2.1 rising global energy demands, led renewable

2.1 Introduction

chapter will examine critically the key theories which underpin this
dissertation, initially reviewing research into the social acceptance of
renewable energy infrastructure, before discussing research into place-based
factors affecting social acceptance. This discussion reveals a gap in current
research, which is addressed by this chapters third sub-section which outlines
3 socio-demographic factors; age, annual income, and education level, and their
potential impact upon social acceptance which is likely missed in current place
based research. This chapter concludes in drawing together its findings, which
inform its research questions.

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Social Acceptance and Infrastructure

social acceptance of planning proposals is a historic and persistent issue
within planning, caused by the array of value judgements placed upon a project
from various stakeholders who ultimately must all share the built environment.
Social acceptance has, over time, become increasingly significant within the
fields of geography and planning as they have moved to more fully integrate
public consultation. This is particularly apparent regarding infrastructure
developments, and controversial developments such as High Speed Two (Crompton,
2015). Of specific interest to this paper however is the social acceptance of renewable
energy infrastructure such as wind turbines, nuclear power, solar arrays and
energy from waste plants.

change has an extensive array of literature originating in the 1960s, becoming
prominent in the late twentieth century as the concept was discovered to be one
with accelerating and catastrophic consequences (Kintisch, 2009). Climate
change and the resulting need for a transition to a post carbon energy system
to combat it, combined with rising global energy demands, led renewable energy infrastructure
to become one of the largest areas of planning and construction worldwide
(Condon, 2010). The negative externalities and required land volumes for such
developments has led to widespread opposition against such renewable energy
infrastructure. Researching opposition is important when attempting to combat
it, as findings can be used to inform and modify future development proposals,
promoting a better chance of public acceptance and success. Research into
social acceptance became increasingly important in the late twentieth century,
as opposition towards renewable energy infrastructure began to form a
“restriction in the ability to meet renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction
targets” (Eltham et al., 2008). This
brought the social acceptability of renewable energy infrastructure into a more
intense focus than ever before, which has continued into the present day.

social acceptance of a renewable energy infrastructure project can be defined
as the extent to which it is accepted by the public and other stakeholders in
its current format, be it constructed, in construction, or proposed, covering factors
relating to both acceptance and opposition (Guo and Ren, 2017). Initial
research focussed heavily upon the oppositional dimension of social acceptance.
Burningham et al. (2006) state that NIMBY, not in my back yard, has been the
major focus of such research. NIMBY they state is a concept encompassing selfish
and privately motivated opposition towards developments within an individual’s
locality, which they may support if it were located elsewhere. The term is
utilised with a pejorative tinge due to this perceived hypocrisy. Hirsch and
Sovacool (2013) have shown a variety of negative externalities including;
reduced property values, localised visual blight, and noise pollution can be
motivations for such opposition. Whilst this initial research explained a great
deal of local opposition, it failed to explain factors producing acceptance
towards such proposals (Takahashi, 1998), furthermore much opposition also
originated from factors outside selfish private motivations, as Boudet (2011) highlights
through the concepts of NIABY, not in anyone’s back yard, and BANANA, build
absolutely nothing anywhere near anything. She explains these opposition types
are not produced by selfish motivations like NIMBY, but by fundamental disapproval
of proposed technologies, or wider views on land development. Over time NIMBY was
criticised as being a term of multiplicity (Burningham et al, 2006), coming to
embody general opposition to development rather than the more selfish motives
it once represented. A lack of research into the acceptability dimension of
social acceptance, and the failings of NIMBY to fully outline determinants of opposition,
new framework models strongly linked to the social acceptance of infrastructure

et al. (2007:p2686) proposed 3 major factors be placed in a social acceptance framework
for infrastructure; markets, socio-political and community. They state renewable
energy is a unique issue within social acceptance, due to its developments “being
relatively small in scale, but… their siting decisions still affecting a
multitude of other stakeholders”. Despite initial praise their work has faced
criticism, with opponents favouring separation of the socio-political factor
into two distinct areas, such as in the work of Sovacool and Ratan (2012). Szarka
(2012) has also claimed many other factors, acting at personal level, such as
awareness of technology failings, strongly contribute to the social acceptance
of renewable energy infrastructure. The phenomenon of social acceptance is
complex, formed by a variety of factors when regarding renewable energy
infrastructure. Devine-Wright et al. (2015), further elaborated upon such
frameworks with their application of social representation theory, a concept
aiding the understanding of how knowledge is created, transformed and contested
by social groups (Howarth, 2006). Devine-Wright et al (2015) claim this concept
is critical to understanding responses and social acceptance to the change
faced by individuals impacted by infrastructure development. However,
Devine-Wright et al. (2017:1) highlight the distinct lack of framework models
“combining market, socio-political and community aspects” and admits current
analyses are still ‘skewed’ by a desire to understand NIMBY, meaning they are heavily
skewed towards understanding opposition alone. This in part led to a break away
from framework models, into analysis of distinct place based factors.

