Hopp til innholdMeny

HiSF er no ein del av Høgskulen på Vestlandet. Hisf.no blir gradvis erstatta av hvl.no i 2017.

Renewable Energy Projects: Local Impacts and Sustainability (RELEASE)

Meeting the EU’s and Norway’s ambitious renewable energy targets will have significant local consequences. Norwegian policymakers must make decisions that balance the consequences for the economy, the society, and the environment. RELEASE develops knowledge that assists them in such decision-making, while simultaneously providing new theoretical and empirical contributions to real-options theory, social theory, restoration ecology, and local sustainable development.



The primary objective is to impart new knowledge of renewable energy projects' impacts on local economies, local societies, and local environments in pursuing a sustainable energy policy.

The secondary objectives are:

  • To use real options theory to study how policy uncertainty affects investment decisions across different projects and investor groups.
  • To use social theory to examine how the social acceptance of renewable energy projects is affected by project and investor characteristics.
  • To use restoration ecology to examine renewable energy projects' negative impacts on the natural environment and to identify strategies to minimize these impacts.
  • To use sustainable development theory to balance the local economic, social, and environmental impacts of renewable energy projects.

Project summary

RELEASE follows the concept of sustainable development in which three dimensions must be balanced: economic, social, and environmental. Applied to the local effects of renewable energy projects, these dimensions are interpreted as an ambition to create economic value locally, to balance the social consequences of these effects for different local stakeholders, and to reduce local environmental effects.

RELEASE consists of five work packages:

  • Work package 1 contributes to the theory of local sustainable development.
  • Work packages 2–4 provide theoretical and empirical contributions to the understanding of the local economic, social, and environmental consequences, respectively.
  • Work package 5 ensures that the project’s results are transferred from scientists to project partners.

Work package 1

We have developed a global model for sustainable development based on the UN report Our Common Future (the model will subsequently be translated to local conditions). The model acknowledges sustainable development as a normative value system that rests on three moral imperatives: satisfying human needs, ensuring social justice, and respecting environmental limits.

From the moral imperatives and major theories in moral philosophy and ecology, we have developed key themes, suggested headline indicators, and assigned thresholds. The model is published in the journal Sustainable Development in 2016 and will be thoroughly presented in a book published by Routledge in 2017.

Work package 2

We have conducted two national studies to identify barriers to and opportunities for increased production of renewable energy as seen from investors’ points of view. One of the central findings of the studies is that investors are experiencing uncertainty related to the so-called green certificates scheme. The first study shows that there was great optimism among investors when the scheme was introduced in 2012. Nevertheless, uncertainty related to how the scheme worked resulted in little activity at that time.

The second study shows that investors are now experiencing even greater uncertainty about the termination of the scheme in 2020. This uncertainty has slowed investment. Meanwhile, the power price has been nearly halved since 2012, so investors are now generally hesitant to invest in construction of new renewable energy power plants. The results of surveys are published in the journals Energy and Energy Policy.

Work package 3

We study how the ownership of renewable energy projects influences local community acceptance. We work here along two lines. The first line consists of extensive interviews of actors in affected communities. We have conducted several interviews, and we will continue to do so throughout spring 2017. The second line consists of social experiments. Here we examine how students respond to identical (hypothetical) renewable energy projects that have different ownership.

Preliminary analyses indicate that who owns a project influences acceptance. Analyses also show that the information given in retrospect has little effect on respondents’ original response. This knowledge can be crucial for the developers’ opportunities to realize new projects. We will continue this work in 2017.

Work package 4

We study the extent to which vegetation affected by hydropower is restored to its original state after the development is finished. We have conducted extensive field studies in 2015 and 2016. We collected data from spoil heaps in Western Norway (Aurland and Lærdal), and studied whether and to what extent the vegetation on the heaps deviates from the natural vegetation of the surroundings. We compare data from these studies with data collected from the same spoil heaps 7 and 24 years earlier.

Field studies will continue in 2017 and 2018, and the results of the studies will first be published at the end of the project period.

Work package 5

Here the aim is to ensure the flow of knowledge to the project’s partners beyond the academic dissemination in scientific journals and books. We regularly publish project results on Sogn og Fjordane Science Park’s blog, and we have given a series of presentations at national and regional conferences.

However, the project partners are busy and cannot attend all such conferences. Therefore, we have from 2016 on arranged tailored workshops at partners’ workplaces. These workshops have been very successful and we will continue this form of dissemination throughout the project period.

The project gains financial support by: