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Underground cables vs. overhead lines: Quasi-experimental evidence for the effects on public risk expectations, attitudes, and protest behavior

  • Governments and energy operators are often confronted with local residents’ protest against the construction of new high-voltage overhead transmission lines, negative risk expectations, and a lack of public support. A frequently discussed strategy for dealing with these issues is to build underground cables instead of overhead lines. So far, however, there is not much empirical evidence of whether substituting overhead lines by underground cables actually reduces protest or affects public risk expectations and attitudes. This study contributes to filling this gap by comparing residents’ risk expectations, attitudes, and protest behavior observed at two grid expansion sites in Germany by means of a quasi-experiment. At the time when the data were collected, both grid expansion projects–an overhead line project in Lower Saxony and an underground cable project in Hesse–were at the same stage of the legally defined planning and approval procedure. After controlling for various potential confounders, we obtained results revealing that there are no differences in the risk expectations, attitudes, and protest behavior of residents interviewed at the two project sites, or only marginal ones. Hence, our findings do not support the assumption that building underground cables necessarily improves the situation with regard to risk expectations, attitudes, and protest behavior.

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Author:Christoph E. Müller, Silke I. Keil, Christian Bauer
Parent Title (English):Energy Policy: The International Journal of the Political, Economic, Planning, Environmental and Social Aspects of Energy
Place of publication:Amsterdam
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2018/12/05
Publishing Institution:Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung
Release Date:2018/12/05
Popular scientific document:Nein
Reviewed Document?:Ja
First Page:456
Last Page:466
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt