ESRI Working Paper

Renewable electricity generation and transmission network developments in light of public opposition: Insights from Ireland

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March 18, 2020
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This paper analyses how people’s attitudes towards onshore wind power and overhead transmission lines affect the costoptimal development of electricity generation mixes, under a high renewable energy policy. For that purpose, we use a power systems generation and transmission expansion planning model, combined with information on public attitudes towards energy infrastructure on the island of Ireland. Overall, households have a positive attitude towards onshore wind power but their willingness to accept wind farms near their homes tends to be low. Opposition to overhead transmission lines is even greater. This can lead to a substantial increase in the costs of expanding the power system. In the Irish case, costs escalate by more than 4.3% when public opposition is factored into the constrained optimisation of power generation and grid expansion planning across the island. This is mainly driven by the compounded effects of higher capacity investments in more expensive technologies such as offshore wind and solar photovoltaic to compensate for lower levels of onshore wind generation and grid reinforcements. The results also reveal the effect of public opposition on the value of onshore wind, via shadow prices. The higher the level of public opposition, the higher the shadow value of onshore wind. And, this starkly differs across regions: regions with more wind resource or closest to major demand centres have the highest shadow prices. The shadow costs can guide policy makers when designing incentive mechanisms to garner public support for onshore wind installations.