What's the problem?

The problem

The signing of the Climate Agreement (Klimaatakkoord) indicates a significant step in the transition towards a newly organised energy system in the Netherlands. Since the beginning of this century, when electricity supply had become detached from electricity distribution (following the Wet Onafhankelijk Netbeheer, 2006), the provincial energy companies have been split into (inter-)regional grid operators and access to the grids was granted to independent, commercial electricity suppliers. Supply of electricity was mainly based on gas, oil and coal resources, but has since diversified towards a mix of conventional grey and sustainable sources of electricity, the latter now covering 14.8% of electricity demand in the Netherlands (CBS, 2019). Not only sources of electricity have been diversified, this also counts for the kinds of entities supplying energy (van Vliet, 2012). These diversified from a small number of state-owned or parastatal companies towards a range of large and small commercial companies, cooperatives and citizen collectives (commons) and platforms, all entitled to deliver electricity to the grids and to service clients who are spread over the Netherlands as a whole (Kloppenburg and Boekelo 2018). At the same time more resistance is organized, not only against fossils but also renewables, such as solar and wind parks. It is in this phase of diversification of electricity sources and suppliers and the piloting of various arrangements for renewable energy production and supply in combination with societal resistance that Regional Energy Strategies need to be drafted as an implication of the Climate Agreement.

 

 

The main question of our project is:  

What are the future governance arrangements, including modes of citizen participation, that ensure socially and spatially just regional renewable energy systems in Overijssel?

 

To answer this question we (1) develop an energy justice framework that includes social and spatial dimensions and investigate empirically with help of deliberative polling what social and spatial justice means for local inhabitants in the region (2) create an interactive map – based on existing data – that indicates areas in the Province which already are burdened with social inequalities and relatively more nuisance of industry, agriculture, traffic; (3) apply an action research approach in which we both study and intervene in existing governance arrangements and modes of participation.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Procedural justice

From deliberative democracy theory and analysis, and coming from environmental justice scholars, normative fairness and justice criteria can be developed. From this literature we learn that a fair process of decision making meets some basic criteria: there is not one preferred outcome on forehand; there is reflection and exchange of arguments on possible outcomes but also about the preferences; there is equal access to information and other resources; equal speaking time and influence; an independent moderator; independent experts; collaborative agenda setting; and there is reciprocity (Gutman and Thompson 1996; Mansbridge 2007; Dryzek 2000; Mansbridge et al 2010; Turnhout and Metze 2015, Turnhout et al accepted). Recently, more emphasis is also put on the fact that the outcome of these deliberative and fair procedures is also respected by those who have final and formal decision making power (Metze 2010; Bua and Escobar 2018; Cuppen 2012).   

 

In addition, international research has also shown that application of a “justice and community fairness framework” that does right to different types of fairness deemed important by different parts of a community may increase societal acceptance of energy policies (Gross 2007).  Central to demands and complaints coming from social movements are equity and fairness. Next to attempts to put an issue on the agenda, for example paying attention to environmental quality, these social movements often focus on (1) ‘distributive justice’ basically meaning that resources (but also risks and damage) are distributed in a fair way among citizens, and (2) fair procedures. Usually these demands are taken into account by policy makers and planners in formal procedures. However, these formal procedures are not always sufficient for citizens to experience them as fair and just. This experienced fairness is often only dealt with in a reactive way – after they have been violated and protests start. The Regional Energy Strategies offer a great opportunity to use the lived experiences of fairness by citizens in proactive planning (Syme and Nancarrow, 2001). The aim for all sorts of governing actors is than to better take into account in planning procedures those procedural and distributive aspects that inhabitants consider important for fair and just procedures and decisions (Hendriksen, 2019). 

 

Next to coming to more fair and accepted policy decisions, this leads to more legitimacy for authorities. As Tyler (1990; 2003) in a study about the legitimacy of police actions convincingly demonstrated that to be considered a legitimate authority, it is people's subjective judgments about the fairness of the procedures that counts most.  In other words, people are more concerned with fairness of process than outcome, and a fair processes are considered to produce fair outcomes (see Tyler 2000; Mansbridge et al 2010; Rawls 1971).

 

Distributional justice

Distributional justice concerns the siting of energy infrastructures and access to energy services (Jenkins et al 2016). To assess distributional justice in regional energy systems, we need to know how local inhabitants experience and are engaged in local energy supply, distribution and consumption. Our emphasis is on the social and spatial dimensions of distributional justice. From a spatial perspective this includes questions such as where benefits and burdens of energy systems are distributed not only in relation to the siting of renewable energy projects, but also in relation to the infrastructure needed for distribution (e.g. transmission cables, storage facilities) (Jenkins et al 2016).

