhumation and disinterment as well as other waste from cemeteries other than those referred to in subparagraphs (b), (c) and (e).
Cfr, Italian Biomass Association (ITABIA), I traguardi della bioenergia in Italia, Rapporto 2008-elementi chiave per gli obiettivi al 2020, dibattito sui criteri di sostenibilità, formulazioni metodologiche, addenda and also: L’accettabilità sociale degli impianti a biomasse e biogas, ARPAT news n. 36, 20.02.2015—http://www.arpat.toscana.it/notizie/arpatnews.
The term NIMBY, first used in the early 80s, indicates “the protectionist attitudes and exclusionary/oppositional tactics adopted by community groups facing an unwelcome development in their neighbourhood”. (Wolch and Dear 1993).
The term LULU was coined by Frank Popper in 1981 to indicate an undesirable local land use.
The definition of Environmental Justice given by the USA Environment Protection Agency EPA- http://www.epa.gov: “Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies”. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across the nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and will have equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.
The precautionary principle states that, in cases of serious or irreversible threats to the health of humans or ecosystems, acknowledged scientific uncertainty should not be used as a reason to postpone preventive measures. The subsidiarity principle recommends the cooperation of all the legal and government bodies for the social and ecological survival and for the defense of human rights and health. It commits States to cooperate in the promotion of sustainable development in the interest of single states and of the entire international community, according to the approach of “common but differentiated responsibility".
In the spatial equity principle space is to consider as "physical-metric space" unlike social equity where space is to consider as "relational space”.
By 2001, Gussing, a small town in the Burgenland region of Austria, was energy self-sufficient, a magnet for eco-tourists, and an important industrial center due to the combination of substantial improvements in energy efficiency and deployment of renewable energy technologies. Producing biodiesel from local rapeseed and used cooking oil, and heat and power from the sun and through biomass steam gasification, the community reportedly became the first in the European Union (EU) to meet 100% of its energy demand with renewable sources. The transition started in 1992, when Gussing was a combination of poor economy, low employment and large amounts of money spent for energy imports. See for example Müller M. O. Stämpfli A. Dold U. Hammer T., Energy autarky: A conceptual framework for sustainable regional development in Energy Policy, Volume 39, Issue 10, October 2011, pp 5800–5810, Elsevier and Marcelja, D. Self-sufficient community: Vision or reality? Creating a regional renewable energy supply network (Güssing, Austria). In Local Governments and Climate Change, 39th ed.; Van Staden M, Musco F, Eds; 2010; pp 217–228.
Dardesheim is a perfect example of the potential of community power. A small rural village located in the state of Saxony Anhalt (former East Germany), since the early 1990s, it has managed to install 31 wind turbines just outside the town, which have an installed capacity of 66 MW. The town gets 100% of its energy from renewable sources such as solar wind and biomass. Only local residents are allowed to become partners, and approximately 90% of the village’s residents are involved, but the community’s investment in renewables has become a development engine for the entire region encouraging local job creation. See Ref. (Hunter and Cohen 2011).
6 technologies form the energy mix: 4 district heating plants from biomass with a total rated thermal input of 7.4 MW, 210 thermo-solar plants covering 2.200 m2, 5 mini-hydro plants with a total of 4.082 kW e 141 solar plants with a total rated input of 6.87 MW.
The underlying spirit is to work for their own welfare and to get services for their families. With a cultural consensus formed since the generation of the early 1900s that created a mindset shaped by a nearly century-old cultural background also in the new generations.
Cfr. Nimby Forum, Osservatorio Nimby Forum, 10a edizione 2014/2015, Bertello A. (a cura di), Aris-Agenzia di. Ricerche Informazione e Società; http://www.nimbyforum.it.
See for example, Rodengo Saiano biomass plant in Brescia (Italy): http://www.bsnews.it/notizia/21581/22-12-2012-Rodengo-Saiano-la-centrale-biomasse-prende-vita-e-fa-infuriare-cittadini-e-Legambiente-.
