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Environmental Politics

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Ecological modernisation, social movements and renewable energy
David Tokea a POLSIS, University of Birmingham, UK Online publication date: 18 January 2011

To cite this Article Toke, David(2011) 'Ecological modernisation, social movements and renewable energy', Environmental

Politics, 20: 1, 60 — 77

To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2011.538166 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2011.538166

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developing ‘reflexive’ capacities for debate involving social movements (SMs). Yet if it is the case that EM is incorrect about the role of SMs in eco-technical change.toke@bham.uk ISSN 0964-4016 print/ISSN 1743-8934 online Ó 2011 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10. principally wind power.1080/09644016. social movements.informaworld.com . ecological modernisation. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 Ecological modernisation (EM) theory has involved a debate about the relative importance of concentrating on incorporating technological change into mainstream industry and. 20. p. eco-technology Introduction My aim here is to understand how far ecological modernisation (EM) theory is correct in its conception of how social movements (SMs) are involved in eco-technical change. University of Birmingham. UK Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. on the other hand. I do this mainly by reference to early (1970s to early 1990s) development of wind power and the commercial programmes that began the recent rapid expansion of this technology. However. *Email: d. wind power. and how it may be necessary to place more attention on SMs in such developments.Environmental Politics Vol. Curran (2009. SM involvement in eco-technological development and implementation may be understated by EM theory. It is said that EM has become one of ‘the two dominant paradigms in environmental policy’ (Wright and Kurian. Keywords: renewable energy. 60–77 Ecological modernisation. I also briefly discuss other renewable energy technologies where SMs may have been important to offer pointers for future research.ac. 2010).538166 http://www. No. February 2011.2011. This issue is investigated through an analysis of renewable energy. 203) says of EM: ‘At its heart sits technological development’. such discussions may obscure the need to study the involvement of SMs in the development and deployment of ‘ecological’ technologies themselves. 1. social movements and renewable energy David Toke* POLSIS. it is important to examine the ways in which EM is lacking and to explain how the theory needs to be supplemented by more SM-oriented explanations.

. Interviews were conducted with people who were active in the grassroots movement for renewable energy in Denmark. The key research questions are: . Offe (1985) and della Porta and Diani (1999) have argued that new forms of political activity associated with what are called ‘new social movements’ have emerged in late modern conditions focusing on identity politics and cultural struggles as opposed to the more materially based and more institutionalised ‘old’ SMs. which will form the basis of the concluding analysis addressing the aforementioned research questions. especially feed-in tariffs. discussion of EM. and who could thus shed light on how the movement emerged and developed. and the political support for renewable energy policies.Environmental Politics 61 All of this may have lessons for other eco-technologies. The latter sections will be mostly concerned with empirical material. it may be a type of ‘new’ SM activity. Nevertheless. in the movement. people selected because they were prime movers. To this extent. how should the role and scope of EM be re-evaluated with regard to development of eco-technologies? . 1996). Interviews were also conducted with technicians involved in largescale R&D programmes concerned with renewable energy to shed light on reasons why this type of initiative did not succeed. Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. These questions are answered by a consideration of the theory of SMs and how this links with technologies. including fossil fuel resource depletion and global warming. What is the role that SMs have played in the development of renewable energy technologies and the financial support systems such as feed-in tariffs? How have energy industry incumbents and ‘top down’ R&D technology programmes been challenged by SMs? How do SMs ‘learn’ about technological and policy development? In the light of answers to these questions. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 . This broad meaning of movements is used here. It is also the case that ‘old’ interest groups have appealed to cultural values and identity construction as much as new ones (Tilly 2004. the specific learning mode of SMs and how this leads to industrial development. theorists such as Tilly still use the term ‘social movement’ because of its utility in encompassing a broad range of activities. but renewable energy is crucially important in itself and occupies a pivotal role in the politics of environmental technology. 70–71). It may be the case that concern with technological issues is much more a hallmark of SM activity since World War II than before. This is because of the importance of energy issues to overarching environmental issues of our time. pp. types of organisation and orientations. . Renewable energy is seen as a solution to such problems. or at least active participants. the role of incumbents. Germany and Spain. SMs and technologies Writers such as Melucci (1995.