From a social perspective, an important question is how existing social inequalities and environmental burdens and risks are geographically distributed and how this relates to the distribution of costs and benefits of local energy systems. What modes of citizen participation in energy project are considered fair and just by local inhabitants? For example, one of the aims in the RES is 50% local ownership of renewable generation (by citizens and companies). Who can and is participating in these projects? In the context of distributional justice, the emergence of modes of citizen participation that do not necessarily require geographical proximity to renewable generation is interesting, such as shareholding in solar parks. Another example is local inhabitants participating in the operation of windmills through using an app to adjust the rotation when they experience nuisance. Finally, distributional justice also requires taking a long-term perspective and assessing the distributions of costs and benefits between current and future generations. Most renewable energy projects will be present in the local environment for 20-30 years, while the local population and their needs may change as people relocate or grow older.

 

 

Scientific contribution

In this study, we adapt the concept of energy justice to a regional energy system. Our key theoretical contribution is to better connect procedural and distributional justice. Therefore, we include (local) spatial and social dimensions (distributional justice) in the evaluation of what is a representative and impartial (procedurally just) regional energy system that leads to fair distribution of costs and benefits of energy production and consumption.  Hence, we theoretically define what (1) procedural justice and (2) distributive justice are – namely fair, reciprocal, impartial procedures of decision-making, creating a fair social and spatial distribution of benefits and burdens. However, as the above-mentioned studies also demonstrate, in order to know what local inhabitants perceive as fair procedures and outcomes, we also need to examine how they experience and are engaged in decision-making about siting and implementation of local energy projects, and in the deployment of local energy systems. In doing so, we add a local and contextual perspective to the debates on energy justice.

 

 

 

Methodological approach: action research

We will apply an action research approach throughout the project, which means that the theoretical framework on social and spatial justified governance arrangements for renewable energy will be operationalised together with partners and direct stakeholders. Operationalisation means the creation of a set of criteria and indicators for socially and spatially just energy projects (phase 1). In phase 2, the analysis of data from in-depth case studies, (applying the set of indicators and criteria from phase 1), will be done collaboratively in workshop sessions with partners and local stakeholders of each project. In phase 3, the governance arrangements will be built in collaboration with project partners and local stakeholders.

Lastly, an interactive map will be constructed during the project timeline, building on data inputs from students, local stakeholders and partners in the project.

 

The research connects two geographical levels: that of local specific energy projects and the level of Energy Regions. In our research, we consider participation schemes and trajectories for the implementation as well as long term running of renewable energy projects in the Netherlands:

  • research sites in the Netherlands to gather empirical data on modes of citizen engagement;

  • research sites at which researchers define social and spatial fairness in co-creation with participants

  • locations and projects to co-create just and fair governance arrangements for renewable energy in Overijssel.  

Achtergrond

What's the problem?

The problem

The signing of the Climate Agreement (Klimaatakkoord) indicates a significant step in the transition towards a newly organised energy system in the Netherlands. Since the beginning of this century, when electricity supply had become detached from electricity distribution (following the Wet Onafhankelijk Netbeheer, 2006), the provincial energy companies have been split into (inter-)regional grid operators and access to the grids was granted to independent, commercial electricity suppliers. Supply of electricity was mainly based on gas, oil and coal resources, but has since diversified towards a mix of conventional grey and sustainable sources of electricity, the latter now covering 14.8% of electricity demand in the Netherlands (CBS, 2019). Not only sources of electricity have been diversified, this also counts for the kinds of entities supplying energy (van Vliet, 2012). These diversified from a small number of state-owned or parastatal companies towards a range of large and small commercial companies, cooperatives and citizen collectives (commons) and platforms, all entitled to deliver electricity to the grids and to service clients who are spread over the Netherlands as a whole (Kloppenburg and Boekelo 2018). At the same time more resistance is organized, not only against fossils but also renewables, such as solar and wind parks. It is in this phase of diversification of electricity sources and suppliers and the piloting of various arrangements for renewable energy production and supply in combination with societal resistance that Regional Energy Strategies need to be drafted as an implication of the Climate Agreement.