AB carried out the studies on the social dimension of energy landscapes, system fairness, bottom-up decision-making processes, on the related case studies and frequent NIMBY Phenomena. She defined the new methodology based on cultural consensus and the five aspects of equity and drafted the manuscript. EG defined the methodology of the wider research on the management of the relationship between energy systems and landscape, that represents the basis of this manuscript. She analyzed multifunctionality related to space connected to the spatial equity concept and participated in the sequence alignment. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Availability of data and materials
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
- Abramsky K (2010) Sparking a worldwide energy revolution: social struggles in the transition to a post-petrol world. AK Press, OaklandGoogle Scholar
- Armour AM (1991) The Siting of Locally Unwanted Land Uses: Towards a Cooperative Approach. In: Progress in Planning, vol 35View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Brovarone F, Putilli M (2008) Territorialità, sostenibilità, rappresentazioni: i paesaggi energetici. Agribusiness Paesaggio & Ambiente, vol 11. Forum, UdineGoogle Scholar
- Caramis A (2010) Le energie rinnovabili tra obiettivi globali e opposizioni locali: una valutazione retrospettiva. In: Energia Ambiente e Innovazione, 3Google Scholar
- Cowell R, Bristow G, Munday M (2011) Acceptance, acceptability and environmental justice: the role of community benefits in wind energy development. J Environ Plann Manage 54(4):539–557View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Devine-Wright P, Batel S (2017) My neighbourhood, my country or my planet? The influence of multiple place attachments and climate change concern on social acceptance of energy infrastructure. Global Environ Change 47:110–120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.08.003 View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Di Giovanni E (2000) Nuove complementarietà tra uomo e ambiente. Franco Angeli, MilanoGoogle Scholar
- Dincer I, Rosen MA (2007) Exergy, energy, environment and sustainable development. Elsevier, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Edwards P, Bowker G, Jackson S, Williams R (2009) Introduction: an agenda for infrastructure studies. J Assoc Inf Syst 10(5):364–374Google Scholar
- EEA—European Environment Agency, Energy and environment report 2008, Report No 6/2008Google Scholar
- EEA—European Environment Agency, Renewable energies: success stories, Office for Official Publications of the EU Communities, Copenaghen, 2001, Environmental issue report No 27Google Scholar
- Elliot D (2003) Energy, society and environment. Taylor & Francis Group, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Farina A (2006) Il paesaggio cognitivo. Una nuova entità ecologica, MilanoGoogle Scholar
- Friedl C, Reichl J (2016) Realizing energy infrastructure projects—a qualitative empirical analysis of local practices to address social acceptance. Energy Policy 89:184–193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2015.11.027 View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Fusco Girard L (2011) Sviluppo e tutela dell’ambiente per la costruzione della “vita buona” nella città del XXI secolo. In: Ricerca n 7/8. Bimestrale Federazione Universitaria Cattolica Italiana, pp 3–6Google Scholar
- Fusco Girard L, Nijkamp P (2004) Energia, bellezza, partecipazione: la sfida della sostenibilità: valutazioni integrate tra conservazione e sviluppo. Franco Angeli, MilanoGoogle Scholar
- Fusco Girard L, Salzano I (2005) La promozione delle energie rinnovabili nello sviluppo urbano, vol 29. AEIT, Milano, pp 28–37Google Scholar
- Ginelli E, Daglio L (2014) Energyscapes: developing a multiscalar systemic approach to assess the environmental, social and economic impact of renewable energy systems on landscape. In: Proceedings of the 2nd ICAUD International Conference in Architecture and Urban Design. Epoka University, Tirana, pp 152/1-152/8Google Scholar
- Ginelli E, Daglio L (2014b) Relationship between energy systems and landscape. Guidelines and tools for design and management, vol 8. TECHNE, BolognaGoogle Scholar
- Ginelli E, Daglio L (2015) A multidimensional analysis to manage the relation between energy and landscape. In: The Fifteenth International Conference on Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Computing, Prague. Edit in CIVIL-COMP PRESS. http://civil-comp.com/conf/conf2015/cc2015.htm. Accessed 1 Sept 2015
