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On the (un)successful deployment of renewable energies: territorial context matters. A conceptual framework and an empirical analysis of biogas projects

  • Agence d'urbanisme de Rouen et des Boucles de Seine et Eure


Given the goal set by the French government to open 1000 biogas plants by 2020, we feel it is important to investigate the factors linked to the success or failure of anaerobic digestion projects, especially as the inherent challenges mean that there are barely 300 in operation today. We thus developed a conceptual framework to help us examine territorial energy transition projects, which we applied to an empirical analysis of the biogas production process. We conducted a quantitative study (logit model with 91 anaerobic digestion projects) and a qualitative study (49 semi-structured interviews and 455 articles from the regional daily press) to identify and understand the processes through which anaerobic digestion projects reach a successful outcome or, conversely, fail. Our findings indicate that projects may be abandoned or interrupted due to the presence of groups of protestors who are often apprehensive of such schemes and do not trust the project leaders. Lack of anticipation and early dialogue tends to exacerbate the ensuing challenges. Furthermore, social acceptance appears to be correlated with proximity to the biogas plants but not to the size of the digester. Finally, operating and/or investment subsidies appear to have a positive and significant effect on a project’s success. In this study, we highlight the need to introduce locally defined policies rather than one-size-fits-all policies in order to develop renewable energy projects in specific regions.
Paper accepted for Energy Studies Review
On the (un)successful deployment of
renewable energies: territorial context
matters. A conceptual framework and
an empirical analysis of biogas projects
Sebastien BOURDIN, Associate Professor, EM Normandy Business School, Metis Lab, Department of
Regional Economics and Sustainable Development.
François RAULIN, Research engineer, EM Normandy Business School, Métis Lab
Clément JOSSET, Assistant Researcher, Métis Lab
Abstract: Given the goal set by the French government to open 1000 biogas plants by 2020, we feel it
is important to investigate the factors linked to the success or failure of anaerobic digestion projects,
especially as the inherent challenges mean that there are barely 300 in operation today. We thus
developed a conceptual framework to help us examine territorial energy transition projects, which we
applied to an empirical analysis of the biogas production process. We conducted a quantitative study
(logit model with 91 anaerobic digestion projects) and a qualitative study (49 semi-structured
interviews and 455 articles from the regional daily press) to identify and understand the processes
through which anaerobic digestion projects reach a successful outcome or, conversely, fail. Our
findings indicate that projects may be abandoned or interrupted due to the presence of groups of
protestors who are often apprehensive of such schemes and do not trust the project leaders. Lack of
anticipation and early dialogue tends to exacerbate the ensuing challenges. Furthermore, social
acceptance appears to be correlated with proximity to the biogas plants but not to the size of the
digester. Finally, operating and/or investment subsidies appear to have a positive and significant effect
on a project’s success. In this study, we highlight the need to introduce locally defined policies rather
than one-size-fits-all policies in order to develop renewable energy projects in specific regions.
Keywords: biogas, anaerobic digestion, territorial context, energy transition
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1. Introduction
The literature provides valuable information on factors linked to the success or failure of renewable
energy projects at local level – especially wind energy projects (Dawley, 2014; Steen & Hansen, 2018)
– but there is a severe lack of empirical evidence when it comes to anaerobic digestion projects 1. Just a
few studies have explored the obstacles affecting the development of biogas production plants from
the perspective of technical, financial and social factors (Capodaglio, 2016). Most of these studies
only deal with the issue of local acceptance, despite the fact that other factors can affect a project’s
success or failure. Given the increasing number of potential projects in France that do not necessarily
succeed2, we attempt to fill the gap as to why anaerobic digestion projects fail, investigating (i) the
role of financial incentives, (ii) social acceptability (project siting and governance) and (iii) the issues
linked to geographic location and the size of the digester. We argue that the territorial context and local
specificities are key factors in understanding why a project goes ahead or not, and we propose an
original conceptual framework in regional science to investigate the issue.
The production of organic effluents and waste in France and the majority of industrialized countries
has increased substantially in the last few decades. This production puts politicians in an extremely
challenging position as such products and the way they are managed can be a source of pollution for
our environment (soil, water and atmospheric pollution) and for mankind, and yet, paradoxically,
provides a potential source of renewable energy that can be capitalized on in order to (i) reduce the
impact on the environment, (ii) anticipate regulatory changes and (iii) build on its energetic and
agronomic, and thus economic, potential. Anaerobic digestion has been developed in several EU
countries as a result of the gradual implementation of regulatory requirements concerning the
treatment of organic waste and the recent commitments made by the European Union regarding
renewable energy (European Commission, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2015 and 2017). This can be partially
explained by the fact that anaerobic digestion is considered the best way to recover energy from waste
1 In the rest of the document we use the term anaerobic digestion or biogas to refer to the methane-producing
process which consists of transforming green waste into energy (biogas, heat, electricity).
2 In 2019, there were 340 on-farm units and 49 centralised plants (also called territorial or multi-partner
anaerobic digestion units), while the government's goal for 2020 is to create 1000 biogas plants (source: SINOE
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in environmental terms (Chynoweth et al., 2001; European Court of Auditors, 2017). It is a biological
process that produces a biogas mainly composed of methane and carbon dioxide from organic
effluents and waste (Bishop et al., 2010). Among other options, biogas may be injected directly into
the gas network or recovered using cogeneration to produce electricity and heat.
The anaerobic digestion process re-emerged as an energy production solution at the beginning of the
21st century in France. It had developed significantly by the 1970s and 1980s when there were around
one hundred facilities. However, the French energy policy, based principally on nuclear energy, rapidly
led to its decline, resulting in a barren spell that lasted more than twenty years. The renewed interest in
anaerobic digestion stems from the strategy to develop renewable energies as an alternative to fossil
fuels with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the national political will to revive
anaerobic digestion as part of the energy transition process, projects are struggling to materialize or
come to fruition. The energy transition act states that by the year 2030, 10% of gas consumption and
40% of electricity in France must come from renewable energies. In order to meet these ambitious
goals, 1000 biogas plants are supposed to be open by 2020. However, the new business segment is
finding it hard to take off. At the end of 2016, there were just 270 plants in operation, and only 24
injecting clean gas into the network. Consequently, we need to understand why the development of
anaerobic digestion appears to be such a challenge in France.
Social, geographical and financial factors can all be blamed to some extent. This is partly due to the
fact that, like wind energy projects, anaerobic digestion is dependent on social acceptance. Several
major social concerns emerge with the setting up of biogas facilities, with nearby populations unhappy
about factors such as proximity to housing, the perceived risk of explosions, the smell and the increase
in traffic from trucks carrying waste. These concerns are often due to a lack of consultation (Rau et al.,
2012; Soland et al., 2013; Kortsch et al., 2015; Bourdin, 2019; Bourdin, 2020). A growing number of
local residents have demonstrated their opposition to the setting up of controversial alternative energy
projects near their living environment (Dimitropoulos and Kontoleon, 2009; Roberts et al., 2013; Ek
and Persson, 2014; Upham et al., 2015 ; Horie and Managi, 2017), claiming that they affect their
quality of life (von Möllendorff & Welsch, 2017). Clearly, energy projects provide fertile ground for
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controversy. Hydraulic structures, wind farms and shale gas extraction have all been subject to
sustained local opposition, so much so that developers and decision-makers increasingly acknowledge
that the “social aspect” is a major factor, not to mention a risk, when it comes to the success or failure
of such projects. In particular, we have seen the development of the NIMBY (not in my back yard)
response to wind energy projects over the past few years (Fischel, 2001; Devine-Wright, 2005;
Wolsink, 2007; Meyerhoff et al., 2010; Mattmann et al., 2016; Zerrahn, 2017; Klain et al., 2017 and
2018). While there is an extensive body of literature on wind energy issues, there has been very little
research on social acceptability with regard to anaerobic digestion and the role of local opposition in
the failure of such projects (McCormick and Kåberger, 2007; Adams et al., 2011; Röder, 2016;
Schumacher and Schultmann, 2017; Mittal et al., 2018 ; Bourdin, 2019). Moreover, to our knowledge,
no studies have examined the extent to which size can influence the local acceptability of projects.
