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Participatory siting procedures for hydropower plants


Given the ambition of the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050, innovative procedures for participatory decision making with respect to the expansion of hydropower will become more important, given increasing population density and the resulting increased coordination requirements in the landscape. Alternatives to the conventional top-down approaches have to be evaluated.


The energy transition in Switzerland will require the efficient siting and expansion of existing renewable energy plants, including hydropower. Consequences of such projects on the environment, biodiversity and the landscape can be severe and they tend to be contested. Due to the potential degree of conflict it would be problematic to accelerate permit procedures by simply reducing co-determination and information opportunities. In contrast, scientific evidence suggests, that including the wider public in an appropriate way will help to relieve and thus accelerate downstream planning and permit procedures.

Research Questions

How are different types of participatory siting procedures evaluated by the public? What are the social effects of different types of participatory siting procedures on the members of such groups (position of these actors, trust in public officials, acceptance of the expected results)?

These questions will be answered by identifying case studies (based on a typology of institutional innovations concerning siting procedures) of conflictual hydropower projects, for which different forms of participatory procedures have been implemented and by examining their social effects

Content and Objectives

The research project examines different hydropower projects for which participatory procedures have been established, describes their differences with respect to their institutinoal structures and the social interactions within these groups and compares the outcomes in terms of acceptance and the quality of the process.

The differentiation of the institutional structures of such participatory procedures will be complemented by a social network analysis that allows to identified the informal relationships between the participants in addition to the formal rules governing the groups. The effectivity of the participatory siting procedures will be evaluated by surveying the participants at different occations across ti