Energy Research & Social Science, Vol 52, 2019, pp. 181-191.
Licensing processes for renewable electricity plants have been surprisingly little studied. Yet, how public and private stakeholders influence the process, formally and informally, is crucial to the outcome of the licensing decision. This article analyses how the organisation of the Norwegian windpower licensing process affects actor influence, and the consequences for licensing outcomes as well as the transparency and predictability of the process. Drawing on licence application and decision documents, official regulations, policy documents and reports, as well as research papers, media articles and 19 interviews, we map and discuss formal rules and informal practices. Changes in regulations and organisation of the licensing process, along with locating the licensing body within a sector authority instead of generalised planning, have given the licensing body considerable room for decisional discretion. This gives rise to the issue of transparency, where the grounds for the licensing outcome and the weighting of various factors are unclear, and also makes it difficult to predict the results for similar projects. We argue that the superficial impression of a centrally driven and controlled process
should be modified somewhat, as some local stakeholders have more influence on the licensing outcome than is immediately apparent.