However, the question of size is a major parameter to consider in the context of collective biogas
projects as it is often a key profitability factor (Van Groenendaal et al., 2010; Rajendran et al., 2013).
Second, the difference in the perception of renewable energy projects according to their siting, from
the perspective of both proximity to housing (Roberts et al., 2013; Van Rensburg et al., 2015) and their
location in urban or rural areas (Bergmann et al., 2007), have been investigated in the social
acceptability literature. However, to date, no specific studies on cases of anaerobic digestion have been
published. We feel it is important to examine whether the geographical location of biogas plants plays
a role in their acceptance or rejection as the literature is ambiguous on this topic. Taking the example
of wind turbines, Van Rensburg et al. (2015) suggest that proximity to housing is unimportant, and yet
we might expect people living near these facilities to be reticent about accepting wind turbines in the
near vicinity.
Third, given that public funding is very limited, we would also like to examine whether projects that
obtain public subsidies have a higher probability of materializing or if, in the end, the money invested
to support such projects fails to have the desired effect. So far, the findings from studies that focus on
this issue are contradictory (Costello and Finnell, 1998; Rösch and Kaltschmitt, 1999; Kutas et al.,
2007; Zglobisz et al., 2010; Adams et al., 2011; Ferreira et al., 2012). To be more specific, between
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2011 and 2017, the French government encouraged the development of cogeneration projects with the
provision of advantageous feed-in tariffs. Since 2017, it has encouraged project leaders to turn more
towards investment in the gas network, so it seems of interest to consider which (if either) type of
energy recovery is more likely to see projects come to fruition in the future.
This article contributes to the current multidisciplinary debate on climate change and energy transition
from an economic and geographical point of view. Our study examines the deployment of anaerobic
digestion in the “Great West” region of France between 2003 and 2018, adopting a mixed method
featuring a quantitative approach with a logit model applied to 91 biogas plants and a qualitative
approach analysing (i) 49 semi-structured interviews with the stakeholders of 9 successful or failed
projects and (ii) 455 articles published in the regional daily press to illustrate and understand the
findings obtained from the model.
2. Literature review
We found several reasons in the literature to explain why some projects find it hard to take shape or
are later abandoned. These include the acceptability of anaerobic digestion (in terms of the biogas
plants’ siting, trust and participatory democracy) and the funding of these projects.
2.1. Local hostility towards biogas projects and the siting of plants
Local hostility towards biogas plants is commonly explained in terms of the “NIMBY” effect, which
denotes the position of individuals who perceive the energy resulting from biomass as positive for
society in general since it is green energy3, but whose personal cost-benefit analysis leads them to
object to the construction of a plant in their immediate vicinity. From an economic point o f view, the
NIMBY effect presents a social dilemma, i.e. a situation in which the collective interest conflicts with
individual interests (Fischel, 2001; Van der Horst, 2007; Thomas, 2017). Moreover, emotions appear
to play a crucial role in individual decisions, which are often far from purely rational. As far as the
3 With positive potential externalities (expansion of the renewable energy capacity and reduction in greenhouse
gases from the generation of conventional energy, creation of jobs in the renewable energy industry, decrease in
dependence on resource imports, etc.).
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acceptability of wind energy projects is concerned for instance, the extant literature highlights the
concept of “attachment to place”, which designates an emotional and symbolic bond uniting
individuals with the place in which they live (Devine-Wright, 2009 and 2014; Cass and Walker, 2009).
From this perspective, the NIMBY concept has frequently been criticized as over simplistic and
inappropriate to understand the real motivation of the majority of objectors (Devine-Wright, 2005).
Several studies have tried to go beyond the NIMBY framework, showing that other factors play a
crucial role in the acceptability of wind energy projects. Three of them are addressed in more detail
below: i.e., distributive justice, procedural justice and trust in the developer.
Distributive justice refers to the subjective individual estimation of the way in which costs and
benefits are distributed within a group (Adams, 1965). In this case, benefits may be monetary, such as
the profit resulting from the electricity generated and the creation of new jobs in the green energy
industry, or non-monetary, including compensatory measures aimed at reducing negative externalities
linked to the setting up of biogas plants (Sovacool and Ratan, 2012). They may be related to a
depreciation in the value of land and buildings (Vyn, 2019), a change in the landscape (visual
pollution), the smell, a perceived risk of potential explosion linked to biogas, or an increase in traffic
from trucks carrying raw materials (Soland et al., 2013; Kortsch et al., 2015; Schumacher and
Schultmann, 2017; Mittal et al., 2018).
Procedural justice concerns the subjective perception of fairness in the process of setting up biogas
plants. It relates to aspects such as choice of site (siting) and the permit procedure, the potential for a
participatory approach, the amount of information available, etc. (Zoellner et al., 2008; Kortsch et al.,
2015). Perceptions of justice and fairness are inherent to a community’s wellbeing. Situations that are
viewed as unfair can lead to protest and conflict within a community, especially when decisions seem
to favour certain actors at the expense of others. Consequently, if local communities perceive most of
the benefits from the energy generated as being monopolized by outside interests, or if they are not
involved in the development process, it can foster a feeling of being unfairly treated, resulting in
oppositional activism (Upham and Shackley, 2007; McCormick and Kåberger, 2007; Adams et al.,
2011; Soland et al., 2013; Capodaglio et al., 2016; Schumacher and Schultmann, 2017). The current
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literature makes no mention of studies on the link between proximity to housing and the forming of
local opposition likely to block anaerobic digestion projects. We therefore attempt to explore this issue
since, as far as we know, only one study (Bergmann, 2008) to date has examined the difference in
acceptability of wind energy projects wih respect to siting, analysing the various perceptions of
inhabitants according to the places they live in, whether urban or rural.
Finally, trust in the green energy project developer is essential with regard to social acceptability
(Upreti and van der Horst, 2004; Gross, 2007; Goedkoop and Devine-Wright, 2016), especially when
residents know little about the technology used, as is the case with anaerobic digestion. Trust enables
cooperation and communication to be established, ensuring the project is set up in a way that is
adapted to the local situation, generating consensus rather than conflict. Social acceptability is thus a
key concern in the anaerobic digestion industry and for populations who feel excluded from local
biogas development projects. To date, only the study by Soland et al. (2013) using the example of
Switzerland with a survey of 502 citizens living near 19 biogas plants – has confirmed the importance
of trust in such situations, as it emphasizes the fact that social acceptability often increases when the
project leader is known. This factor is worth developing through more empirical evidence. Thus, our
study looks at the importance of trust as a tool to avoid local opposition to projects. Our method is
different from that of Soland et al. (2013) in that we not only focus on what the residents say, but we
also examine the reasoning adopted by the various biogas plant project stakeholders.
2.2. The role of public policies in the success of projects
Setting up biogas plants involves relatively high investment, varying between €200,000 and €800,000,
depending on the size of the plant (these costs include the site development, the reception and
management of substrates, the biogas digester, biogas added value, heat recovery and engineering).
