Study title
Future Energy Policy: The acceptance of alternative electricity supply
Ref study 12017
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Network analysis
  • Citizens
  • Renewable energy
  • energy policy
  • social acceptance
  • political elite
  • Factorial survey design
  • Alternative energy
December 2014-February 2019
Geographical space
  • Switzerland
The nuclear phasing out and promoted energy turnaround (Energiewende) could constitute a major driver for renewable energy projects. Increasing the share of renewable energy is seen as indispensable to solve the energy supply dilemma. This new orientation faces various challenges not only on a technical, but also on a political level. We argue that the governmental decision as such does not automatically induce energy turnaround. In order to make change happen, renewable energy projects and innovative policy instruments enhancing them have to be accepted and realized at the regional and local level.
Economists typically argue that incentive based instruments (e.g., green taxes) linked to regulatory measures are most effective to limit energy use and to promote renewable energies (Thalmann 2004). But this type of proposals is particularly difficult to implement, given that political and institutional aspects (e.g., attitudes of political actors and voters, existing regulations on various levels especially regarding the grid) create “lock-in” situations that hinder the diffusion of renewable energy (Stadelmann-Steffen 2011; Knill & Lenschow 2005). Several regional and local initiatives explicitly promoting renewable energies have failed making for instance the typical dilemma between renewables and environmental protection evident.
The overarching question arises as to how effective policy change towards renewable energy can be achieved. In this vein, we start with the idea that effective policy change leading to the realization of regional and local renewable energy projects can be determined by assessing different aspects of “social acceptance” (Wüstenhagen et al. 2007). We argue that – besides technology acceptance by the market – the acceptance of policies and instrument mixes is a crucial pre-condition for project success. So we concentrate on the acceptance of policies and instrument mixes (e.g., regulatory and incentive measures) by (1) the political elite involved in energy policy decision-making (socio-political acceptance) and by (2) citizens as expressed through their vote or other political intervention (community acceptance). Empirically, and via a comparative case study, social network analysis, and experimental survey design, we assess the promotion of alternative electricity from renewable sources (solar, wind, geothermal and small scale hydro power) and ask:
1. Where, when and why have renewable electricity projects failed or succeeded in the past?
2. What current policy drivers (e.g., public attention, actors’ networks, pressure from landscape protection) impact the socio-political acceptance of innovative instrument mixes on the regional and local level?
3. How to conceive prospective policy designs and instrument mixes that enhance community acceptance and citizen’s preferences in favor of regional and local renewable electricity projects?
Methods (description)
Workpackage I: The retrospective analysis of WPI will be based on three methods: (1) In-depth literature review and meta-analysis of existing studies and evaluations (especially those of the two national pro-grams “Energie 2000” and “Energie Schweiz”); (2) expert interviews with stakeholders (energy agencies, power companies, NGO’s; see advisory board); (3) descriptive statistics (gathered through KEV database or national energy networks) about geographical distribution of renewable electricity projects (wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro power) that have succeeded or failed. Success is measured by the number of re-alized facilities and the amount of electricity produced by these facilities. A project has failed when it was abandoned by the responsible entities or if its realization was severely delayed.

Workpackage II: Using a comparative case study design, 2-3 projects per electricity sector over a period of one decade are analyzed. One promising approach to identify actors (process stream), their beliefs and preferred measures (process and policy stream) in such projects is discourse network analysis (DNA; Leifeld 2013). Through longitudinal observation of the discourse in the media (articles) and political arena (statements and written consultation answers); DNA allows for the identification of change in so-called discourse coalitions; but also within the discourse itself. Through interviews with actors involved in the respective cases (see process stream), the acceptance of current instrument mixes will be assessed. DNA results reflected with survey-gathered collaboration networks will give further information about power structures and actors’ centrality in regional and local decision-making.

Workpackage III: As an innovative element of our project we suggest a factorial survey design using “vignettes” for creating particular situations (i.e. hypothetical policy proposals). Such a designs confronts respondents with varying and randomly assigned project scenarios and can then be used to evaluate constellations under which citizens or groups of citizens accept or reject electricity policies (Beck & Opp 2001; see also Steiner & Atzmüller 2006). The survey will be conducted based on a representative sample drawn from the "Stichprobenrahmen für Personen- und Haushaltserhebungen" (OFS).
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 10.02.2020
Date modified 18.03.2020
Start - End date 01.12.2014 - 28.02.2019