recycling and zero waste. as opposed to oppositional tactics. TPMs will also be more involved with reform scientists and technologists (Hess 2007. including organic agriculture. He identifies both industrial opposition movements (IOMs). he argues that environmental movements that he studied (Eyerman and Jamison 1991. technological. social movements have helped to politicize consumption and. 45). for example. 2006) raised the issue of how SMs have. Rootes (2007. in particular through the defence of patent rights. and sometimes individual energy consumers involved as generators of renewable energy. science and technology studies (STS) tend to focus on the technology and treat the SMs as a ‘marginal . . in the process. Meanwhile. The repertoires of the two types of movement have different emphases. 47). with TPMs being more concerned with the creation of alternative institutions to diffuse technologies than IOMs. 124–125) and sometimes ‘the alternative technologies and products are first created by small-scale Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. 610) talks about the identification of an SM by ‘scrutiny of the network links. open discussion of technical issues and exchange of information on best design and best practice. One way in which we can say that a technology SM is constituted is through information exchange. p. . p. maintains that SM theorists tend to focus on issues of identity or access to political resources rather than relations with technology. . amorphous background’ (Jamison 2006. These three concepts can be mobilised to help analyse SMs engaged in development of renewable energy. Indeed. A second way of constitution is through the involvement of non-industrial groups such as municipalities and cause groups involved in campaigning for the establishment and maintenance of financial support systems for renewables. to develop new markets and industries’ (Hess 2007. collective action and evidence of shared identity’. green building. ethical investment and consumption. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 . . whose typical repertoire places more emphases on street protests. Jamison. Rootes (2007) identifies two ways of studying SMs: the cognitive approach just discussed and the other is by considering the SM as a network. This is distinct from conventional industrial practices where there is an emphasis on restricting information. in particular feed-in tariffs. ‘In an era of globalization and market-oriented government policies. cosmological. at certain times. such as antinuclear movements. and also technology product movements (TPMs). 1998) ‘combined three different knowledge interests . p.62 D. 85). adopted identities or ‘cognitive praxis’ associated with technological innovation. and organisational’ (Jamison 2006. and renewable energy. are aimed at enabling as wide as possible an array of actors in society to engage in commercial development of technologies rather than arrangements that favour major industrial incumbents. Toke However. has received sufficient attention from SM theorists. Jamison (2001. pp. This can involve grassroots design and development of technologies. The financial support mechanisms. there is doubt as to whether the SM’s involvement with technology choices. in particular. Hess (2007) argues that SMs have a ‘generative’ as well as an oppositional approach to technology. p.

Huber 2004. In addition. Yet NGOs have developed in a reformist direction: ‘A radical goodbye to these institutions (of modernity) is no longer considered necessary nor desirable from an environmental perspective . Ecological modernisation According to Janicke (2008. This ‘objectivist’ account is typified in particular by Mol’s approach to the role of conventional industrial incumbents and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Dutch chemical industry. 48–49). p. Janicke and Lindemann 2010). Although environmental NGOs played a key role in setting objectives for pollution reduction. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 entrepreneurs who operate in a movement-like atmosphere’ (Hess 2007.Environmental Politics 63 Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. 125). p. p. pp. and such concepts ‘all go far beyond the traditional end-of-pipe treatment and adopt a more comprehensive approach that focuses on environmental improvements through resource efficient innovation’. 371) comments: ‘Environmental organizations remain essential in raising public pressure and political support for environmental reform. Mol et al. 43) says that ‘the general emphasis on the importance of the influence of technology in socio-ecological transformations has remained a feature of the ecological modernization theory’. EM theorists have certainly paid much attention to the development of technology as a way of ameliorating environmental problems (Mol 1995. (environmental NGOs) can increasingly be interpreted as an one-issue movement. Janicke 2008. 558). Mol points to a heightened desire by environmental NGOs to talk to and to sometimes form alliances with conventional industry to support efforts to reduce pollution. 2000. Smith (2004) argues that ‘bottom-up’ (or SM) processes are very important to understanding developments in sustainable technology. . ‘ecological modernisation has been ¨ implicitly incorporated into concepts utilised by the EU’. . Quantitative studies by Sine and Lee (2009) and Vasi (2009) show a correlation between the number of environmental groups and the installed capacity of wind power in various countries and the United States. Hess develops the arguments about SMs further by investigating how they manifest themselves as a ‘localist’ path to sustainability through local ownership. . 1996. Its prime focus is environmental quality. and van der Poel (2000) recognises the importance of SMs in driving many key technological changes. organisation and consumption of a range of goods and services (Hess 2009). Mol (1995. Buttel describes this as an ‘objectivist’ account in the sense that EM is used to analyse how ecological change occurs. p. Mol ¨ ¨ (1995. whilst their positions in environmental disputes and their strategies towards state and economic producers are slowly transforming’. and automatic solidarity and common agenda’ (Mol 2000. it was conventional industry that chose and implemented the technological means to achieve the environmental objectives.