Loans or subsidies are consequently required to cover some of the initial costs. Investment subsidies
exist in most EU countries (Piterou et al., 2008; van Foreest, 2012) and have been identified as
potential incentives for anaerobic digestion development (Costello and Finnell, 1998; Engdahl, 2010).
As regards measures aimed at encouraging the development of bioenergy, Kutas et al. (2007) explain
that public authorities have also contributed to the funding of experimental demonstrator biogas plants.
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These measures are crucial to the implementation of the EU energy strategy (European Commission,
2006) for EU countries that aims to reduce carbon emissions by adopting more renewable energies
(including biogas). As early as 2004, the European Environment Agency was warning about the need
to implement this type of incentive in order to reduce the imbalance in the energy market due to the
fact that fossil fuels and nuclear energy were granted large subsidies to support this kind of carbon
economy. Adams et al. (2011) explain that the UK introduced this type of measure to reach EU targets.
In France, 547 on-farm anaerobic digestion or centralized anaerobic digestion projects received
investment support from the National Agency for the Environment between 2007 and 2015, worth
192.3 million euros. In addition, it is not rare for some projects to be co-financed by local authorities
(department, region, municipality) or the European Union via the ERDF. However, in a context where
public finances are being squeezed, we question whether projects that have obtained public funding
have a higher probability of seeing the light of day, or whether, in the end, money invested to support
such projects fails to have the desired effect. This issue is all the more important as local authorities
spend ever more on their energy bill. However, they could expect a return on investment if the
community can extract synergies from being an input supplier for a digester and, simultaneously, a
beneficiary of the energy produced (e.g. heat for the municipal pool, electricity for public lighting,
In addition to such financial incentives, other measures can foster the development of this form of
renewable energy and make it attractive, especially through regulations and systems of guaranteed
feed-in tariffs, or a partial or total exemption of taxes on the biogas produced (Kutas et al., 2008).
These financial measures and support policies, especially in Germany, Finland, Sweden and Portugal,
have helped to boost anaerobic digestion (Koplow, 2007; McCormick and Kaberger, 2007; Ferreira et
al., 2012). A study in Germany, for instance, showed that such incentive schemes only work if tariffs
remain stable over a 15- to 20-year period, and that they are ineffective otherwise (Klein et al., 2008).
In Sweden, McCormick and Kaberger (2005 and 2007) showed that the introduction of a carbon tax
helped to establish the terms and conditions of a sufficiently competitive bioenergy market.
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While the literature provides evidence of the role of financial (investment subsidies, feed-in tariffs)
and regulatory incentives to generate the development of anaerobic digestion projects, there is no
empirical evidence regarding the role subsidies play in a projects’ success, and whether the allocated
subsidies create a leverage effect to make the funding of biogas plant projects easier. Our study
provides insights into this issue in the French context.
3. A conceptual framework to analyse (un)successful territorial energy
transition projects
The conceptual framework we present in this paper is based on two key notions, namely, territorial
specificities and social acceptability, as we believe that studying the success and failure of territorial
energy transition projects can offer insights into the way firms gain a foothold in an area and the
inherent geographical contours. It also implies reconsidering the role of territories in the organisation
of energy transition (in terms of spatial planning, territorial governance and taking territorial
specificities into account). To this end, it seems useful to develop a better understanding of how
relations between individuals and their living environment advance the acceptance or rejection of a
project, and which factors in a project’s relationship with its chosen territory facilitate a successful
energy transition process.
The basic definition of the term ‘territory’ refers to a portion of space appropriated by a social group to
ensure its reproduction and satisfaction of its vital needs. It is the outcome of the interweaving of
three, existential (entity and territorial identity), physical (natural and material properties) and
organisational (role and properties of social agents) facets, and is also subject to a certain number of
natural, historic, economic, financial, social and physical constraints4 which give it its originality and
distinguish it from other territories. That is why we speak about territorial specificities.
‘Territory’ also reflects the place of collective identity, the feeling of belonging, and territorial
practices on the social acceptability of the infrastructure in question. Here, social acceptability is
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viewed as the agreement of a social group to accept a new development close to their home, and this is
largely dependent on the territorial governance processes that come into play. Various studies found in
the literature on the social acceptability of technical innovations can provide us with clearer insights
into the issues involved. Social representations in general, and of the project in particulier, factor in as
intermediary variables, mediating the links between the subject, a specific social group and their
spatial context. The social acceptability of a territorial energy transition project thus depends on the
social representations of individuals in a given territorial context.
Consequently, the sustainable nature of a territorial energy transition project and the promise of
economic development linked to green energy infrastructures do not automatically meet with approval.
In similar vein, the renewable nature of a form of energy does not systematically garner the support of
local populations and stakeholders insofar as the underlying question not only concerns the innocuous
nature of the energy with regard to global warming (fewer polluting emissions, less CO2, etc.), but
also the inconvenience and the impact in general. The infrastructure not only pertains to the
technology and its repercussions in general, but also to its application in a politically and socially
appropriate organised territory. In addition, the territorial integration of renewable energy projects
must take the specific features of the siting area into account and the way the issues, challenges and
constraints mesh together on various levels.
It thus appears important to identify the factors that affect the success or failure of a territorial green
energy project: (i) the nature of the project: each infrastructure has a different impact and generates
different reactions. Concomitant with a smaller carbon footprint, renewable energies can nonetheless
fuel tension and encounter opposition at local level since they have an impact on the territory and
potentially on the wellbeing of individuals. The nature of the project depends on the type of
technology used and the size; (ii) the project initiators and their legitimacy, based on the trust capital
they may have created in the siting area from prior interactions in the locality; (iii) the decision-
making processes and questions relative to the planning of consultation and the territorial governance
process; (iv) the project’s territorial installation and any potential changes to land use arising from the
green energy infrastructure, and the potentially modified relations between actors. Regional integration
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also refers to the distribution of positive and negative externalities and their fairness; (v) reasons for
the emergence of a project such as opportunity-related issues or the imposition of norms and laws
independent of the project siting area; (vi) the mobilisation of specific territorial resources, both
material (infrastructures, natural resources, land, finance, etc.) and immaterial (skills, local knowhow,
stakeholder networks, etc.).
The links between these issues are presented in Figure 1 below. The main working hypothesis thus
links the two notions mentioned above: the social acceptability of infrastructures depends on the local
population’s social representations of the project. These social representations depend on the
multidimensional properties of the territory of the populations concerned. The territorial specificities
and the nature of the project also determine the outcomes of local renewable energy projects.
Fig 1. A conceptual framework to analyse (un)successful territorial energy transition projects
The objective attributes of a territorial green energy project are perceived and evaluated through a
system of social representations. The behaviours of individuals differ in response to this process,
depending on both their personal characteristics and those of their environment: some adapt and
remain in place, while others adopt strategies to deal with the project: i.e., exit (departure), voice
(manifestation, mobilisation) or loyalty (acceptance). In return, the behaviours have an impact on
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different elements of the system, especially the territorial dynamics. This process takes place in a
specific socio-spatial context at a given moment in time. However, the territory in question fits into a
temporal dynamic (past, present, future) and is retroactively linked to other spatial scales that can
influence the project (exogenic factors). The territorial specificities play a major role by modifying the
nature and aims of the project, but also by influencing the territorial governance and participation
4. Materials and method
4.1. Study area
Our aim is to explain the success of anaerobic digestion projects in the west of France between 2003
and 2018 (see map 1). Our study area stretches across three administrative regions in France, namely
Normandy, Brittany and the Pays de la Loire. Between 2004 and 1st July 2018, 91 joint anaerobic
digestion projects with partial or exclusive waste biomass recycling had emerged in the “Great West”
region of France. Unlike “farm-based” projects where one farm decides to recycle its agricultural
waste, joint projects have a territorial dimension involving waste contributors with different profiles
(farmer cooperatives, agri-business industry,syndicat mixte -or joint ventures between various
public authorities for waste disposal-, etc.). Our study is based on both qualitative data (semi-
structured interviews) and quantitative data. Our dataset covers these 91 projects that have either been
launched, are under construction, are still in the planning stage, or are on hold or even abandoned. We
compare the findings of the logit model with the findings obtained from our interviews.
