Wind Farms and Community Engagement in Australia: A Critical Analysis for Policy Learning
In late 2007, after signing the Kyoto Protocol, a new Australian federal government committed to generating 20% of Australia's electricity from renewable energy by 2020, for a transition to a low carbon economy. With wind energy the most viable technology for such expansion, little recognition, however, was paid to intense social conflict surrounding wind farm location. By 2006, inadequate community engagement had emerged as the primary governance issue underpinning a host of issues that local communities faced with the prospect of hosting wind farms. Acknowledged by all Australian governments as an issue to address for effective renewable energy transitions, current policy responses addressing community engagement are analysed for their adequacy to ensure such transitions in a context of democratic legitimacy and fairness and the issues of place-based local communities. Analysis is informed by comparative cross-jurisdictional policy learning analysis featuring European participatory developments; policy analysis of current Australian governmental policy responses; and prior narrative analysis of the behavioural rationalities (the underlying beliefs, attitudes and perceptions) that inform the qualifications and place-protective actions about wind farm location of local stakeholders at the forefront of wind farm contestation: landscape guardian groups. The conclusion is that current policy responses with regard to community engagement, which encourage a largely inform-consult participatory engagement approach, are inadequate. A more promising approach is the collaborative approach, which can also facilitate social mapping of local community qualifications and boundaries about wind farm location alongside technical mapping of wind resources, to identify the most socially, economically and technically viable locations to locate wind farms to ensure effective renewable energy transitions.
East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal