What drives the community acceptance of onshore wind energy? Exploring the link between ownership, energy justice, and place in Scotland and Newfoundland

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)

Abstract

This thesis investigates the key factors influencing community acceptance of onshore wind energy, specifically examining the argument that fair involvement in decision-making and fair financial benefits are powerful determinants. The thesis examines this claim through various methodologies and across two different contexts: Scotland and Newfoundland. The initial papers, focusing on Scotland, employ quantitative surveys to investigate the significance of community ownership and energy justice in determining acceptance. By comparing communities which have different degrees of ownership, that is, community, shared, and private, the first paper highlights the characteristics of ownership that foster community acceptance. Notably, it emphasises the importance of fair involvement and financial benefits, providing evidence that a co-operative can achieve a similar degree of acceptance and energy justice as a fully community-owned project. Building on the findings of the first paper, the Scotland second paper employs multigroup structural equation modelling to empirically test the influence of energy justice factors (fair involvement, fair financial benefits, and perceived turbine impacts) on social acceptance and how these relationships vary according to projects with different ownership structures. The chapter demonstrates that while energy justice factors influence acceptance, their relative importance depends on ownership. For instance, residents near the community-owned project placed greater emphasis on fair involvement, while those near the privately-owned project valued fair financial benefits and perceived impacts. The final paper, focusing on Newfoundland, uses semi-structured interviews to examine how place shapes acceptance and justice perceptions for onshore wind, analysed through sociotechnical imaginaries and a political economic analysis of successive industries in the province. The findings reveal that a shared narrative of struggle stemming from the cod fishery collapse has emerged in local discourses around wind projects, promoting acceptance. Taken together, this research demonstrates that the challenging process of negotiating just, sustainable energy transitions requires an understanding of geographical context.
Date of Award14 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorCharles Raymond Warren (Supervisor), Michael Simpson (Supervisor) & Darren McCauley (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Onshore wind energy
  • Community acceptance
  • Energy justice
  • Fair involvement
  • Fair financial benefits
  • Place
  • Sociotechnical imaginaries
  • Community ownership
  • Shared ownership
  • Private ownership

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 7 March 2026

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