Map 1. Territorial anaerobic digestion projects in the western area of France in January 2018
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4.2. Quantitative approach: data and model
Our empirical analysis attempts to determine how a predictive dataset X is associated with the
probability of success of a biogas plant Y. We used a logistic regression model (Logit) to this end, as
Y = f(X, e), where
Y= the dependent variable as defined above
X= the matrix of variables likely to explain the variation of Y as defined above
e= the logistic distribution error
The estimation of our Logit model is based on the maximum-likelihood method. Let us take
the probability that the Logit associates with the survey unit:
Let us take
as the probability that the Logit associates with the biogas plant:
Pi=F(Ii)= 1
I =
+ … +
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is a vector representing the characteristics of the biogas plant,
represents the coefficients
of the explanatory variables and
represents the explanatory variables.
Table 1 provides descriptive statistics for these data. The value of 1 for the binary data in this table
indicates that the given variable has occurred and is effective. If this is not the case, the value is zero.
Our dependent variable (FAILURE_PROJECT) is the presence of an anaerobic digestion project that is
on hold or has been abandoned. When this variable is equal to zero, the project has come to fruition.
Our explanatory variables reflect the factors that can explain a project’s probability of success or
failure. We drew upon the extant literature to identify these independent variables (7 in total) and, as
we shall see, assumptions about the influence (positive or negative sign expected) these explanatory
variables can have on the explained variable are seldom obvious. In fact, they warrant additional
empirical analysis. The variables were gathered and systematically compiled for each unit of our study
The first type of variable concerns the social aspect of project governance and acceptability. First, the
AGRI_PROJECT variable equals 1 if the plant only recycles agricultural waste. Only farmers supply
the raw materials for such projects. The fact that they know each other well and generally trust each
other (Goedkoop and Devine-Wright, 2016) lets us assume that this type of project is likely to be more
successful than a project led by industrialists who might join forces with farmers and local authorities
with different ways of working (Torre and Wallet, 2014), making the project more difficult to achieve.
Another variable, LOCAL_PORTAGE, equals 1 if all the project stakeholders are located within a
50km radius of the biogas plant. The actors’ spatial proximity must be beneficial to the project,
notably by reducing transport costs and enabling the stakeholders to meet up more often and facilitate
the project’s governance (Filippi and Torre, 2003; Torre and Wallet, 2014). The
LOCAL_OPPOSITION variable equals 1 if the residents, inhabitants or environmental activists have
organized opposition to the anaerobic digestion project. To collect this data, we conducted an
exhaustive survey of the associations that challenged a biogas scheme linked to a project under study,
with the help of regional daily newspapers and the list of associations held by the prefecture. The
probability of a biogas plant being accepted is lower if a group of protestors rallies against it (Adams
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et al., 2011; Soland et al., 2013; Capodaglio et al., 2016; Schumacher and Schultmann, 2017). Finally,
some authors (Van Groenendaal et al, 2010; Rajendran et al, 2013) have indicated that the project’s
size is a key factor in the profitability of digesters. However, it appears that projects which are too
large are likely to generate more negative outcomes for local residents and affect their quality of life
(von Möllendorff & Welsch, 2017), and may therefore result in reduced social acceptance. To our
knowledge, however, no studies have investigated this crucial aspect. Moreover, as Capodaglio (2016)
points out, financial incentives may depend on the project’s size and consequently influence the
project leader’s choice in this regard. The SIZE variable is measured according to the tonnage of the
digester (Napierian logarithm).
The second type of variable concerns the question of acceptability viewed from the geographical
perspective of siting. Firstly, the URBAN_TYPE variable equals 1 if the biogas plant is located in an
urban environment5, otherwise its value is 0. It is assumed that people living in rural areas are more
likely to accept anaerobic digestion projects since they can boost a region by creating local jobs,
especially given that rural areas often struggle with unemployment. However, unlike urban areas
where digesters can be located on industrial wasteland, the impact on the landscape is greater in the
countryside, and this can have an adverse impact on the acceptance of biogas plant installations
(Bergmann et al., 2007). Secondly, the DWELLINGS_DISTANCE variable represents the distance in
metres (Napierian logarithm) between the first house and the biogas plant. We developed a
geographical information system (GIS) to calculate this distance. It is assumed that this variable has a
positive impact on the creation of biogas plants (Roberts et al., 2013; Van Rensburg et al., 2015) since
the further the first houses are from the plant, the less risk there is of them being subjected to the
associated costs (smell, increase in traffic, etc.).
The last type of variable concerns financial issues. First of all, we introduced a variable concerning
changing biogas market conditions because during the period of the study, it has significantly change
and we can reasonably think that it influences the success or failure of a project. We introduced a
dummy variable on the change in the purchase price of electricity from biogas over the period
5 According to INSEE (French National Institute for Statistics): “an urban unit is a district or group of districts
with an uninterrupted built-up area (no more than 200m between two buildings where there are at least 200
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(PRICE_GAS). Concerning the others variables, on the one hand, we have the GAS_TECHNO
variable, which equals 1 if the plant injects the biomethane it produces directly into the natural gas
network. It is assumed that projects recycling the gas will be more profitable than traditional anaerobic
digestion plants, since biomethane has multiple uses, especially as fuel for certain kinds of vehicles.
Furthermore, the French government wants to have 10% of its overall gas sources produced from
green gas by the year 2030, and is therefore likely to introduce incentive mechanisms (monetary and
non-monetary) for the development of this technology in order to support project leaders. On the other
hand, there is the additional cost of cleaning the biogas and connecting it to the natural gas network,
which may pose a threat to the project’s sustainability. Moreover, as the technology is recent (the first
biogas plant with direct injection was commissioned in France in 2013), the actors do not yet have the
hindsight needed and may hesitate with regard to this type of project. In addition, the
NO_FINANCING variable equals 1 if the project has not received any operating and/or investment
subsidies. The probability of a project being launched increases when subsidies are granted (Costello
and Finnell, 1998; Engdahl, 2010). It is therefore assumed that a project which receives no financial
aid through public policies has more chance of failing.
Table 1: Description of the variables
4.3. Qualitative approach
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Our qualitative approach is based on two sets of data: one concerns the transcription of semi-directive
interviews, the other the collection of press articles. A total of 49 interviews were conducted with
biogas actors in the Great-West region of France between July 2016 and February 2018. The semi-
structured interviews had two aims, namely, to separate issues into themes and to delve deeper into
certain aspects using follow-up questions set out in an interview guide. The questions relate to several
different topics, such as the levers and obstacles encountered during the project’s development, the
project’s territorial governance and clustering strategies within a joint project (Table 2). Although most
of the questions remained the same, we created a guide with specific questions for each type of actor
interviewed (farmer, local politician, regional point of contact, company, association, resident) in order
to specifically target their role within the project. Additional questions were included for project
leaders (farmers, local politicians and company directors) on the project’s emergence and the levers
and obstacles encountered. The questions concerned identity (name, gender, age) and career path
(professional situation, training, qualifications, etc.) to give us a better understanding of the
respondents’ profiles. These interviews were then recorded and re-transcribed in their entirety in order
to make the analysis easier. The interviews were face-to-face and ranged in length from 30 minutes to
2 hours and 15 minutes.
