Planning for Wind Power in Denmark A Comparative Perspective

Danish energy policy has for long included different measures to promote the implementation of wind power. At the beginning of the 21st century, as much as 15 per cent of total electric power generation in Denmark was generated with the help of wind power (IEA, no date). This is by far the highest wind power share in the world, and there are many factors which help to explain this successful development (see, for instance, Buen, 2003, for an overview). Here, we focus solely on the Danish wind power planning and permitting processes -

that is, how national energy policy goals are implemented at the local level -and how they differ from the Swedish case.

The establishment of new wind turbines in Denmark is almost without exception regulated within the legal framework of physical planning. The Danish planning system has a hierarchical structure involving three authoritative levels (national, regional and municipal) and four different types of physical plans (national, regional, municipal and local). The overall competence structure implies that the national planning authorities deal with overarching planning issues, as well as the implementation of national planning objectives, whereas the regional and municipal planning authorities handle the planning of the open land and the town areas, respectively.

The function of this hierarchical system is built upon two closely related characteristics: 'rammestyring' and 'strive for' provisions, which are features of central importance in terms of the prerequisites for implementing national planning objectives, such as increased wind power. Rammestyring (framework steering) implies a framework of rules to guide individual decisions. Each level of planning provides the framework within which the lower-level planning may be conducted. For instance, the regional planning authorities must respect the framework set by national planning, and municipal plans must comply with regional planning guidelines. Overarching planning objectives may thus be implemented through the national-level plans and all the way down to the legally binding local-level plans. In other words, the different plans are vertically integrated (Basse, 2001), and - as a main rule - regional planning guidelines may not be contradicted by municipal or local plans. Areas designated for wind turbine installations in the regional plan will be appointed for the same purpose in the municipal plan. The rammestyring is connected to the 'strive for' provisions, which obliges the planning authorities to strive to implement the plans or planning guidelines that they have adopted when exercising authority in accordance with the Planning Act (Tegner Anker, 2001).

A national wind power planning directive was issued in 1999 to secure implementation of the national energy policy objective of reducing carbon dioxide emissions through increased use of renewable energy resources.12 This directive is to be implemented by means of regional and municipal planning. It stipulates that areas suitable for wind turbine establishments in terms of environmental impacts and energy efficiency should be designated and included in the regional planning guidelines. Municipal and local plans for wind turbine installations may only be established for areas already designated for this purpose in the regional planning guidelines. The regional planning authorities thus have the primary responsibility for wind power planning in Denmark, including the drafting of environmental impact assessment reports. Although areas suitable for wind power purposes should be appointed in the regional plan, the directive does not oblige the regional planning authorities to designate areas for installations. However, to ensure that areas suitable for large wind turbines are protected from constructions or installations that may interfere with a later establishment of large turbines, comprehensive planning to reserve such areas may be required.

The different frameworks of rules governing the wind power planning process are seemingly comparable in Sweden and Denmark. Both systems are decentralized in terms of far-reaching distribution of competence among several planning levels. Nevertheless, there are some crucial differences in the implementation process. The Swedish system is less precise regarding the content of the rules, as well as the legal application, while the Danish system creates a better potential for implementing national goals. The Danish rammestyring, together with the possibility of adopting partly mandatory planning directives, implies that national-level policy objectives may not be overlooked either in the planning process or in the implementation of an adopted plan. The possibilities for effective legal implementation of national energy policy objectives thus differ considerably between Sweden and Denmark. In Sweden, there seems to be a substantial 'gap' between national policy objectives and local implementation decisions, whereas the vertically integrated Danish planning system, in part, prevents the existence of such a 'gap'.

Moreover, the precise regulations and specified prerequisites in the Danish laws and bylaws leave the administrative authorities with less room for discretion than is the case in Sweden. This is not the least due to the fact that the implementation of the Swedish wind energy goal must pass not only the various legal hurdles in the Environmental Code, but also in the Planning and Building Act. Overall, the Danish planning system provides a legal framework that is binding in essential parts. Within this framework, the planning authorities may decide how, but only to a more limited extent if, wind turbines are to be installed.

Just as in the Swedish case, the general attitude towards renewable energy in Denmark is positive. About 80 per cent of the Danes support the idea that promotion of renewable energy sources should be given a higher priority in Danish energy policy. As many as 82 per cent of the Danes are in favour of increased reliance on wind power (Danish Wind Industry Association, 1993). Nevertheless, any local opposition should also be addressed in the decision-making process, and one of the main objectives of the Planning Act is to encourage citizen participation (Tegner Anker, 2001). However, in contrast to the Swedish case, a maximum of two permits are needed in Denmark (a local plan and, depending upon the location of the turbine, in some cases a so-called zone permit). Our analysis of Danish case law also suggests that in order to voice any negative attitudes towards planned wind projects, it is important to get involved early in the decision-making process, while it is easier in Sweden to prevent the installation of turbines at later stages. Clearly, this means that the economic risks facing the wind turbine investor will be more pronounced in the Swedish case (Pettersson, 2006).

Moreover, Denmark has taken active measures to increase the level of local stakeholders and ownership in the wind projects. Since 1979, small private investors can get public economic support for wind turbine investments. Investigations show that people who own shares in wind turbines are more likely to be positive towards wind power compared to people who do not own such shares. Comparing the impact of ownership on wind power installation in Denmark and the UK, Toke (2002) concludes that the presence of Danish co-operatives has been an effective way of enforcing an ambitious central wind-promoting policy, while at the same time avoiding local opposition.

Evidence thus suggests that the different processes of wind power planning in Denmark and Sweden, provide an important explanation for the wide differences in wind power development between the two countries. The strength and design of the public support systems provide only partial explanations; it is just as important to understand the way in which the incentives created by these support systems are 'filtered down' from the national level to implementation at the local level.

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Solar Panel Basics

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