Revitalisation of local economy by development of renewable energy: good practices and case studies
Renewable energy can contribute to the creation or revitalisation of local economies, by creating new jobs and services. But what is the exact nature of these benefits, how can they be realised, and what policies could support this? On behalf of the IEA RETD TCP, the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) explored good practices, by addressing the following topics:
- How to increase and/or maintain employment in the local economy induced by the development of renewable energy projects?
- What type of employment and new business can it create? What are the conditions to make it happen?
- How to divide policy roles between national and local governments to achieve successful revitalisation of the local economy?
Six in-depth case studies were carried out, namely:
- Nord-Norge (Norway) –a cluster of renewable energy sources
- Saint Dizier and Le Mené (France) –a biomass heater with district heating network and a renewable energy cluster, respectively
- Santa-Cruz (USA) –solar PV installations
- Bay of Fundy (Canada) –in-stream tidal turbines including research and pre-commercial activities
- Furness Peninsula (the UK) –off-shore wind farms
- Hamburg (Germany) –renewable energy cluster
REvLOCAL was launched at a workshop on the revitalisation of local economy by development of renewable energy, which was held on 1 September 2016 in Fukushima in Japan. This region is in dire need of a revitalisation of the local economies, after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, and the damage caused by the resulting tsunami and nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. For more information visit the event page on the website.
The detailed case studies as well as the summary findings and the Japanese translation of the Executive Summary can be downloaded on this page.
Policymakers should seek to stimulate the following local and regional RES deployment strategies:
- Clear commitment of local political decision-makers towards ensuring the success of renewables projects is critical, helping to ensure a positive spirit of cooperation and facilitation
- A clear local strategy for renewables depends on identifying potential economic advantages, and an urgent need for action. Where local areas face disadvantages such as old, declining industries, or isolation, renewable energy investment can therefore gain traction and support more quickly. Long-term national strategies for energy decarbonisation should identify not just geographical opportunities for renewables installation, but also the potential synergies with the economic needs of such disadvantaged areas
- Cooperation among a wide range of key local stakeholders is important in helping to overcome bureaucratic delays and find creative solutions (and can be easier to generate where there is a sense of urgency about local economic conditions)
- Approaches based on local ownership and control of RES projects may facilitate local acceptance and maximise local benefits
- Regions and local areas need to identify and capitalise on their strengths, in terms both of the renewable resources available and the local economic context
- Care needs to be taken to secure local support both for the overall strategy and for individual projects, on the basis of transparent and realistic assessments of impacts and benefits
- A one-window approach to applications is a useful way of facilitating early deployment of projects. But in practice the degree of commitment shown by local political leaders seems to be the most important factor in ensuring that relevant local bureaucracies work together to make things happen
- The strengths of the local skills pool need to be identified, together with the investments necessary to develop new skills relevant to renewables deployment
- A supportive national or state-level policy framework, based on continuity and predictability, is important; while local commitment might be effective in the absence of supportive national policies, the two operating together create an enhanced, synergetic impact.
Further issues to be considered include the following:
- Self-sufficiency and lower fuels bills can be an important driver of local attitudes and enthusiasm; but political commitments on these issues need to be managed carefully if they are not to hamper further development of renewables for export
- The local economic benefits of renewable investment are not a ´zero-sum game´. Creating centres of expertise, and gaining early deployment experience, make the economics of renewables investment more attractive generally
- People learn by seeing and doing, and demonstration by example can have a big impact. More attention should be paid to ensuring that the wider benefits of first-mover experience are shared promptly.