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Ex ante assessment of social acceptance of small-scale agro-energy system: A case study in southern Italy

Prosperi, Maurizio, Lombardi, Mariarosaria, Spada, Alessia
Energy policy 2019 v.124 pp. 346-354
bioenergy, biomass, case studies, combustion, community service, decision making, energy industry, energy policy, ex ante analysis, risk, rural areas, social benefit, statistical analysis, theoretical models, villages, Italy
Social acceptance is a relevant determinant of the development of agro-energy systems because its absence can cause delays or even the abandonment of innovative projects. This paper aims at an ex ante assessment of the socio-political acceptance of small-scale agro-energy systems in rural areas located in southern Italy, according to the bioenergy village approach. Starting from a theoretical model, we investigated the key factors influencing the perception of the risks and benefits of the realization of a biomass combustion plant, by a statistical survey on a sample of 152 members of the local community living in eight municipalities located in a rural area. Through exploratory and confirmatory statistical analyses, we identified two key factors: (a) the economic, environmental, and social benefits for the community and (b) reassurance from the energy company management. This research shows that it is very important to consider these elements in order to facilitate dialogue and the debate within the local community. In this way, the involved actors will be enabled to express their expectations to decision makers and policymakers, thus contributing to the steering of the project. In other words, community involvement and the democracy of the energy policy processes are favoured.