they share a common prime focus of seeing the role of SMs as being in the politics of environmental problems rather than intervening in development and deployment of specific technological solutions to the problems. Buttel (2000) also describes what he calls a ‘social constructionist’ approach to EM. is s/he talking about the existing. However. This activity has often been against the wishes of the major industrial (energy) actors themselves. comments that: When soft-path technologies are propagated outside the market their chances of survival seem to be less in comparison to the situations in which they are incorporated in the strategies of major industrial actors.64 D. or a new industry that attempts to replace the conventional one? This new industry may be supported by a coalition including SM actors and engaged in a political battle with the conventional industry. Spaargaren. 36). ‘Objectivist’ (mainstream) and ‘social constructionist’ EM approaches may differ on the degree of importance and political role of SMs in EM. if we are to properly understand the role of EM in the case of renewable energy. Moreover. this does not remove a need to study SM activity. involving direct participation in technological development and deployment. when an EM analyst speaks of technologies being adopted by major industrial actors. p. it is difficult to find EM analyses that . We can see from this that there may be a deficit in both these approaches to EM theory in considering the role of SMs in technological innovation and deployment. but his central focus is on searching for ‘new institutional arrangements’ for ‘inter-discursive forms of debate’ (Hajer 1995. which ‘ordains the creation of new expert organizations where the best people can work in relative quiet’ (Hajer 1995. Nevertheless. conventional actors. which sees EM as discourses about environmental policy that may or may not result in sustainable ecological reform. referring to the decentralised grassroots ‘soft paths’ approach to energy technologies advocated by writers such as Lovins (1977). pp. there is evidence of the latter in some of the cases. 281). it may simply be wrong to marginalise the importance of SM activity both in developing renewable energy and mobilising political support for incentives for renewable energy. Hajer commends the greater involvement of environmental NGOs in EM. p. As will be argued later. Certainly. Spaargaren 2000. pp. 2. p. (Spaargaren 2000. He spends little time analysing the involvement of SMs in technological change and innovation. The mainstream or ‘objectivist’ EM account implies that the environmental movement has a ‘limited role’ to play in ecological transformation in comparison to big capitalism and conventional economic actors (Murphy 2000. This is represented by Hajer who criticises the so-called ‘techno-corporatist’ mainstream EM theory. key mainstream EM texts appear to downgrade the significance of the involvement of SMs in developing the technologies themselves. Toke In addition. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 It may be right to argue that the role of SMs in developing EM technologies may have declined (Huber 1991 cited Mol 1995. p. As will be discussed. 51–52). 52) Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. 281–282).

on Denmark. not merely in policy debates (‘reflexive’ or ‘elite’) but in terms of SM participation in the technological development and deployment itself.) After the start of the energy crisis in 1973. . This technological tradition has been associated with a social tradition of coping with a lack of domestic energy sources and a rural tradition of common action to solve problems. ’ but . Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 spend the bulk of their time discussing the relationships of SMs to technology per se. the rural cooperative tradition was mixed with a heightened sense of common purpose. perhaps essential. ‘technological’ and ‘organisational’ aspects of the SM. The debate among the different varieties of EM (Hajer 1995. driven by the energy crisis and the desire to find alternatives to nuclear power. ‘Folk High Schools’ taught cooperative patterns of learning in Denmark. who was the President of the Organisation for Renewable Energy (OVE) from 1979 to 1984. that was to say ‘now we have to turn to atomic energy . Garud and Karnoe 2001. Nielsen 2001. (For accounts of the Danish development of modern wind power technology. There are key periods when SMs and technological development and deployment may be combined. Kemp et al. 2001. see Karnoe 1990. SM learning and wind power development This section begins. Asmus 2001. This was established in the wake of the defeats in the war with the German Confederation in 1864 and spread through teachings by the priest Grundtvig. Yet technological activity is not necessarily the opposite of SM activity. it is a significant. The Danish commitment to generating electricity from wind has been very strong since the nineteenth century. and with social ‘reflexivity’ (Mol 1996. pp. where the modern wind revolution mainly began. and concentrates mainly. 2003. . 316–319) on the other. Mol 1996) seems to imply that there is some sort of opposition between market-based technological paths and elite decisions about regulation on the one hand. As Preben Maegaard. and the grassroots information-sharing ‘Folk High School’ tradition became the organisational basis for the SM. van Est 1999. Heymann 1998. Spain and California follows since they have been early leaders in wind power development. put it: You could not find another country that was so dependent on oil and therefore the reaction was very strong in the general public and the establishment. opposition to large-scale environmentally destructive activity (including nuclear power) provided the cosmology for the movement. In terms of Jamison’s ‘cosmological’. A brief discussion of early developments in Germany. Indeed it may be that. Olesen 1998. its response to it. This grassroots ‘bottom up’ learning was influential in the early development of wind and biogas technology in the 1970s and 1980s.Environmental Politics 65 Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. driver of ecological reform. far from SM activity in technological implementation representing a backwater or ‘deception’. knowledge about renewable energy became the technological focus.

