Díaz, Paula & Oscar van Vliet (2018, December). Drivers and risks for renewable energy developments in mountain regions: A case of a pilot photovoltaic project in the Swiss Alps. Energy, Sustainability and Society, 8. (ePub in advance of print) (doi: 10.1186/s13705-018-0168-x)

Abstract: Background: When renewable policies are in place, the mismatch between policy targets and lack of technology diffusion indicates a gap between codifying a policy and implementing it. In Switzerland, photovoltaic (PV) electricity is seen to play a major role in the future. Stakeholders’ opinions in the implementation of photovoltaic projects may block or delay the achievement of renewable policy goals. This paper explores the question: which are the main drivers and risks perceived by stakeholders at different levels of the government in the implementation of a pilot PV project? Methods: We study a decision-making process of a pilot project in the Swiss Alps to figure out which determinants explain the public opposition to such implementation. We study five types of determinants of public acceptance: economy, technology, environment, social aspects, and the policy process. We use Q methodology, which is especially suited to determine the different interests of stakeholders’ groups. Results: Our results show four different perspectives: “Mainstream proponents,” “Ecologically wary,” “Worried about implementation,” and “Looking for cantonal and national backing.” The results indicate that the photovoltaics’ acceptance was highly driven by the potential contribution of the project to the regional economy. However, economy and technology determinants elicited both the highest and the lowest statistical consensus among perspectives (z-score). Our results point out the important role of initiators to maintain trust during the decision-making process. Finally, stakeholders in the photovoltaic project wanted to have fluent access to concrete information about the project and its future plans. Conclusions: Most of the implementation risks observed are determinants of acceptance related to economic aspects and the policy process. Characteristics of the decision-making process, such as trust during the process, affect the perceived outcomes of the project. Aspects of the decision-making process may, therefore, turn into risks for the project’s implementation. Results also suggest that techno-economic assessments are key drivers to fostering energy transitions, but they are not sufficient in themselves. Initiators have to consider enhancing communication since the early steps of the policy process, the intelligence and promotion phases to avoid implementation risks.

Paula Díaz <paula.diaz@usys.ethz.ch> is with the Climate Policy Group, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology], Zurich, Switzerland.