What influences windpower decisions? A statistical analysis of licensing in Norway

Journal of Cleaner Production, published online 11.07.2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.122860

While windpower is expanding globally, so too is the concern over increased land-use pressure and the environmental impacts of large-scale power plants. In the literature, little is known about how local resistance and environmental impacts affect windpower licensing decisions. This article addresses this knowledge gap by investigating the weight accorded these factors in a licensing process. Using a new and comprehensive dataset based on all windpower project applications in Norway 2000–2019, we statistically analyse whether environmental impact and the stance taken by local authorities influence the final licensing decision. Both factors are found to have a strong influence: a high environmental impact substantially reduces the likelihood of obtaining a licence, and a negative hosting municipality in practice has almost veto power. Our findings have important implications for research on energy democracy, energy justice and fairness, environmental policy integration and the acceptance literature. As little quantitative research has examined how environmental factors and stakeholder positions affect licensing decisions, this article contributes general insights and an analytical approach which can be used comparatively across contexts and sectors.