The stakeholders targeted to take part in the survey were first contacted by phone or by email. The vast
majority of those who answered agreed to take part. As far as the residents were concerned, we made
door-to-door enquiries near the projects or the biogas plants selected for our analysis. These interviews
were conducted in various places (office, meeting room, residents’ dining room, project leaders’ dining
room, farmers’ dining room, etc.). The length of the interviews varied considerably, ranging from 30
minutes for some residents to more than two hours for a project leader. The interviews were recorded
using a voice recorder placed on the table between the interviewer and the interviewee.
Table 2: Interview guide (example for oe “farmer” project leader)
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A study sample of nine fields (i.e. around 10% of all the projects) was selected in order to conduct the
interviews with project stakeholders (map 2). In total, fourteen territorial interlocutors (Chamber of
Agriculture, ADEME, etc.), eleven residents near collective anaerobic digestion projects, six
association presidents (pro and anti- anaerobic digestion schemes), eight companies (project leader
and stakeholder), seven elected representatives (mayor, president of a community of municipalities
and a politician) and seven farmers (project leader and stakeholders) were interviewed. We studied the
following ventures in detail: five projects in Normandy (Coutances Agricultural High School, in the
planning stage during our study and managed by a school; Capik in Fresnoy-Folny, in operation since
2011 and managed by an energy industrialist, a grain cooperative and EDF (the French Electricity
Distribution Company); Biogaz de Gaillon, in operation since 2013 and managed by a local authority
together with an environmental industrialist; Percy Biogaz in Percy-en-Normandie, currently on hold
and managed by a farmers cooperative; Agrigaz Vire in Vire-Normandie, in the planning stage during
our study and managed by a farmers co-operative), three projects in the Pays de la Loire area
(Agrimaine in Charchigné, under construction during the study and managed by a farmers cooperative;
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Oudon Biogaz in Livré-la-Touche, in the planning stage during the study and managed by a farmers
cooperative; Methamaine in Meslay du Maine, in the planning stage during the study and managed by
a local authority) and one project in Brittany (Geotexia in Le Mené, in operation since 2009 and
managed by a farmers cooperative, an energy industrialist and the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations
(French consignment and deposit office)).
Map 2. Nine territorial digestion projects in the western region of France
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In addition to the corpus of interviews, we collected a number of press articles for analysis. The
regional daily press is a useful research medium to understand how an object captures the media’s
attention and how it is treated (Darly and Torre, 2013). It also helps to detail the perceptions of
different actors on a topic (Carducci et al., 2011; Torre et al., 2014). However, press articles (especially
the written press) have certain specific features. They are polyphonic in nature (journalists transcribe
the words they hear or read) and can be divided into three categories: (i) the reported event, (ii) the
commented event and (iii) the induced event. Consequently, studying articles in the regional daily
press requires taking certain factors into account by distinguishing, for instance, between words in
quotation marks (theoretically reported spoken words) and those without quotation marks (journalistic
writing that may adopt a freer tone).
We selected the daily newspaper Ouest France to conduct our analysis as, first, it is distributed in three
administrative regions of north-western France (Brittany, Normandy and Pays-de-la-Loire) and its
distribution area covers our study area and, second, it is a mainstream paper and so has a high
probability of relaying biogas project news at local level. In addition, it is widely read, with fifty local
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editions and a daily circulation of about 700,000 copies6, providing a wide-ranging source of
information. Using the Factiva electronic database7, we first selected articles with the keyword
"aerobic digestion" and/or "biogas" in the title. We then retained articles that dealt only with local
aerobic digestion projects, focusing exclusively on the actors’ discourse. However, this method is not
exhaustive since articles dealing with aerobic digestion may have titles that do not include either of the
two keywords. 455 items were collected between October 2003 and July 2016.
Regarding the processing of qualitative data, the re-transcribed interviews and press articles collected
were manually analysed for their themed content in order to define and understand the drivers and
obstacles to the rollout of the biogas projects. According to Miles et al. (1994), themed coding can
reduce large quantities of data to a small number of analytical units, helping the researchers to re-focus
the analysis as the data are being gathered. In line with these authors’ recommendations, we therefore
drew up a preliminary list of codes (e.g.: on the organisational and socio-economic obstacles and
success factors inherent in biogas development), keeping in mind that these would inevitably change
and evolve over the course of the field experience. This involved identifying and grouping similar
expressions and sentences within the corpus to help the researcher analyse the qualitative data
collected. Thus, a reference dictionary of themes was created from the beginning of the interview
stage. This helped us to group themes, dimensions and verbatim, categorised to some extent in order to
reduce and summarise the information available from the data gathered. The analysis of qualitative
content consists of carrying out a pre-analysis (floating reading, identification of clues, division into
significant units), then exploitation (categorisation, counting) and finally, interpretation. The data were
analysed using standard methods of qualitative thematic analysis. We thus built up a dictionary of
themes in three stages. The first stage enabled us to identify the main themes and to identify recurring
ideas and the use of metaphors and analogies. The second stage consisted of drawing up theoretical
linkages following a second reading. The third stage allowed us to analyse the data collected in the
field. To this end, we first sorted the data using key words from the interviews and press articles
collected and classified by field (a micro level process focusing on an analysis of each biogas project
6 Ouest France ranked first in the French regional daily press in terms of readership in 2016 and has been first
for several years according to figures provided by the National Press Agency.
7 A professional information tool that aggregates different content such as newspapers, magazines, photos, etc.
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and its development over time), and we included personal observations and particularly striking or
illustrative sentences from the interviewees. During the discourse analysis, we identified more general
project-related aspects (a more macro level process aimed at understanding and identifying the
obstacles and levers to project development). Finally, we conducted cross-tabulations in which the
comments of project stakeholders were categorized into variables, and aerobic digestion projects
whose wording disclosed these variables were identified in order to define classes. It should be noted
that the corpus was read and coded by the principal researcher and validated by the other two
researchers to ensure that the data analysis was robust and accurate.
5. Findings
5.1. Lack of anticipation, feelings of injustice and fears concerning aerobic digestion
Table 3 shows the results of our Logit model. We organized the section on the analysis of the findings
in such a way as to compare the model’s output and the content of the semi-structured interviews.
Table 3. Logit model
Lack of understanding and trust leads to rejection of the project
Despite the development of anaerobic digestion and the large number of reports appearing in the
mainstream media, its principles remain relatively unknown and projects were perceived as creating
uncertainty. The study of the interviews and the press articles helped us to underscore the socio-spatial
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representations that citizens make of territorial anaerobic digestion projects. Given the lack of
understanding of this type of alternative energy and the externalities it can generate, the issue of fear
was frequently mentioned, as were the negative impacts.
Our qualitative corpus clearly shows that lack of anticipation and early dialogue contributes to
a lack of trust and heightened fears, despite the fact that the project leader felt he had given
enough information about the project. In effect, in our cross-tabulation of the interviews and
press articles, we often came across issues pertaining to the rules of participation of the public.
The concerns raised reflect the reactions of third parties that epitomize their need to
understand and be reassured rather than their objections to such schemes. Their responses are
nonetheless often seen as a rejection of the project by the project leaders. Other, more radical
forms of disagreement may give rise to far stronger opposition, with associations being created
to oppose the projects (expression of procedural justice). Residents’ resistance often reflects
the defence of a living environment that supports a “lifelong project”. Our model (Table 3)
shows a very significant likelihood that a project will fail if a group of protestors is created.