an idealistic belief in a new alternative technology set up the conditions for a niche to develop in ways in which conventional industry. all but 1 of the 20 manufacturers in 1978 had ceased to exist by 1982. 18 April 2009). the wind and the biomass. giving the technology more credibility. Christian Riisager. Indeed. just as the industry was showing the first signs of standardisation and domination by conventional companies such as Vestas. A journalist. In fact. In Maegaard’s view. The meetings involved farmers who bought wind turbines (and sometimes made them) to serve their own energy needs and different types of local craftsmen. 208). would find very difficult to replicate. and sometimes grid-connected. with its patent-based secrecy and expectation of early commercial returns. the centrally funded R&D projects were a waste of money. to share practical know-how on how to develop the different renewable energy technologies. Torgny Møller (now one of the three proprietors of Wind Power Monthly. the global industry trade magazine). However. van Est 1999. And there came some movements against that. there were a large number of people involved in developing prototype machines (in rural backyards and workshops) from 1975 onwards. And we soon found out that the know how available was very limited but we formed a local initiative group that gathered regularly and also gathered as much information as was available. The most popularised early grid-connected machine was made by a farmer. particularly wind. p. reported the output. patents for rural technology were specifically banned by a Danish law of 1885 (interview with Preben Maegaard. In Denmark. Hence. to be replaced by 20 new manufacturers. 68–95). pp. The grassroots activists could not access such funds. The industry advanced through incremental upscaling of size from the earliest 20 kW grid-connected machines (Gipe 1995. pp. there was a tradition since the end of the nineteenth century of often locally manufactured small off-grid. 653–654. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 . or traef. wind turbines. An interactive process involving feedback amongst the electricity user/ generators and early small (often backyard) manufacturers laid the basis for a more conventional industry to be developed in the 1980s. in the tradition of Danish rural cooperation for the common good. and the useful projects were funded ‘from below’. Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. the funds being awarded to qualified people to gain patents. And the question was how to get involved in that and that was by saying we have natural resources we can use – the sun. Toke there was a reaction in the population saying that that would create a new dependency. No patents were taken out on the technology until the 1990s. as in various other parts of the world. there was continuing interchange of information about technical best practice. in Denmark.66 D. not to mention R&D efforts in places like Germany to develop grid-connected wind turbines (Heymann 1998. After the 1973 oil crisis. Even then. especially blacksmiths. grassroots activists used a design of a demonstration wind generator by Johannes Juul (installed in 1957) as a start. (Interview with Preben Maegaard. 18 April 2009) The Organisation for Renewable Energy organised regular regional meetings.

