The University of Groningen (UG) has conducted research into Groningers' views on the energy transition. A total of 1142 inhabitants of the province of Groningen participated in the study. The vast majority is convinced that human activity is a major cause of climate change and that climate change will have negative consequences. Most participants believe that replacing fossil fuels with sustainable energy is necessary to combat climate change, and they want to play a role in this themselves. Groningers also want to be involved in the decision-making process regarding energy transition in the local area.
In November and December 2018, researchers Dr Goda Perlaviciute and Dr Lorenzo Squintani of the Faculties of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Law at the UG, in collaboration with a group of students, asked residents in all Groningen municipalities to complete a questionnaire. Goda Perlaviciute: ‘We were looking for a diverse range of respondents in terms of age, educational level and income. The 1142 participants are a good reflection of the province’s population. We would like to thank them for their participation. The results provide important insights into what people in Groningen think about the energy transition.’
The vast majority of participants are convinced that climate change exists, that human activity is a major cause of climate change, and that climate change will have negative consequences. A small minority do not believe in climate change or the human causes thereof, or do not expect climate change to have a negative impact. There is broad consensus among the participants that replacing fossil energy with non-fossil energy sources (sun, wind, geothermal) is necessary to combat climate change. However, people are more divided about whether this transition will actually be enough to meet energy needs. In general, Groningers want to reduce their own energy consumption and switch from fossil to non-fossil energy. But people also doubt whether reducing their own energy consumption and using renewable energy will have much of an impact in the fight against climate change.
Groningers are reasonably accepting of renewable energy sources. This applies in particular to solar panels on roofs, followed by offshore wind turbines, solar farms, geothermal energy, biomass, and to a lesser extent onshore wind turbines. On the whole, nuclear energy is viewed as being unacceptable. Most Groningers also accept that natural gas consumption (in general and individuals’ own use) must be reduced and that natural gas needs to be replaced with non-fossil energy sources.
Participants are most positive about the impact of land-based wind energy generation on the climate, environment and for future generations. On average, they are more negative about local and/or personal consequences, such as for the nature and countryside, the value of houses, and the appeal of the neighbourhood. Groningers find wind turbines more acceptable when they are installed on industrial estates or along infrastructure; they generally find them unacceptable when placed near villages and cities and in nature reserves. It would seem that Groningers tend to be more accepting of onshore wind turbines if certain conditions are met, for example, if residents can make direct use of the clean energy, if the costs and benefits are distributed fairly, and if they are personally involved in the decision-making process. Only a minority responded that onshore wind turbines are never acceptable.
Dr Goda Perlaviciute: ‘Our findings show that, in general, Groningers have no strong negative or positive feelings when it comes to the issue of onshore wind turbines. However, some individuals have stronger opinions regarding wind turbines in their own neighbourhood.’
The results show that Groningers would like to be involved in policy- and decision-making processes for specific projects in their area, and more involved in decision-making at local level than at regional and national level. The study also shows that public participation in various phases and in various forms is generally considered desirable, but that people have the impression that they are hardly involved in those processes at the moment.
Dr Lorenzo Squintani: ‘This suggests that there is a discrepancy between what people expect from participation and their actual experience thereof. This raises important questions about how people can be better involved in the decision-making process for the energy transition in the province of Groningen.’
Information about the research project, including the results, has been published on the website.
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