Contributions > Par auteur > Bauwens Thomas

Vendredi 22
Thématique 3 - Logement et aménagement du territoire
Pierre Ozer
› 11:20 - 13:05 (1h45)
› Bruyère
The Effect of Cooperative Ownership on Social Acceptance of Onshore Wind Power: A Multi-Method Analysis
Thomas Bauwens  1, 2@  
1 : HEC Management School-University of Liège  (HEC-ULg)  -  Site web
Rue Louvrex, 14 - Bât N1 BE-4000 Liège -  Belgique
2 : Oxford School of Geography and the Environment  (SoGE)  -  Site web
South Parks Road Oxford, OX1 3QY Oxford -  Royaume-Uni

Context and goals of the article

Onshore wind turbines have been the renewable energy technology most subject to contention to date. Indeed, wind power development has provoked considerable opposition in many places all over the world, whose motivations are primarily the impacts on natural landscapes and their subsequent negative effects on tourism, the generation of noise pollution or flicker shadow and the negative consequences for property prices and local fauna and flora. Such resistance can even take the form of formalized citizen networks such as Vent de Colère (France), Vent de Raison (Belgium), Opzione 0 (Italy), Iaeden (Spain), Stilhed (Denmark), etc. In Belgium, despite a widespread public support for wind power (IPSOS-Belgium 2010), the presence of organized groups and local residents opposed to wind farm projects also reveal the limits of such a social adhesion.
The goal of this article is to evaluate the roles that cooperative ownership of wind turbines can play to solve this problem, based on a multi-method study that combines quasi-experimental evidence with in-depth case-studies and focusing on the case of Flanders. More specifically, I seek to answer the following question: do renewable energy cooperatives enhance attitudes toward onshore wind turbines, and how? Renewable energy cooperatives are organizations that enable citizens themselves to own and invest in renewable energy generation units.
It has often been argued that local ownership induces more positive attitudes to wind energy (Devine-Wright 2007, Krohn and Damborg 1999). To the best of my knowledge, however, only one study has investigated this specific issue quantitatively in the past. In a comparison of two wind farms in Scotland with different ownership schemes, Warren and McFadyen (2010) show that community-owned wind farms are associated with more positive local attitudes than are wind farms owned by commercial companies. Yet this study uses descriptive data and, therefore, does not control for important confounding factors. In addition, it does not deal with the problem of self-selection bias: individuals presenting positive attitudes toward wind power are more likely to join cooperatives. Finally, this study does not investigate the mechanisms underlying this positive relationship between local ownership and positive attitudes toward wind power.
The present research is thus innovative in two ways. First, it provides a quantitative analysis of this question which explicitly seeks to isolate the causal effect of local ownership on attitudes toward wind power. Secondly, it explores the causal pathway through which this relationship takes place.

Theoretical framework
Local opposition to wind energy projects is commonly explained in terms of NIMBYism (from “Not In My Back Yard”). This term refers to the position of people who view wind energy as positive for society in general, but who are motivated by their personal cost-benefits analysis to resist the construction of a wind farm in their direct neighborhood. However, the NIMBY concept has been criticized by various scholars who argue that it is too simplistic and unable
to apprehend the real motives of the majority of opponents (Wolsink 2006, Burningham et al. 2006, Devine-Wright 2005).
Seeking to go beyond the NIMBY explanation, various studies show that social acceptance of the impact of windmills heavily depends on different psycho-social factors, such as place attachment (Devine-Wright 2009), distributive and procedural justice (Gross 2007, Hall et al. 2013) or trust (Walker et al. 2010). Other scholars have emphasized institutional factors, such as the ownership structure, the planning procedures and the degree of citizen involvement, stressing the need for more deliberative and inclusive participation of consumers in the energy production process (Devine-Wright and Devine-Wright 2004, Breukers and Wolsink 2007, Schweizer-Ries 2008, Warren and McFadyen 2010). This article is a contribution to this body of literature.

In order to fully understand the relationship between cooperative ownership and attitudes toward onshore wind power, I adopt a “mixed methodology” approach. I first test this relationship by conducting propensity score matching estimation based on my quantitative data. I then turn to my qualitative data, consisting in interviews with cooperative members that I systematically selected from my sample and based on my econometric analysis, in order to explore the causal mechanisms underlying the statistical relationship that I highlighted.

Quantitative analysis
Regarding the quantitative analysis, I use household data on cooperative members and non-cooperative members from an online questionnaire survey that I conducted from April to June 2014. Cooperative members belong to one cooperative located in West-Flanders. I imposed quotas so that the control group has the same characteristics in terms of sex, geographical location and education level as the reference group, with the idea of having a control group that differs from the reference group only by not belonging to a renewable energy cooperative. My final sample is constituted by 222 cooperative members and 501 non-members.
I perform my analysis for three different dependent variables. The first one is the attitude toward renewable energy in general. My second dependent variable is an index that captures individuals' attitudes toward onshore wind turbines. The third dependent variable captures the individuals' reaction to the installation of a wind turbine in their direct neighborhood. I use the propensity score matching technique as an estimation strategy to correct for the selection bias that might occur when people choose to join the cooperative (Abadie and Imbens 2006). By doing so, I seek to isolate the causal effect of the participation to such an organization. The matching method pairs each cooperative member with non-members with the same values for selected observable characteristics, so that the only remaining relevant difference between the two groups is the participation to the cooperative. Results show that joining a cooperative considerably contributes to the formation of positive attitudes and behaviors toward onshore wind. These findings are robust to different sensitivity analyses, such as Rosenbaum bounds (DiPrete and Gangl 2004).

Qualitative analysis
I complement this quantitative analysis with in-depth case studies, which consist in semi-structured interviews with cooperative members who participated to the survey. Indeed, multi-method scholars have argued that case-study research can contribute to causal inference by exploring areas of relative weaknesses for quantitative methods. In particular, case studies can be informative about the causal mechanisms that connect the treatment to outcome (Weller and Barnes 2014). I use standard statistical techniques to select individuals in a systematic way.
The objective of conducting these interviews is to understand the mechanisms through which the participation to a cooperative fosters positive attitudes toward onshore wind. The interview guide remained open, according to the methodology of semi-structured interviews, but particular attention was drawn on mechanisms that had already been highlighted by the literature and mentioned above, including the NIMBY explanation, procedural justice, distributive justice and trust in the developer. 14 interviews have been conducted so far. Consistently with the literature, my qualitative findings tend to refute the NIMBY explanation and confirm the importance of perceptions of justice and trust, although the effect of these factors is influenced by different contextual settings. Trust, for instance, seems to be negatively related with the size of the organization and positively associated with the perception of professionalism. They also highlight additional psychological factors that are likely to play a role. In particular, it appears that in some cases, an emotional connection can establish itself between cooperative members and the windmills, a phenomenon that can be related to the concept of psychological ownership, i.e. the feeling of possessiveness and of being psychologically tied to an object (Pierce et al. 2001). This finding tends to contradict the commonplace according to which it does not matter whether or not people are actually co-owners of the assets, as long as they are financially engaged in the project.

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