something needs to be said about the link between the early period of SM learning and the development of a more conventional-looking. consisting of companies that used industrial manufacturing techniques and standardised industry produced parts’. no barriers. potentially interesting market. cooperation. To them. several private engineering manufacturers and the Danish Government’s Risoe Atomic Energy research laboratory. Firms also learnt from each other at Windmeetings’ (Garud and Karnoe 2003. Companies such as Vestas. the renewable energy movement pressed the utilities to pay operators of wind turbines premium rates for the electricity so generated and secured support from the Danish Parliament when the utilities refused to make good payments. They utilised the ideas of the grassroots engineers’ to develop their machines (Heymann 1998. but from 1979 to 1983 slightly larger machines were sold to locally based wind power cooperatives or wind power schemes owned by local communities. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 In fact the only successful large-scale wind turbine (in terms of working for several years) was built by a left wing Folk High School at Tvind. Such payments evolved into a system now used to support renewable energy: ‘feed-in tariffs’.Environmental Politics 67 Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. At first. 2009). Nordtank and Bonus had been small companies manufacturing agricultural equipment. mechanics and blacksmiths such as Riisager and Jorgensen. Maegaard ‘The Tvind windmill showed the way’. As we shall discuss in greater detail later. the Danish Wind Turbine Test Station (DWTS) was set up to test wind turbines for reliability. p. Vestas took up use of Jorgensen’s design in 1979 and developed their products using ‘trial and error learning. all working together. p. These cooperations were all un-remunerated. a wind turbine industry emerged. This pattern of cooperation is described as ‘openness. P. academics from the Technical University of Stuttgart and Denmark Technical University. it was individual farmers who provided the market for wind turbines. And out of this grows an industry because there is someone who wants to buy’ (interview with Preben Maegaard. and grassroots carpenters. 662). p. Linking the SM to an industry As Kemp et al. 7 May 2009. 18 April 2009). It was a groundbreaking 2-MW machine whose construction began in 1975 and which started working in 1978. one of the organisers of the Tvind High School in the 1970s concerned with building the windmill. It was a very influential design because of the specially devised control system and fibreglass blades. and the technicians from Risoe worked unofficially in their spare time (interview with Joep Nagel. 286) put it: ‘The first turbines were purchased by idealistic buyers whose early purchases helped to build expertise. initially for wind power cooperatives that began to emerge in the Danish countryside. The main mover was Helge Petersen. wind turbines were a new. In 1978. These innovations were developed as a result of open cooperation between activists based at the Folk High School.1 At this point. who ‘had . wind turbine industry in the early 1980s. if still emergent. After 1977. article available from the author. no patents. 282). (2001.

which was established in 1984. p. The wind farms in California were constructed by developers independent of the incumbent utilities. which developed through projects such as the Tvind windmill (Puig 2009. who was a founder-member of Ecotecnia said that by the end of the 1980s ‘Ecotecnia only sold 20 to 30 small machines. 191). Puig. p. 14). 13 October 2009). Spain and Germany were also early leaders in the development of wind power. From 1983. According to Josep Puig (interview. there were parallels with Denmark in that there were strong anti-nuclear movements in both countries in the 1970s and in 1980s (Rudig 1990). 15 to 30 KW to the different administrations in different regions of Spain because they wanted to make some demonstration programmes . a workers cooperative. . 191–192). . there was farmer interest in setting up wind turbines in the 1980s. Initially. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 participated in the Tvind school wind turbine project’ (Garud and Karnoe 2001. some people knew that in Denmark they were starting with wind and they were developing quite well. Based on the Danish experience. and at the time. the Californian wind market took off in the wake of incentives put in place largely at the behest of Governor Jerry Brown in response to the demands of ‘soft energy paths’ campaigners and environmental NGOs (Roe 1984. The Danish parliament soon passed a law requiring that wind turbines be tested at the DWTS. 13 October 2009): a group of these people (the founders of Ecotecnia) were involved in the antinuclear movement and many times when they were speaking against nuclear a lot of people asked ‘If we don’t build nukes what to do?’ . the Californian programme was crucial in allowing the nascent Danish wind industry to consolidate its foothold. formed at the beginning of the 1980s. ¨ In Spain. . In Germany. IDAE started developing renewable energy programs . Toke Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. Righter 1996. was heavily dependent on energy imports. like Denmark. However.68 D. so we decided to propose to build a wind machine of 15 kW with the government. wind turbines were developed from Danish . the cooperative was started by ‘a group of nine persons with high technical qualifications. Spain was especially sympathetic to renewable development. . Among the influences on them were work by Lovins (1977) and the SM. committed to environmental thought and the practice of alternative technology’ (Puig 2009. pp. van Est 1999). . and the programme was developed after overcoming strong opposition from the utilities. the nascent Danish wind industry relied on individual farmers and cooperatives to provide a wind turbine market. but. IDAE is the Spanish Renewable Energy Agency. but also because Spain. Ecotecnia. designed and made wind turbines in the 10–20 kW range. . not merely because of post-Franco anti-nuclear sentiment. In SM terms. at that time it was a woman quite sensitive to renewables and anti-nuclear in the ministry and also because the first director of IDAE was a man quite interested in renewables’ (interview. as in the case of Spain.

