Almost half of clean energy projects proposed in recent years have been delayed or abandoned due to local opposition, according to a March report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That’s a lot of development potential denied.
[SL correction: I reported earlier that all the projects were clean energy. In fact, around 45% of the projects tracked were renewable energy, while the other projects included nuclear, natural gas and coal. I have changed the title of the post to reflect the changes, and changed the above paragraph.]
The causes of this opposition are diverse: Environmental concerns, worries about property values, suspicion of outside developers, and many more. Lots of these concerns are legitimate; many others come from a lack of understanding of the sector, poor communication by local officials and developers, or even from fake “astroturf” opposition funded by corporate special interests.
In my opinion, one of the biggest problems is that much of that economic potential is not going directly to citizens. If people don’t have a direct financial stake in a project, they’re more likely to oppose it. That’s why I’ve called for feed-in tariffs on the local and state level as a way to stimulate more community and individual engagement in the clean energy economy. It’s what drove community development in Germany, Denmark and other European countries — and it’s more important than ever in the U.S. given how much clean energy we need to deploy in people’s backyards if we’re going to truly address the climate crisis.
EnergyNOW had a piece worth watching on some of the barriers holding up clean energy projects in the U.S. It doesn’t touch upon how incentives like feed-in tariffs can influence public attitude, but it does look at some unique problems project developers and individuals face.