According to IRENA, renewable energy installed capacity will need to triple by 2030 to limit the Paris climate goals. Yet, this energy transition is not merely a question of technical or economic feasibility at this point, but also a question of political preferences and public acceptance framed on the interplay between landscape changes in energy policy and on-the-ground support. Given the site-specific nature of renewable energy, public acceptance issues become relevant as they can aggravate social conflict and lead to intensified forms of opposition. In this context, it is relevant to acknowledge renewable energy developments are not inherently (un)fair and must include proactive community-focused strategies, rather than assuming that societies and communities will accept all new developments per se.
Colombia has world-class wind and solar energy potential and recent regulatory updates have enacted a robust framework of incentives. Commitments made by the government to increase renewable capacity have a special emphasis on La Guajira, a region known for its untapped and world-class wind energy potential. La Guajira also happens to be among the regions of Colombia with the largest population of Indigenous People. In La Guajira, there are about 16 wind park projects to be installed in the next 3 years representing around 70% of the newly installed capacity in Colombia, alongside new transmission infrastructure. Summed up with initiatives in the early stages of conception, government plans suggest there would be more than 60 wind parks by the early 2030s which would represent over 10000 MW of installed capacity, to a large extent located in Indigenous Peoples’ territories.
Yet, wind projects in La Guajira are facing difficulties at the implementation stage. These are primarily underpinned by justice and equity concerns. The significance of La Guajira as the spearhead of the energy transition in Colombia presents an opportunity and an urgency to raise attention to the importance of planning for fostering justice and equity in the process of upscaling wind capacity. Understanding the barriers and enablers of social acceptance by people whose daily lives would be affected in numerous ways because of renewable energy up-scaling is key for enabling its expansion and ensuring climate goals.
This research aims to identify the principal factors influencing or inhibiting social acceptance of wind energy projects in La Guajira, strengthen social dialogue platforms, information-sharing, and awareness, and make concrete recommendations directed at decision-makers, local communities, and the private sector in order to leverage socially beneficial outcomes.
Drawing on participatory approaches, we propose to identify how acceptance is understood and what its implications are from multiple stakeholder perspectives, including by project developers, governments at different levels, and local communities with an emphasis on Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives.
This project is in collaboration with the University of La Guajira.