19 March 2009) The government preferred to build a 3-MW design. The need to do this largely stems from the reluctance. The role of incumbents and centralised R&D According to mainstream EM theory. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 Later I will discuss the SM activity concerned with supporting incentives to deploy renewable energy. it was like the other products of the large-scale R&D projects organised in other industrialised countries. (Heymann 1998. in 1978. In this respect. The first (and still) successful German wind turbine manufacturer. well a big windmill was 100 kilowatts in 1978.000 little windmills scattered over London. and when that was tested against the wishes of the monopoly.Environmental Politics 69 models. David Lindley was an academic interested in wind power who came to work in the United Kingdom for Taylor Woodrow. he talks about the pressures that led to R&D projects being concerned with developing large machines. delay and often downright opposition of major energy utilities to the nascent wind power industry. Five German turbines failed before the test even started. did not begin production until 1985. A comparison test of eight German 10-kilowatt turbines of different designs and one Danish turbine on the small German North Sea island of Pellworm in the early 1980s clearly showed the shortcomings of German turbine development. which was constructed in the Orkney Islands but worked for only some short periods. Wind power R&D programmes did occur. a big civil engineering firm. the remaining three failed after a few months. the government was interested in looking at renewables in a modest way. Now it was partially. [The UK Government] started off by saying ‘Let’s look at what was the biggest turbine we could build’. because . p. NASA and the Department of Energy persuaded Congress to fund a series of increasingly large wind turbines in the ‘Mod’ series . Enercon. very little effective innovation seems to have occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s prior to the emergence of a more conventional wind energy industry. In what proved to be a typical example in industrialised countries. Although Germany had some tradition of early design of wind turbines. and became involved in R&D programmes for wind power. (Interview with David Lindley. it could be expected that the big electricity industry players would be the agents who would accomplish environmentalist demands for the development of renewable energy technologies. Only the Danish Windmatic turbine (which was not among the most successful models used in California) operated reliably. but with little success. . for instance through Hutter in the 1940s and 1950s. In the United States. 664) Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. . I think. One of the arguments they were using at the time was rather a nonsense because you didn’t want to replace a 1000 megawatt power station with 10. the CEGB (the then-nationalised Central Electricity Generating Board) itself were not very favourably disposed towards wind.

This programme took a long time to organise and made no significant contribution to the wind turbine programme in Denmark. pp. the utilities initially refused to cooperate at all. The result was the ‘Growian’ 3-MW machine. Toke from 1978 to 1989. the German federal government attempted to organise a R&D programme. Eventually. 120–122). the Danish Government gave responsibility for developing the wind power programme to a committee run by the electricity utilities. The ground-breaking ‘Gedser turbine’ (the brainchild of Johannes Juul). However. and then a 2-MW project. at the end of this decade. 183–314. In Spain. Stenzel and Frenzel 2008. some of which was won by Ecotecnia. a company formed by anti-nuclear activists who began discussing alternative energy paths in the late 1970s. the Danish electricity utilities were hostile to the idea of the privately owned wind turbines that were springing up. 86). when one utility agreed to take part. The Spanish Government organised an open bidding competition for R&D funds. which ‘stood still for most of the time’ (Heymann 1999. This did not succeed. of the 630–750 kW range. but post-Franco it was rapidly developing economically with very Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. a turbine manufacturer. and the components and associated manufacturing toolkits were expensive (Gipe 1995. Indeed. pp. worked in collaboration with Spanish central and regional governments and established Gamesa Eolica. When. p. was to approach the US Government to purchase wind turbine blade technology. p.70 D. but all suffered from repeated performance failures. in 1977. pp. Puig 2009). pp. pp. In Germany. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 . Nibe B (van Est 1999. the approach was significantly different. They opted for development of large machines. which formed the basis of many grassroots designs for wind turbines (as earlier mentioned). Iberdrola. Despite local enthusiasm for windmills. In 1977. in particular. in the mid-late 1970s. 84–86). One possible explanation for the relatively greater enthusiasm of Spanish government and utilities for wind power is that not only was Spain very dependent on energy imports (like Denmark and to a lesser extent like Germany). the opposition of the utilities to wind power was often intense. some Spanish utilities began to take a serious interest in wind power. the same pattern of designing a large turbine (as in other industrialised countries) followed. Designers appeared slow to learn from mistakes. 103– 107). The pioneers were Ecotecnia. and indeed until 2001 the Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas was the majority shareholder in Gamesa (Dinica 2003. had been financed by a Danish electricity utility that discontinued the experiment in 1967 on the basis that it was uneconomic (Heymann 1999. which led the way in demonstration wind turbines in the 1980s. 124). 117–118). the utilities were slow to connect them and refused to pay more than minimal rates for the power sent into the distribution system (Heymann 1999. It may seem surprising (especially in view of the grassroots-induced Danish wind development) that the first move by the utilities. Initially this used Danish designs. declaring that wind turbines should be owned by the utilities and that they should be commercially viable using market prices for the value of electricity (van Est 1999.

