Social Acceptance of Energy Technologies

  Impact of "Datteln IV" – comparison of the content analysis and the expert interviews (Source: FCN/S. Godolt; FCN Master Thesis)

In the context of new power plant projects in Germany, an increasing lack of social acceptance by the confronted stakeholders is noticeable. Frequently, the projects fail due to the protests. If social acceptance is considered for the realization of an economically viable power plant project, an acceptance factor analysis ought to be conducted.

This research project, focusing on the social acceptance of large-scale power plants, comprises a case study on E.ON’s hard-coal-fired power plant Datteln IV. Its aim is to investigate the major factors determining social acceptance and the possible implications of a lack of acceptance on the economic viability of large-scale power plant projects. Based on a phenomenological reflection about the formation of social acceptance as a starting point, a contents analysis of the German daily press gives an overview, paving the ground for an evaluation of the public conflict as it has been covered by the print media. In addition, qualitative expert interviews provide further information about how the acceptance problems are perceived by the stakeholders. The results of the different methods show the dependency of social acceptance on ecological, economic and social factors.

Acceptance problems regarding large-scale power plant projects in Germany exist at least since the 1970s. An example is the lack of acceptance of many citizens of the nuclear power plant Kalkar. Among others, due to the existing acceptance problems, the power plant was completed but never put into operation, so that the project turned into one of the largest industrial investment ruins in Germany ever. In recent years, there are examples for power plant projects, which failed due to a lack of acceptance even before the construction was started. A prominent example in this respect is the planned hard-coal power plant Ensdorf. Here, citizen initiatives were established early against power plant planning and in a survey conducted among Ensfeld citizens some 70% voted against the project, so that the investor refrained from realizing the project. However, also other coal power plant projects, such as in Germersheim, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Berlin and Emden, were not pursued any further by the investors also due to lack of acceptance problems.

Acceptance problems can be manifold. The direct neighbors, which often perceive a multi-dimensional threat to their quality of life, usually play an important role. Also, environmental and nature protection associations play an increasingly important role in the acceptance process. They are advocates of the environment and engage in large networks against coal-fired power plants (see e.g.

The scientific analysis of the acceptance problem of energy projects is currently predominantly performed with respect to renewable energy technologies (e.g. biomass, wind) and new energy technologies (e.g. pilot plants for carbon capture, sequestration and storage, CCS). Regarding acceptance of conventional large-scale power plants, relatively few scientific publications exist. From an economic perspective the acceptance problem has grown into a major economic risk for project realization. Therefore, the factor acceptance should not be neglected in economic assessments of new power plants. In order to sufficiently understand and be able to evaluate the acceptance problem substantial research is needed.