The Regional Energy Strategies now under development in Overijssel (Rijksoverheid, 2018; Startnotitie RES Overijssel West, 2019) are in need of embedding the regional energy transition into society. RESs in Overijssel will include the siting and implementation of advanced energy generation facilities and distribution grids, which will absorb more urban and rural space than ever before. Renewable energy generators (PV parks and wind turbines) affect the publicly valued landscapes, while large public investments in infrastructure for renewable energy may affect social justice as they have so far mostly benefited those who are directly involved.

 

Rather than relying on frontrunner stakeholders in the energy transition, like energy cooperatives, wind or solar associations and individual firms and consumers dealing with renewable energy generation, it is crucial to include the wider society in Overijssel’s energy transition for two reasons (Koffijberg and De Meijer, 2014).

 

First, to accomplish an energy transition, it is needed to commence scaling up after a period of developing pilot projects that remain small and time-bounded by definition. In scaling up, it is socially justifiable to spread both the burdens and benefits of new energy systems over wider segments of society rather than on the pioneers in renewable energy or on restricting the definition of legitimate stakeholders to those living in proximity of wind turbines or solar parks. Secondly, currently accelerating societal conflicts over the use of urban and rural space for i.e wind turbines or solar parks show the need for more justifiable distribution of the use of space in the regional energy transition.

 

The proposed project is a timely effort of investigation and co-creation of new governance arrangements for regional renewable energy systems that foster socially and spatially just forms of energy supply, distribution and consumption in the long run. 

 

What's our research question?

The main question of our project is:  

What are the future governance arrangements, including modes of citizen participation, that ensure socially and spatially just regional renewable energy systems in Overijssel?

 

To answer this question we (1) develop an energy justice framework that includes social and spatial dimensions and investigate empirically with help of deliberative polling what social and spatial justice means for local inhabitants in the region (2) create an interactive map – based on existing data – that indicates areas in the Province which already are burdened with social inequalities and relatively more nuisance of industry, agriculture, traffic; (3) apply an action research approach in which we both study and intervene in existing governance arrangements and modes of participation.  

 

 

What do we mean by 'justice'?

Theoretical and normative framework of energy justice

Concepts, such as fairness, inclusive and just, coming from deliberative democracy and justice theory can significantly inform and help create societal acceptable governance arrangements. This is particularly relevant in the current stage of the energy transition in which citizens, but also industry and NGOs, raise many concerns and objections to the practical changes needed in their energy consumption and production. As SCP and PBL also signaled, societal resistance against the siting and implementation of renewable energy projects is one of the major challenges to overcome. There are two important sources to apply concepts of social inclusion and spatial justice: first we can learn from the concepts developed in the academic literature, and second we need to do right to the perceptions of fairness and justice by citizens affected by and involved in the energy transition.

 

Energy justice in academic literature is defined as a global energy system that fairly disseminates both the benefits and costs of energy services, and one that has representative and impartial energy decision-making (Sovacool and Dworkin 2015). Sovacool and Dworkin (2015, p441) basically argue that we need to ask ourselves time and again: what this energy is for, what values and moral frameworks ought to guide us, and who benefits (and who doesn’t). The energy justice literature distinguishes procedural justice from distributional justice. Procedural justice refers to fairness in processes of decision-making, while distributional justice refers to fairness in the distribution of resources (e.g. the siting of energy infrastructures, and the distribution of costs and benefits) (Jenkins et al 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Procedural justice

From deliberative democracy theory and analysis, and coming from environmental justice scholars, normative fairness and justice criteria can be developed. From this literature we learn that a fair process of decision making meets some basic criteria: there is not one preferred outcome on forehand; there is reflection and exchange of arguments on possible outcomes but also about the preferences; there is equal access to information and other resources; equal speaking time and influence; an independent moderator; independent experts; collaborative agenda setting; and there is reciprocity (Gutman and Thompson 1996; Mansbridge 2007; Dryzek 2000; Mansbridge et al 2010; Turnhout and Metze 2015, Turnhout et al accepted). Recently, more emphasis is also put on the fact that the outcome of these deliberative and fair procedures is also respected by those who have final and formal decision making power (Metze 2010; Bua and Escobar 2018; Cuppen 2012).   