Problems of communication and lack of information reinforce opposition
Our interviews show that project leaders faced with local opposition are generally surprised when
conflict arises and by the scale of such conflict. This surprise effect helps to explain their lack of
anticipation, which is all the more evident when there is no public inquiry as they believe they are less
exposed to a risk of opposition and even think they can ignore local opposition entirely. Moreover, in
the cases we studied, the third parties were only contacted once the opposition had emerged (whereas
project leaders with no opposition had initiated dialogue beforehand), and their approach was more of
an attempt to persuade the opponents (crisis communication) than a real desire to discuss the matter. In
the case of the Percy-en-Normandie project (in the Manche region), the project leader was very
apprehensive of local residents learning about the project’s existence for fear they would oppose it.
According to interviews with citizens living near a biogas plant where opposition had been strong, we
noted that when there is a lack of transparency surrounding a project, there is cause for concern, and
almost all the objecting residents said words to the effect that: “when it’s not clear, there’s something
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fishy going on”. The residents who felt affected by the project wanted at least some dialogue and, if
possible, prior consultation so they could put their point of view across, including before the project is
submitted for administrative approval. Indeed, a lack of public consultation when a project is
considered as industrial and potentially dangerous is widely perceived as unacceptable and unfair by
local residents. It makes them want to air their grievances in public so their voices may be heard.
These findings confirm the work of Hirschman (1970) on conflict situations with the logic of voice,
reiterated and developed in other studies on environmental conflict (Torre and Zuindeau, 2009; Bouba-
Olga et al., 2009; Torre and Wallet, 2014). Our findings are in line with the work of Soland et al.
(2013) who show that lack of information and participatory democracy frequently leads to local
hostility. Finally, in some projects that were well on their way to success, the situation was reversed
when local elected officials who initially supported the project, seeing the opposition grow, decided to
no longer support it and to no longer help the promoter with participatory governance. In some cases,
this has gone even further with the project being buried following the rallying of support for local
opposition associations, a clear illustration of the NIMEY phenomenon (Not In My Electoral Yard).
Size doesn’t matter
In the wind energy sector, Manwell et al (2009) reported that acceptability declines as wind projects
grow larger. However, our findings indicate that the likelihood of failure is not linked to the size of a
project (Table 3). In other words, contrary to our initial assumption, size is not a factor in a project’s
success or failure. This is supported by several studies on projects involving large digesters but
without any local opposition, as in the case of Gaillon, where the unit is located in an industrial area
about 500 meters from the first houses. The strategic choice of location appears to play a key role in
the emergence or otherwise of conflict. Thus, the mayor of Gaillon explained in his interview that the
site was selected on an industrial estate in the midst of other industrial firms in order to go unnoticed
by the local residents. In the regional daily press, the president of the town's golf club said that it was
only when it was in operation that he discovered a big unit had been installed as he sometimes smelled
the odours.
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5.2. Project location and the territorial context in which it is implemented matter
Proximity to dwellings is important
The likelihood of a project failing appears to increase with proximity to housing (Table 3). This seems
to endorse the postulate of the importance of siting choice for a biogas plant. Indeed, our interviews
confirm that siting is the starting point for conflict and tension as well as who will have to bear the
cost of a project once it has been defined on a map, when those concerned will be able to estimate
such costs and maximize their profits. This type of NIMBYism based on the issue of siting generally
focuses on 3 aspects: the impact on the value of buildings, personal safety, and the amenities in the
surrounding environment. Interviews with residents reveal that it is not the principle of the anaerobic
digestion project that is controversial (production of gas using digestible waste), but rather its impact
(bad smells, risk of pollution or explosion).
The characteristics of the project leader and territorial specificities play an important role
The territorial context is a major factor in the onset of conflict between users that can involve residents
and local politicians. The issue also depends on the quality of local relations as a whole and, more
specifically, on the behaviour of the project leaders and how they are accepted locally. In this regard,
the results of our model together with our analysis of the interviews are very enlightening. First, the
model shows that when support is merely local, it is not a significant factor, in other words, the
probability that a project will fail or be completed is not influenced by where the project leader comes
from. In addition, projects that are led solely by farmers seem to show more likelihood of failure with
a positive and significant sign (Table 3). Our interview analysis indicates that “red tape” is widely
abhorred by farmers leading projects, as they are less comfortable with administrative procedures than
biogas industrialists when it comes to paperwork. Some of the newspaper articles deal specifically
with this issue to highlight the administrative difficulties for project leaders. Another factor mentioned
in several of the interviews can explain this: farmers are less likely to adopt a consultation approach
than professional biogas industrialists who are more used to organizing this type of practice. A final
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assumption that farmers will have better relations with rural inhabitants may be challenged by the
arrival of new inhabitants who do not know them and therefore do not trust them in the same way.
This idea is credible since our model shows that the probability of a project being abandoned/put on
hold is greater in urban areas as city dwellers appear less willing to see a biogas plant set up near their
homes. Consequently, more and more urban dwellers choose to live in the suburbs and even the
countryside, leading to the urban sprawl phenomenon (Bae et al., 2017). For these rural newcomers,
any parameter likely to create the feeling of a sizeable change to their living environment (e.g., the
opening of a biogas plant) will have a significant negative impact. This is the NIMBY effect,
potentially leading to residents grouping together to oppose such projects.
5.3. Financial incentives needed to support emerging projects
Public funding improves the probability of success
Finally, we attempted to assess the role of public policies in the success of projects. First of all, we
showed that the price of the market is no significant. Since 2019, the French Government has decided
to change significantly this price of purchase, so we can expect that, in the future, it will affect the
business model of the biogas units. Looking to develop a model, we tested two variables in connection
with these policies. The first concerns the financial aid that public authorities may allocate for such
projects. The probability of a project failing appears to be linked to a lack of funding (investment
and/or operating subsidies). This corroborates the work by Engdahl (2010) on the need to provide aid
for emerging projects. Analysis of the regional daily press clearly shows this, both in the speeches of
elected politicians who publicly point to their financial support as essential, and in project leaders’
comments to journalists on the need for public assistance. The second variable concerns the type of
recycling process involved. Injection-type biogas recycling appears to have a negative effect on
failure, in other words, it should be preferred to cogeneration to increase the chances of a project’s
success. This was confirmed in our qualitative corpus in which project leaders explained that the
profitability factors for plants with cogeneration and electricity production were unsatisfactory. They
consequently often refocused their project on direct injection of methane, made possible by the nearby
presence of firms (especially agri-business firms) that require gas all year round.
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Support from public authorities is a determining factor
We went beyond the two variables included in our model to ask the project leaders more general
questions about the role that political decision-makers and public policies played in supporting their
project. For both farmers and industrialist project leaders, the evidence shows that while the process is
longer when politicians are associated with it, they nonetheless enable more actors to get involved and
more meetings to be organized, changing the project’s dimension. As has been shown before (Bourdin,
2020), politicians place such projects within a wider territorial strategy. If we take the example of the
Vire project, an environment cluster was created after the politicians noted that the biogas scheme was
making good progress and the Chamber of Agriculture supported it. Having an influential leader in
this case, a farmer as the driving force is not enough to drive action if it is not supported by a
regional dynamic.
Conclusion and policy recommendations: local fairness and territory
The identification and discussion of the main factors that affect the success or failure of territorial
renewable energy projects add new contributions to this topic that include not only aspects concerning
social acceptability, but also other factors linked to territorial specificities as mentioned in the
conceptual framework. We showed that the projects are contingent on the territorial context. The
mixed methodology adopted allows us to cross reference the analyses and to take a synoptic approach
to a complex issue. The logit model could be extended to include a georeferenced survey of local
residents in the data, which would give a more detailed socio-spatial representation of the aspects
linked to local residents and their environment.
