Renewable energies – not in my backyard?!

Wind farm in Chile; Photo: ©GIZ/Shutterstock

Wind farm in Chile; Photo: ©GIZ/Shutterstock

Nowadays in Chile, if mining or energy projects are to be successfully implemented, they have to be approved by the population – and the same is increasingly applying to renewable energy projects, especially if they are very far-reaching.

Due to the successful expansion of renewable energies in Chile, some of these project activities are meanwhile advancing into agricultural areas and urban zones. Spatial planning is often inadequate, however, and the population is not always fully informed, making conflicts of interest inevitable.

So the central question was, how could project developers objectively assess how the surrounding municipalities would accept the future energy project? How could the need for action to improve the social acceptance of a project be identified in advance – and as simply as possible?

Following the analyses of experiences in Chile and in other countries such as Honduras, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru and Germany, the IKI project, ‘Solar energy support programme’, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with the Chilean Ministry of Energy has now developed an ‘Index for Social Acceptance’ (ISA) of large-scale, renewable energy projects in the form of an online tool.

ISA allows project developers to collect summarised information on how the local population in the immediate vicinity accepts the new energy project. The survey can be carried out as early as the planning phase and during the entire construction and service life of the energy project, forming an important control element for project management.

Introduction of the online-tool in the region of Atacama, Chile; Photo: @4e GIZ ChileTo ensure the exemplary application of the method, 89 people were interviewed once on site during the planning phase and once again at the beginning of the construction phase for a newly-planned wind farm in southern Chile. The analysis of the results showed that the wind farm developer had succeeded in establishing good relations with the municipalities, thanks to permanent presence and the sensitisation measures carried out among the population. The method was also successfully applied to five other projects, including a large photovoltaic plant under construction near Santiago de Chile, another wind power plant in the north of the country and a project idea for a small hydropower plant.

Since March 2019, the Chilean Ministry of Energy has made this procedure available to all project applicants as an assessment and control instrument during the environmental impact assessment phase. The ISA tool is publicly accessible, but it can also be obtained from the GIZ-4e programme website at www.4echile.cl.