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Survey on the energy transition: the public wants to play a greater role in planning power plants

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The Swiss public clearly said “yes” to the government’s Energy Strategy 2050. However, many people are sceptical when it comes to selecting potential locations, for example for wind farms. In twelve municipalities north-east of Bern, WSL researchers have investigated how local people envisage implementing the energy transition in the immediate area around where they live.


The geographer Stefanie Müller conducted a survey to find out from the people living in the region how satisfied they are with their involvement in the planning of renewable energy plants. In addition, Stefanie wanted to find out how the public imagine the installation of plants for producing renewable energy would change the area where they live. She took a new approach and asked those affected to use a so-called Geographical Information System (GIS) and to mark on sections of digital maps where wind turbines could potentially be located. They also had to explain why they thought wind energy should not be generated in particular places.

A total of 530 people took part in the survey. A large majority said they could imagine, for example, finding sites for wind turbines in their local area, but thought it essential to allow those affected to play a more active role than previously in the local planning process. For example, they should be involved in the selection of the type of renewable energy source, the production site and the concrete design of the plants.

If public opinion were to be taken into account more in the implementation of the new Energy Strategy locally, this would call into question existing processes in politics and the administration. Involving local citizens to a greater extent and earlier, however, would increase the chances that renewable energy sources will not be perceived in the future as an unwanted intrusion in the immediate area around where they live, but rather as part of it.
(Reinhard Lässig, Diagonal 2/19)

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