‘Renewables? Yes, please!’: perceptions and assessment of community transition induced by renewable-energy projects in North Frisia. Sustainability Science online. DOI: 10.1007/s11625-017-0433-5
A renewable-energy transition evokes the question ‘Renewables? Yes, please!’ or ‘Renewables? No, thanks!’ to people, communities and regions, because it initiates a physical and social transition to places and communities. Although ‘community renewable energy’ emerged as a grassroots-based innovation and is thus of increasing interest to the public and politicians, actual interwoven community benefits and challenges of renewable-energy projects are not well understood yet. Recent studies mainly consider potential community benefits and not experienced benefits and hardly address challenges which affected communities face. To address this research gap, we empirically investigated how people perceive community-based renewables and assess the change in the social fabric of communities, the so named ‘community transition’ resulting as outcome of local energy transition. We explored trade-offs between benefits and challenges by conducting a regional literature analysis, two sets of interviews in municipalities of North Frisia (Germany) and a household survey in one of them. Our results lead to two important insights: First, community renewables provide interwoven and offsetting physical, environmental, social, economic, planning and political benefits and challenges for communities. Second, a local participatory process and a fair distribution of revenues are essential for the success of community benefits, holding the potential for a sustainable development in rural areas. Thus, multifaceted and interlinked local benefits but also challenges of local energy transition need to be addressed more by developers and political decision-makers in order to enable and retain positive, sustainable outcomes of community renewable-energy projects.