Study Highlights Factors that Play Key Role in Transition to Sustainable Energy

What leads to an efficient transformation to a low-carbon energy system? The answer, according to a new study from Lund University in Sweden, could be information sharing, perceived fairness, and local involvement.

Image credit: Mikael Risedal

The researchers examined two scenarios - one in Feldheim (Germany) and one in Samsø (Denmark) of effective incorporation of low-carbon energy systems. Samsø, which has been acclaimed as a major inspiring model of a sustainable energy community, is the first island in the world to be fully powered by renewable energy. Feldheim, with its community-owned electricity and heating grids that are wholly delivered by local renewable energy, was the first settlement in Germany to produce energy independently. The village serves as an energy transition model for small communities, as well as an example of the efficient incorporation of a community energy system.

It is essential to implement low-carbon energy systems for the transition to sustainable communities and cities. However, there is often resistance from the public when it comes to planning and execution.

In a new study recently featured in the Journal of Applied Energy, Lund University researchers investigated the factors that contribute to the transition to low-carbon energy systems and the way communities and decision makers tackle inconsistencies during the transition.

The researchers discovered that the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process and the involvement of the local public played a major role in realizing these two successful transitions.  The study also suggested that a fair, transparent, and open process might be more crucial than the distribution of project gains.

We found that intensive information and consultation processes were critical to overcome social, technical and economic barriers to implementation. We also found it was important for the communities to find fair solutions for those who were burdened with either negative or positive effects.

Henner Busch, Author & Researcher at The Department of Human Geography

The study emphasizes what practitioners, project developers, and policy makers need to consider during the planning and implementation phases. This particularly offers important insights into effective management of low-carbon energy transitions, and the way communities will react to the challenge of energy transitions.

Perceived fairness by those affected by the change is pivotal to increasing the perceived legitimacy of transition outcomes. If this is done correctly, even contested projects can be realised. This includes that stakeholders find the space to discuss and disagree. Communication channels and information sharing are therefore of prime importance.

Professor Luis Mundaca, Author - International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics.

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