2.3 Place Based
factors influencing the social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure

dominant body of research into the social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure
has focussed upon place based factors. Such factors relate to the physical
environment of an area impacted by development, or the physical nature of the
development itself. These factors were included secondarily in some framework
models, such as that by Wustenhagen et al. (2007), however are a specific area
of emergent research from such frameworks. Place based factors in particular
gain prominent attention due to their ties between the historical NIMBY concept
and siting issues, but also due to the concrete nature of such factors facilitating
logical and empirical research.

et al. (2014) argued that proximity was one place based factor impacting social
acceptance. They outlined how residents within proximity of development will be
those most likely to be in opposition, because of fear that they will bear a
disproportionate level of any negative externalities from the development. Being
in proximity of such a facility, Sovacool and Ratan (2012) state, would likely
lead to higher noise pollution, visual blight, and property value losses not
suffered by those non-local to the site. Proximity, Jones and Eiser (2010) therefore
contend, is why UK residents have demonstrated lower social acceptance towards
on-shore wind developments, compared to off-shore wind, as such developments
are in potential proximity to residents, and viewed as ‘in-sight’.

response to initial proposals that being ‘in-sight’ may impact social
acceptance, an array of place based research into this factor has taken more
nuanced approaches. Visual amenity, Wolsink (2007: 1188) states, is “by far the
dominant factor” explaining opposition. He states that in landscapes where
development will become the most prominent landscape feature, residents often
show lower levels of social acceptance, viewing such developments as out of
keeping with surroundings, or due to fears of aesthetic ‘dominancy’ being
extrapolated onto other potential impacts such as noise pollution, which they resultantly
perceive will be overwhelming. The in-sight factor is particularly relevant for
wind and solar power, which by their very nature must be sited in highly
visible areas often with minimal former development (Thayer and Freeman, 1987).
The colour, size, and shape of such developments can also impact their social
acceptance (Devine-Wright, 2005). Visual amenity is therefore a place based
factor seen to hold great power in influencing social acceptance.

scale is another key place based factor found to impact social acceptance. Lee
et al. (1989) proposed a bell shaped
‘favourability gradient’ for the scale of renewable energy infrastructure, with
extreme and micro scale developments being least favourable. Devine-Wright
(2005) further investigated scale, stating the gradient found resulted from
small to medium sized clustered developments reducing place based impacts like
reduced visual amenity within development proximity. He also states from
wind-farm research, that social acceptance is significantly higher for smaller proposals,
with those containing 8 turbines or less being most ‘accepted’.

however, is often reduced to resemble NIMBY opposition, and although NIMBY does
utilise the concept of proximity when referring to local environment, it is now
an outdated concept (Burningham et al. 2006). Proximity does not, as NIMBY
suggests, alter social acceptance to installations purely via selfish
motivations. Residents living within proximity have a multitude of concerns
relating to such developments, and true NIMBY opposition, Jones and Eiser (2010)
suggest, is both rare and inadequate as an explanation for opposition more

is another key place based factor impacting the social acceptance of energy
infrastructure. D’Souza and Yiridoe (2014) argue impacts of saturation upon
social acceptance are again due to perceived negative externalities of
developments. If individuals feel they already host a saturation of negative developments
(LULUs) within their community, he argues they are highly likely to oppose
further developments. This occurs as residents feel their locality is burdened unfairly
with LULUs when compared to non-local areas. LULU saturation can also lead to
concerns regarding environmental injustice, another place based factor found to
impact social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure. The EPA (2017:p1)
defines environmental justice of the built and natural environment as “fair
treatment and meaningful involvement of all people”. Such a saturation of
LULUs, Anguelovski (2016) argues, can be viewed as
environmental injustice, as certain communities are burdened with subjectively
higher levels of negative externalities than others. As such, to protect their
environment from further degradation, communities facing injustice and
discrimination in this way are more likely to oppose further development to
gain environmental justice. The emotive thoughts of excessive negative externalities
being placed upon one’s home, workplace, and community due to proximity, are
evidently impactful upon social acceptance. Consequently, research moved to
focus upon these emotive dimensions of place.

relating to place are another factor impacting social acceptance of renewable
energy infrastructure. Research therefore progressed to investigate place based
emotions. Devine-Wright and Clayton (2010) suggest place identity, relations
between place and the self, significantly impact environmental behaviour. They
state that if a proposal impacts an individual’s ‘dwelling space’, placing it
under threat, such a proposal is viewed as impacting upon the social backdrop
of daily life due to complex cognitive and social aspects of this relationship
and its importance. Resultantly, place identity can influence social
acceptance, as those with strong place identity are less accepting of proposals,
when compared to those with little place identity, as they fear it will alter
their very identity and daily lives.

attachment, Hidalgo and Hernandez (2001: 274) argue, emerged as a component
from place identity that was particularly impactful upon social acceptance of
development. They define place attachment as “an affective bond… between
individuals and their residential environment”. Shumaker and Taylor (1983)
state this bond is overwhelmingly positive, often equating to unique feelings
about certain places. The most crucial aspect of place attachment relating to
social acceptance however is the “desire to maintain a certain degree of
proximity to the object of attachment” (Ainsworth and Bell, 1970:p50). Thus,
place attachment may produce “pro-environmental behaviours” (Devine-Wright and
Clayton, 2010:p269) which can include “attempting to prevent a renewable energy
project from proceeding” (1). Attachment itself was found to significantly
impact social acceptance, as strongly attached individuals are more likely to
oppose development to maintain their emotional bond to their place of
attachment. Thus, research suggests an inverse relationship between place
attachment and social acceptance levels to proposed developments.

place attachment has been criticised as having multiplicity of meaning
(Giuliani and Feldman, 1993), as its definitional remit is unclear, as to
whether it embodies terms such as environmental and community attachments. As
such, use of these terms and research’s understanding of them is somewhat
muddled. Place attachment has also been criticised for assuming too much about
the coherence of place, neglecting how social groups may view place differently
due to a variety of socio-demographic factors (Jaskiewicz, 2015). Whilst place
based research, ranging from proximity to place attachment, can therefore explain
some variance in social acceptance towards developments, many factors impacting
social acceptance are likely not place based, and are, as social acceptance
implies, ‘socio’-demographic.