 

In addition, international research has also shown that application of a “justice and community fairness framework” that does right to different types of fairness deemed important by different parts of a community may increase societal acceptance of energy policies (Gross 2007).  Central to demands and complaints coming from social movements are equity and fairness. Next to attempts to put an issue on the agenda, for example paying attention to environmental quality, these social movements often focus on (1) ‘distributive justice’ basically meaning that resources (but also risks and damage) are distributed in a fair way among citizens, and (2) fair procedures. Usually these demands are taken into account by policy makers and planners in formal procedures. However, these formal procedures are not always sufficient for citizens to experience them as fair and just. This experienced fairness is often only dealt with in a reactive way – after they have been violated and protests start. The Regional Energy Strategies offer a great opportunity to use the lived experiences of fairness by citizens in proactive planning (Syme and Nancarrow, 2001). The aim for all sorts of governing actors is than to better take into account in planning procedures those procedural and distributive aspects that inhabitants consider important for fair and just procedures and decisions (Hendriksen, 2019). 

 

Next to coming to more fair and accepted policy decisions, this leads to more legitimacy for authorities. As Tyler (1990; 2003) in a study about the legitimacy of police actions convincingly demonstrated that to be considered a legitimate authority, it is people's subjective judgments about the fairness of the procedures that counts most.  In other words, people are more concerned with fairness of process than outcome, and a fair processes are considered to produce fair outcomes (see Tyler 2000; Mansbridge et al 2010; Rawls 1971).

Distributional justice

Distributional justice concerns the siting of energy infrastructures and access to energy services (Jenkins et al 2016). To assess distributional justice in regional energy systems, we need to know how local inhabitants experience and are engaged in local energy supply, distribution and consumption. Our emphasis is on the social and spatial dimensions of distributional justice. From a spatial perspective this includes questions such as where benefits and burdens of energy systems are distributed not only in relation to the siting of renewable energy projects, but also in relation to the infrastructure needed for distribution (e.g. transmission cables, storage facilities) (Jenkins et al 2016).

From a social perspective, an important question is how existing social inequalities and environmental burdens and risks are geographically distributed and how this relates to the distribution of costs and benefits of local energy systems. What modes of citizen participation in energy project are considered fair and just by local inhabitants? For example, one of the aims in the RES is 50% local ownership of renewable generation (by citizens and companies). Who can and is participating in these projects? In the context of distributional justice, the emergence of modes of citizen participation that do not necessarily require geographical proximity to renewable generation is interesting, such as shareholding in solar parks. Another example is local inhabitants participating in the operation of windmills through using an app to adjust the rotation when they experience nuisance. Finally, distributional justice also requires taking a long-term perspective and assessing the distributions of costs and benefits between current and future generations. Most renewable energy projects will be present in the local environment for 20-30 years, while the local population and their needs may change as people relocate or grow older.

 

 

What's our contribution? 

Scientific contribution

In this study, we adapt the concept of energy justice to a regional energy system. Our key theoretical contribution is to better connect procedural and distributional justice. Therefore, we include (local) spatial and social dimensions (distributional justice) in the evaluation of what is a representative and impartial (procedurally just) regional energy system that leads to fair distribution of costs and benefits of energy production and consumption.  Hence, we theoretically define what (1) procedural justice and (2) distributive justice are – namely fair, reciprocal, impartial procedures of decision-making, creating a fair social and spatial distribution of benefits and burdens. However, as the above-mentioned studies also demonstrate, in order to know what local inhabitants perceive as fair procedures and outcomes, we also need to examine how they experience and are engaged in decision-making about siting and implementation of local energy projects, and in the deployment of local energy systems. In doing so, we add a local and contextual perspective to the debates on energy justice.

 

 

 

How do we approach the research?

Methodological approach: action research

We will apply an action research approach throughout the project, which means that the theoretical framework on social and spatial justified governance arrangements for renewable energy will be operationalised together with partners and direct stakeholders. Operationalisation means the creation of a set of criteria and indicators for socially and spatially just energy projects (phase 1). In phase 2, the analysis of data from in-depth case studies, (applying the set of indicators and criteria from phase 1), will be done collaboratively in workshop sessions with partners and local stakeholders of each project. In phase 3, the governance arrangements will be built in collaboration with project partners and local stakeholders.

Lastly, an interactive map will be constructed during the project timeline, building on data inputs from students, local stakeholders and partners in the project.

 

The research connects two geographical levels: that of local specific energy projects and the level of Energy Regions. In our research, we consider participation schemes and trajectories for the implementation as well as long term running of renewable energy projects in the Netherlands:

  • research sites in the Netherlands to gather empirical data on modes of citizen engagement;

  • research sites at which researchers define social and spatial fairness in co-creation with participants

  • locations and projects to co-create just and fair governance arrangements for renewable energy in Overijssel.  

Image by Karsten Würth
Image by Deniz
Picture 1.png
Image by Felicia Buitenwerf