RELEASE - Renewable Energy Projects: Local Impacts and Sustainability

Project owner

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Project period

October 2014 - June 2021

Project summary

Meeting the EU's and Norway's ambitious renewable energy targets will have significant local consequences. Policymakers must make decisions that balance the consequences for the economy, the society, and the environment. RELEASE develops knowledge that assists them in such decision-making, while simultaneously providing new theoretical and empirical contributions to real options theory, social theory, restoration ecology, and local sustainable development.

We choose the concept of sustainable development as our theoretical point of departure. The concept is often interpreted as consisting of three dimensions that should be balanced: economic, social, and environmental. Broadly speaking, these dimensions capture the aspirations for improved welfare, just distribution of welfare, and for leaving future generations with an unchanged natural resource base. Applied to local impacts of renewable energy projects, these dimensions can be interpreted as the aspirations to create economic value locally, to balance between local stakeholders these projects' social impacts, and to mitigate local environmental impacts.

We have for each of sustainable development's three dimensions selected a research area in which Sogn and Fjordane University College has a professional record of accomplishment. We use real options theory to study how uncertainty concerning future energy policies affects what kinds of projects are developed and how they are organized and financed. We use restoration ecology to examine how degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems can be recovered and whether such negative impacts vary systematically across project and investor types. Finally, we use social theory to study the distributional consequences - including both economic and environmental impacts - of different projects and ownership models, and how these distributional consequences affect the projects' social acceptance.