We showed that lack of anticipation and early dialogue impinge on a project’s success. Trust plays a
particularly important role. As a result, consultation is an essential pre-condition to the success of any
project. In addition, we showed that the characteristics of the project leader are also important. In this
respect, a project managed solely by farmers seems to have less chance of succeeding. Furthermore,
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social acceptance appears to be correlated with the proximity of the biogas plant to local housing. The
likelihood of failure increases if a biogas plant is too close to houses, as it often leads to groups of
protesters being formed, further minimizing the project’s chances of coming to fruition. Our study
indicates that operating and/or investment subsidies have a positive impact on the chances of the
project being successful.
Another key finding from our analysis is that the size of the project is not a determining factor. This is
very important as it shows it is possible to build large projects without necessarily being doomed to
failure or subject to local opposition. In this respect, as mentioned above, the way the project is
presented to the population is more significant.
Negative externalities linked to the production of biomass energy are mainly local, and affect the
direct individual wellbeing of the inhabitants, but they are also reversible. These externalities can be
minimized through education, consultation and choosing a ‘safe’ location. Even if dialogue with the
inhabitants does not necessarily imply a joint decision, involving local citizens in the project design
stage can help to develop trust and prevent a feeling of injustice. Explaining how the project will be
rolled out and its likely impact is important in boosting acceptance. Whatever the situation, ignoring
citizens’ concerns regarding the visual impact, the impact of noise and/or smell and potential risks
whether sanitary or industrial – is not the solution, and is often a source of increased tension.
Our study indicates that conflict linked to anaerobic digestion projects is based on specific fears held
by residents. These fears are related to the newness of anaerobic digestion and the fact that it creates
uncertainty, especially when the projects rely on non-agricultural inputs or on creating a site from
nothing. Such concerns lead citizens to pose questions and express opinions about the projects since
these issues are likely to have an impact on their living environment. They may be led by groups of
residents who are against the project or local environmental protection associations. Risk of the onset
of conflict can be mitigated by providing the residents with early targeted information prior to the
project’s introduction to encourage dialogue rather than during a public meeting. Project leaders must
be prepared for these discussions and be ready with answers to the fears expressed. They therefore
need the necessary tools for their project to be accepted by the local population, such as a guide to
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good practices with ways to inform residents and details of the different chronological stages of
presenting targeted information.
Following the law on energy transition for green growth enacted in France in 2015, anaerobic
digestion is destined to develop rapidly and to spread across France in the coming years.
Consequently, training adapted to aerobic digestion project leadership needs to be envisaged in view of
the numerous joint projects to come, designed to promote social acceptability and financial
profitability which individuals who are novices in the construction and management of joint projects
may otherwise lack.
Moreover, the distribution of externalities and the legal situation must also be well thought through.
Generally speaking, objections to biogas plants can be lessened by the fair distribution of the benefits
renewable energy facilities can offer. This “local fairness” can take many forms: a reduction in local
taxes linked to an increase in the municipal authorities’ tax revenues, a reduction in the cost of
electricity for local residents, damages for home owners living near a facility, partial or total
ownership of a project by citizens or community groups who distribute the benefits, and tightening the
law to prevent such green facilities from being set up too close to housing. At the same time, the
financial benefits should not be used to mitigate the potential (sanitary and land-related) risks
generated by biogas plants. These issues need to be discussed irrespective of the financial benefits.
Finally, our conceptual framework is designed to be applied to other territorial energy transition
contexts, especially those likely to involve rollout issues such as aerobic digestion or wind energy
projects (on land or at sea). It could also be applied to land management projects such as the
construction or extension of an airport, landfill centres or high-speed train lines. Reflections on the
methodology protocols to be adopted and the nature of the data should also be taken into consideration
to add an operating framework to the conceptual framework developed in the present paper.
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... RES technologies using agricultural biomass (or "agrobiomass") for energy production have recently matured starting to act as enabling factors for the development of innovative agrobiomass projects and initiatives at the local level [6,18,19]. Their collaborative character offers new opportunities to path creation being affected by the interplay between citizens, technology providers and policymakers [20][21][22][23]. However, previous research has shown that social acceptance is a risk factor that may significantly affect energy transition by undermining the implementation of projects, either at the beginning or during their operational stage [24][25][26]. ...
... The abovementioned resource formation processes largely interact with the social aspect which is essential for unlocking novel transition channels through co-creation and collaboration initiatives [6,23]. Nowadays, there is an increasing number of studies referring to the ways in which society can affect climate stability and energy policy [45]. ...
... Gaining insights regarding the ways in which resource formation processes shape social acceptance is a valuable input for policy design. Identifying specific factors that affect the success or failure of path creation in energy transition is essential for designing and implementing specific policy actions [15,23,25,52]. Given that these may vary between different types of regions [23,27,71], we also choose to investigate potential variations between rural and urban areas. ...
Energy transition is characterised by processes referring to new path creation. These new paths are formed based on existing or novel resources that are often closely related to the social aspect. Hence, social acceptance and new path creation can be considered as mutually reinforcing processes that are crucial in energy transition. The study focuses on the use of agricultural biomass (or “agrobiomass”) as a renewable energy source for heating and tries to investigate the interaction between resource formation processes during path creation, referring to knowledge creation, market formation, investment mobilization and technology legitimation, and social acceptance. A web-based survey with a sample size of 3,725 convenience-based responses from 22 European countries is used to generate the primary data for analysis. Two levels of social acceptance are used, focusing on the overall perceptions and the intention to install agrobiomass heating systems locally. Results indicate that knowledge creation acts as a booster for overall perceptions through awareness and public information, whilst existing knowledge and previous experience can increase the willingness to install agrobiomass heating systems. Regarding market formation, social acceptance is empowered by sourcing agrobiomass and technology through local farmers and manufacturers. Cost savings and positive local impacts are significant investment mobilization aspects, whereas agrobiomass initiatives supported by trusted organizations and/or companies act as significant technology legitimation channels for promoting social acceptance. Small variations exist between urban and rural areas showing that the territorial context matters. The study provides policy insights relevant to energy transition through the uptake of agrobiomass heating solutions.
... They argue that a lack of equity/justice -especially in cases of distributive and procedural justice -could explain the reluctance of inhabitants with regard to the implementation of a RE project involving wind turbines (e.g., Frate et al., 2019;Jørgensen et al., 2020) or an AD unit (e.g., Soland, 2013;Schumacher & Schultmann, 2017). Territorial governance has also been addressed via the theory of proximities (Torre & Zuindeau, 2009) and/or Hirschman's model (1970 to explain protests and the social acceptability of RE projects, as in the work of researchers who have studied AD (Bourdin et al., 2020a;Bourdin et al., 2020b) or WT (Fournis & Fortin, 2017). ...
... Our research highlights the importance of considering local specificities in the implementation of renewable energies. Thus, it contributes to the theoretical field on the contextual and territorial effects of the energy transition (Bourdin, 2020b) and supports the idea of the necessity of placebased policies. From this perspective, comparative studies between several regions with various characteristics could continue to inform the academic and policy debate on these issues. ...
