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Evaluating Federal and Direct Democratic Public Control over Decentralized Renewable Electricity Generation in Switzerland

English title Evaluating Federal and Direct Democratic Public Control over Decentralized Renewable Electricity Generation in Switzerland
Applicant Schmid Jonas
Number 181636
Funding scheme Doc.CH (until 2020)
Research institution Departement Sozialwissenschaften Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.09.2018 - 31.08.2022
Approved amount 233'009.00
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Keywords (17)

Direct Democracy; Effectiveness; Institutionalism; Energy Strategy 2050; Windpower; Mixed-Methods Research Design; Renewable Electricity Generation; Evaluation; Swiss Politics; Decentralization; Federalism; Switzerland; Actor-Centered Institutionalism; Public Management Organizational Networks; Inventory Surveying; Cantons; Natural Resource Use Authorization Procedure

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Die Energiestrategie 2050 hegt sehr ambitionierte Ziele betreffend den Ausbau der Elektrizitätsgewinnung aus erneuerbaren Quellen. Aus wirtschaftlicher Sicht prägt seit einigen Jahren die Dezentralisierung den Ausbau der Kapazität erneuerbar produzierten Stroms. Wie müssen heutige direktdemokratische und föderalen Prozesse verbessert werden, damit die Ziele der Energiestrategie 2050 unter den neuen, konfliktreichen Umständen erreicht werden können? Das Beispiel Windenergie wird angeführt um die Thematik zu illustrieren.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

Um den Zubau an elektrischer Kapazität zu steuern, nutzen Bund und Kantone im konkreten Projektfall zwei Instrumente: Bewilligungsprozesse, bei welchen viele Regulierungsinstanzen von Bund und Kantonen involviert sind (Föderalismus) und öffentliche Partizipation anhand von Abstimmungen und Beschwerdeverfahren (direkte Demokratie). Die heutigen Steuerungsinstrumente von Bund und Kantonen stehen aber unter grossem Druck, weil die Anzahl an Projektanträgen durch die wachsende Dezentralisierung der Stromproduktion gestiegen ist. Auch die notwendige Akzeptanz von Bauvorhaben zur erneurbaren Energieproduktion - besonders im Windenergiebereich - lässt Fragen offen, ob die existierenden Prozesse dem öffentlichen Druck gewachsen sind. Die notwendige Optimierung der Steuerungsinstrumente auf den neuen Kontext – unter Beachtung des klimapolitischen Imperativs – ist das Hauptziel des «DESS Control» Projekts. Dafür wird der institutionelle Kontext der Schweizer Energiepolitik im Detail analysiert.

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Dieses Forschungsvorhaben vereint verschiedene qualitative und quantitative methodische Ansätze zur Evaluation von Bewilligungsprozessen von dezentraler Produktionsanlagen erneuerbarer Energien. Damit leistet das Projekt einen Beitrag zur effektiven Umsetzung des angestrebten Schweizer Energiewandels. Das Forschungsprojekt strebt auch an, öffentlichen Energiefachleuten konkrete Empfehlungen zur Gestaltung von Bewilligungsprozessen für Produktionsanlagen neuer erneuerbarer Energien zu unterbreiten, damit die Politik mit geeigneten Massnahmen aus der Verwaltung gespiesen werden kann. 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 15.09.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Group on Political Economics of Energy Policy at the University of Basel Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Policy Analysis and Environmental Governance Research Group at the Universities of Bern and at EAWAG Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Annual Conference of the Swiss Political Science Association Talk given at a conference Patterns of Territorial Organization in Administrative Practice: Introducing Practical Federalism 03.02.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Schmid Jonas;
2nd meeting of the research group on federalism (incl. international guests) Talk given at a conference A procedural view on federalism - proposing a novel research perspective 19.12.2019 Bern, Switzerland Schmid Jonas;
Colloquium of the Policy Analysis and Environmental Governance Research Group Talk given at a conference The practical workings of federalism in the field of wind energy in Switzerland: a cantonal comparison (guest lecture) 22.10.2019 Bern, Dübendorf, Switzerland Schmid Jonas;
Annual PhD-colloquium of the chairs of Prof. Vatter and Prof. Freitag Talk given at a conference Wind Power in Switzerland: Analyzing Impacts of Cantonal procedural Practices 06.06.2019 Bern, Switzerland Schmid Jonas;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Workshop within the "Commission des entreprises" with Suisse Eole member associations Talk 20.02.2020 Bern, Switzerland Schmid Jonas;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Forschungsprojekt der Universität Bern untersucht Bewilligungsprozesse aller Grosswindenergie-... Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2020
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Université de Berne étudie les processus d'autorisation visant tous les grands projets d'énergie éo EE-News.ch, Schweizer Portal für erneuerbare Energien Italian-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Other activities Dessctrl.ch / eigene Projektwebseite mit Projektinformationen Italian-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland International 2018

Abstract

The Swiss Energy Strategy 2050 (ES 2050) targets a 6- to 8-fold increase of new renewable electricity (RE) generation along with a slight expansion of “old” RE (hydropower). Together, they are projected to cover total electricity demand by 2050 in a carbon-free way. To foster goal attainment and control sector developments, the Swiss state and cantons use two mechanisms on a project-level: authority cross-cutting concession procedures (federalism) and public involvement through votes and complaints (direct democracy). Current instruments of control by the public (not to be confused with the unrelated concept of control of the public) have been designed for centralized production and a correspondingly low project throughput. Yet today, there is a strong macro-economic trend for more decentralization in electricity production with accompanying higher conflictuality in land-use planning. Hence, higher future project throughput will put established “public control” mechanisms under heavy pressure to change to be effective. Sectoral forms of federalism and direct democracy must implement the new political strategy and answer to economic production imperatives while multiplying electrical capacity. How these institutions must be optimized to meet these challenges is the subject of this dissertation project. The theoretic aim of this research is to combine the economic infrastructure transition literature with actor-centred institutionalism (e.g. Scharpf 2006) in the electricity sector, thereby further intertwining classical political science with modern technology governance approaches. On a practical level, this project aims to enhance the cantonal practitioners’ know-how regarding the design of effective authorization and democratic participation procedures. The project’s empirical strategy is based on a mixed-method approach with original survey-data collection, text cluster and survival analysis. Should - contrary to expectations - the response rate to the survey be low, a QCA on the decentralized energy construction projects is envisaged. The University of Bern provides an exceptional hosting environment for this thesis: Prof. Dr. Vatter, my first supervisor, reunites in his team much expertise regarding federalism and direct democracy. Prof. Dr. Kachi (UniBas), an SCCER member and expert on Swiss energy policy and social acceptance of RE-technologies, has agreed to be my co-supervisor.
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