Completed project: Acceptance of renewable energy

The image shows two hands holding arrows pointing in opposite directions.

To realise a change, both the political elite as well as the population have to accept projects and innovative political instruments.

The project headed up by Prof. Isabelle Stadelmann from the Institute of Political Science of the University of Bern had the following objectives:

  1. The description of the current state as well the development of renewable electricity production based on four energy sources (small hydro power, solar power, wind power and geothermal power) in the Swiss cantons.
  2. The analysis of the political elite’s acceptance of different policy instruments and instrument mixes to promote renewable energy.
  3. The identification of conditions under which citizens in a participatory context like Switzerland accept renewable energy policies and projects.


The results of the research project can be summarised as follows:

  1. Substantial differences exist concerning the degree to which the Swiss cantons use their natural potential for renewable electricity production. Taking small-scale hydropower as an example, an extensive positive planning was revealed to act as a hurdle for the implementation of local projects, whereas good feed-in conditions and local entrepreneurs promoting and mediating the local process are conducive to the deployment of renewable energy.
  2. The political elite is central to the selection and implementation of policy instruments for the promotion of renewables. The distribution of information is generally the lowest common denominator on which most actors can agree, whereas regulative and economic instruments are more strongly contested. Moreover, actors prefer different instrument types depending on the actor type and contingent on cantonal characteristics. Generally, previous expertise with the implementation of an instrument is related to a higher instrument acceptance.
  3. Whereas citizens are affirmative of renewable energy in general, their acceptance of renewable energy policy and related projects is characterised by “qualified support”. Visible costs are the crucial qualification, i.e., if households need to pay more, support strongly decreases, whereas nuclear phasing out is a trigger for policy support. In contrast, the electorate is reluctant to acknowledge the benefits of incentive-based instruments. This explains the lack of acceptance for these instruments, which have been identified as most effective by ecological economists.