Full-text available
The development of Renewable Energies (RE) must be stepped up in the coming years if we are to successfully realise the ambitious energy transition challenge set by many governments across the globe. However, the energy transition is far from obvious, especially with regard to the social acceptability of RE. In this context, we used a Discrete Choice Experiment combined with a Geographical Information System to assess the willingness of individuals to switch to a more virtuous energy mix based on three energy sources (wind, photovoltaic and biogas). Our results show a dominant generational effect, indicating that young people are more likely to accept renewable energy in their neighborhoods. Furthermore, residents in areas with renewable energy with negative externalities (wind turbines and anaerobic digestion units) tend to have a lower Willingness to Pay than residents in other areas, which is what we call the principle of territorial distributive justice. There is no reason to believe that the difficulties in finding new locations for RE installations could fade away. Therefore, an increased effort of public policies to plan the location of future RE facilities in a more equitable way and always a better explanation and co-construction of new RE projects are needed.
... The second stage consists in the separation of the gas, liquid, and solid phases. Biogas is collected, purified and then used for energy production [50]. Brushed screens, screw presses, sieve drums, and sieve and decanter centrifuges are used in separation processes [51]. ...
Full-text available
The review describes the place of membrane methods in solving the problem of the recovery and re-use of biogenic elements (nutrients), primarily trivalent nitrogen NIII and pentavalent phosphorus PV, to provide the sustainable development of mankind. Methods for the recovery of NH4+ − NH3 and phosphates from natural sources and waste products of humans and animals, as well as industrial streams, are classified. Particular attention is paid to the possibilities of using membrane processes for the transition to a circular economy in the field of nutrients. The possibilities of different methods, already developed or under development, are evaluated, primarily those that use ion-exchange membranes. Electromembrane methods take a special place including capacitive deionization and electrodialysis applied for recovery, separation, concentration, and reagent-free pH shift of solutions. This review is distinguished by the fact that it summarizes not only the successes, but also the “bottlenecks” of ion-exchange membrane-based processes. Modern views on the mechanisms of NH4+ − NH3 and phosphate transport in ion-exchange membranes in the presence and in the absence of an electric field are discussed. The innovations to enhance the performance of electromembrane separation processes for phosphate and ammonium recovery are considered.
... They argue that a lack of equity/justice -especially in cases of distributive and procedural justice -could explain the reluctance of inhabitants with regard to the implementation of a RE project involving wind turbines (e.g., Frat et al., 2019;Jørgensen et al., 2020) or an AD unit (e.g., Soland, 2013;Schumacher & Schultmann, 2017). Territorial governance has also been addressed via the theory of proximities (Torre & Zuindeau, 2009) and/or Hirschman's model (1970 to explain protests and the social acceptability of RE projects, as in the work of researchers who have studied AD (Bourdin et al., 2020a;Bourdin et al., 2020b) or WT (Fournis & Fortin, 2017). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The development of Renewable Energies (RE) must be stepped up in the coming years if we are to successfully realize the ambitious energy transition challenge set by many governments across the globe. In this context, we used a Discrete Choice Experiment (DCE) combined with a Geographical Information System (GIS) to assess the willingness of individuals in the French context to switch to a more virtuous energy mix based on three energy sources (wind, photovoltaic and biogas). Our findings show that inhabitants living in areas with the presence of RE with negative externalities (Wind Turbines and Anaerobic Digestion units) tend to have a lower Willingness to Pay (WTP) than other areas, indicating a principle of territorial distributive justice. In this context, people ask for greater territorial equity in the distribution of externalities since they consider they “have already done their part”. Accordingly, our study argues for more public policy effort to plan the location of future RE facilities in a more equitable way.
Social acceptance is considered the main non-technical barrier to the development of bioenergy projects. This paper presents the results of a systematic literature review aimed to cover a lack in state-of-the-art literature about socio-cultural factors affecting the acceptance of biogas projects at a global scale. Moreover, this study is aimed at identifying which methods are used for studying this phenomenon, with a focus on the Life Cycle Thinking-oriented ones. Journal articles and conference proceedings were considered. At the end of the screening phases, 54 documents were selected and reviewed. The results showed that acceptance concerns two main issues: biogas plants and its presence in a given location and digestate application on fields. This review showed different results between high-income and low-middle-income countries. As regards the former, trust was the most mentioned socio-cultural factor. Education, as well as women's living conditions were considered important in the latter. However, a contextualisation of every outcome based on local peculiarities is needed in order to understand in a better way the accepting/refuting phenomena of the projects. As regards the second objective of this study, Life Cycle Analysis resulted the most widespread Life Cycle Thinking methodology. In conclusion, the outcomes of this work may be useful to identify the non-technical factors and the most suitable approach that should be considered for a successful implementation of site-specific biogas projects.
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Anaerobic digestion has recently gained interest in contributing to territorial strategy regarding the deployment of the circular economy and energy transition. Most projects bring together multiple actors from a wide variety of backgrounds. The article analyzes the evolution of synergies and cooperative behaviors between local stakeholders over the period 2010-2020 in an anaerobic digestion cluster in France. The study draws on social network analysis and proximity theory, which have recently been used for analyzing regional innovation systems, local clusters, territorial governance, and rural development. We reveal that local stakeholders develop dense relational networks that vary and evolve throughout the project. Different groups exist and behave in a semi-autonomous manner. All the actors are located in close geographical proximity. Still, their links in terms of organized proximities are related to various types of relations, resulting from cognitive resemblances or common origins. This explains the persistence and resilience of local relationships and how they maintain a collaborative dynamic over time.
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L’économie circulaire se présente comme un nouveau modèle économique permettant de faire face aux défis actuels du système économique linéaire. Aujourd’hui reprise dans plusieurs pays comme un levier d’évolution des pratiques et des modèles de développement économique, ses démarches sont de plus en plus expérimentées dans les territoires, dans un contexte de transition socioécologique et énergétique. L’objectif de la thèse est de déterminer dans quelle mesure l’économie circulaire peut constituer, par son caractère innovant, une opportunité pour les territoires de mettre en oeuvre des processus de développement territorial. Le cadre d’analyse mobilise différentes théories et méthodes quantitatives et qualitatives dans le but de mieux comprendre les implications de l’ancrage territorial et l’importance des dispositifs de gouvernance pour la mise en place des stratégies d'économie circulaire sur les territoires. Les résultats montrent une croissance locale de l’économie circulaire, en phase avec les enjeux de plus en plus importants en termes de politiques publiques en faveur de l’emploi et de compétitivité de l’économie. Ils indiquent que le défi actuel n’est pas seulement une question d’innovations technologiques autour de l’efficience des ressources et de la création de valeur, mais aussi d’hybridation des actions et de capacité à faire coopérer des parties prenantes variées pour la mise en oeuvre d’externalités territoriales positives. L’exemple de la méthanisation permet de mettre en évidence le rôle du contexte local dans la capacité à générer ces activités nouvelles qui, par leurs vertus économiques et sociales contribuent à créer de nouveaux liens et des processus durables, grâce à l’activation ou au renforcement des proximités et de leurs potentiels.
The aim of the present study was to determine how thermal stimulation via electromagnetic microwave radiation impacts the yields of biogas and methane produced by methane fermentation of five selected energy crop species in anaerobic reactors. The resultant performance was compared with that of reactors with conventional temperature control. The highest biogas production capacity was achieved for maize silage and Virginia mallow silage (i.e., 680 ± 28 dm3N/kgVS and 506 ± 16 dm3N/kgVS, respectively). Microwave radiation as a method of heating anaerobic reactors provided a statistically-significantly boost in methane production from maize silage (18% increase). Biomethane production from maize silage rose from 361 ± 12 dm3N/kgVS to 426 ± 14 dm3N/kgVS. In the other experimental variants, the differences between methane concentrations in the biogas were non-significant.
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