- Huber N, Hergert R, Price B et al (2017) Renewable energy sources: conflicts and opportunities in a changing landscape. Reg Environ Change 17:1241. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-1098-9 View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Hunter Lovins L, Cohen B (2011) Climate capitalism: capitalism in the age of climate change. Hill and Wang a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Kaygusuz K (2007) Energy for sustainable development: key issues and challenges. Energy Sources Part B 2(1):73–83View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Kellet J (2007) Community-based energy policy: a practical approach to carbon reduction. J Environ Plann Manage 50(3):381–396View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Kleinman DL (2000) Sci Technol Environ. Suny Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Koch R, Brunner C, Hacker J, Urschik A, Sabara D, Hotwagner M, Aichernich C, Hofbauer HWR, Fercher E (2006) Energieautarker Bezirk Güssing. Vienna, Bundesministerium für Verkehr Innovation und Technologie (In German) Google Scholar
- Laurent-Lucchetti J, Leroux J (2007) Why me? Siting a locally unwanted public good. In: Cahier de recherche n. IEA-07-14. HEC Montreal, MontrealGoogle Scholar
- Mallett A (2007) Social acceptance of renewable energy innovations: the role of technology cooperation in urban Mexico. Energy Policy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2006.12.008 View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Marchigiani E, Prestamburgo (a cura di) S (2010) Energie rinnovabili e paesaggi: strategie e progetti per la valorizzazione delle risorse territoriali. Franco Angeli, MilanoGoogle Scholar
- Marchigiani E, Prestamburgo S (2012) Energie rinnovabili e paesaggi. Franco Angeli, MilanoGoogle Scholar
- Melis B (2010) Smart energy in Social Energy: to overcome isolation. Create a knowledge network through technological innovation to connect building and neighborhood, user and society. In: Inhabiting the future… after Copenhagen, Giornata internazionale di studi. Clean, NapoliGoogle Scholar
- Miller, C. (2012) Energy justice: ensuring human dignity in the post-carbon future. Cairo Review of Global Affairs, May: 46–59Google Scholar
- Murphy BL, Kuhn RG (2006) Scaling environment justice: the case of the waste isolation pilot plant. In: proceedings of values in decisions on risk (VALDOR), StockholmGoogle Scholar
- Phadke R (2013) Public deliberation and the geographies of wind justice. Sci Cult. https://doi.org/10.1080/09505431.2013.786997 View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Rand J, Hoen B (2017) Thirty years of North American wind energy acceptance research: what have we learned? Energy Res Soc Sci 29:135–148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2017.05.019 View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Robertson R (1992) Globalization, social theory and global culture. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Sclove R (1995) Technology and democracy. Guilford Press, New York CityGoogle Scholar
- Steg L, Van Der Berg AE, De Groot JIM (2013) Manuale di psicologia ambientale e dei comportamenti energetici. Ferrarisinibaldi Edizioni, MilanoGoogle Scholar
- Walters CJ (1986) Adaptive management of renewable resources. Collier Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Wienke U (2001) L’esempio del quartiere Vauban a Friburgo. In: Living Land n 10. Salute e Architettura Editore, TorinoGoogle Scholar
- Wolch J, Dear M (1993) Malign neglect: homelessness in an American city. Jossey Bass, San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
- Wolsink M (2007a) Planning on renewables schemes: deliberative and fair decision-making on landscape issues instead of reproachful accusations of non-cooperation. Energy Policy 35(5):2692–2704View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Wolsink M (2007b) Wind power implementation: the nature of public attitudes: equity and fairness instead of ‘backyard motives’. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 11:1188–1207View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Wüstenhagen R, Wolsink M, Bürer MJ (2007) Social acceptance of renewable energy innovation: an introduction to the concept. Energy Policy 35(5):2683–2691View ArticleGoogle Scholar