In 1980. . Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 . Denmark and Spain – blazed the trail in the early development of wind power. Denmark remained in the lead in installed capacity well into the 1990s. the best the independent generators could negotiate was a system of payment parity with the per kW h prices paid to owners of large power stations. This grassroots movement was asking for feed-in tariffs . 218). it was mainly farmers and environmentalists in the north of Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. [For a recent analysis of the importance of this. . an important area of SM activity has been to support the concept of ‘feed-in tariffs’. Feed-in tariffs have emerged as the most important means of supporting renewable energy programmes in Europe. asking for the right to connect these machines to the grid and the big utilities refused to do it . the farmers and cooperatives who put up the early wind schemes undertook a long battle with the utilities over the obligation to accept all wind power delivered to the grid and to pay reasonable rates for it. a proportion that varied between then and the end of the subsidy programme in 1989 (Nielsen 2001. . German interest in wind power dramatically increased as the 1980s moved on. It was a grassroots technology in the ‘80s and the beginning of the ‘90s. Three countries with feed-in tariffs – Germany. The prices paid by utilities for wind power were gradually increased after lobbying by the grassroots Organisation for Renewable Energy (OVE) and organisations representing cooperative and private wind turbine owners (Nielsen 2001. In Denmark. and 63% of global wind power capacity was installed in these three countries (Wind Power Monthly 2004). . Germany led. . Eventually in 1984. . . One such activist was Sven Teske. p. This institution involves obliging the utilities to accept all domestically generated renewable electricity offered to the grid and to compensate the generators at specified levels. p. 5736. . (until) after almost 10 years of lobbying . driven especially by activists in the anti-nuclear movement. Feed-in tariffs As discussed earlier. pp. . see Verbruggen and Lauber 2009. a state system of subsidies was introduced to cover 30% of capital costs. . but by the end of 2003.] The feed-in tariff is a means of affording independent generators (as opposed to the main electricity generator/ suppliers – ‘incumbents’) stable income levels that offer investors and banks confidence in the financial returns from renewable energy projects. a system of premium prices for wind power was agreed. paid as a high proportion of retail prices for electricity produced by cooperative and privately owned turbines. [T]hey copied the first wind turbine machines from Denmark in the ‘80s .Environmental Politics 71 rapidly rising demand for electricity and a consequent thirst for new energy sources. 275–278). He said: [T]here was a need for the anti nuclear movement to develop solutions . who later became a Greenpeace Energy Campaigner. Initially. Feed-in tariff rates are oriented on the principle of ‘fair return’ (that is a ‘cost-covering tariff’) for a given technology.

In Spain. Other potential renewable case studies? There is some prima facie evidence that there is considerable SM influence in the early development of renewable energy technologies other than wind power. As mentioned earlier. Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Germany. and biogas programmes in other countries are expanding. They just fed it in. Toke Germany and they just connected their turbines illegally to the grid. p. Initially. with the private sector gaining confidence in the security of their investments through part-state investments (Dinica 2008). like early wind power. This technology involves anaerobic digestion and began with farmers using farm wastes as fuel. This gave premium guaranteed payments to renewable energy generators for 20 years. the legislation was renewed in 1998. 14 September 2004) Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. farmers. A range of groups including trade unionists involved in the renewables industry. A feed-in tariff system developed from 1991. environmental groups and renewable trade associations organised a large demonstration against proposals to cut the levels of the feedin tariff (Jacobsson and Lauber 2005. Over 1400 MW of biogas-fired small (farm-based) generating plant (the equivalent of a large nuclear power station) is now in operation in Germany (DENA 2008). The legislation was widened in 2000 to give higher payments to a number of different renewable fuels. pp. 136). The utilities persuaded the Ministry for Economic Affairs to oppose the legislation. Again. IDAE was a key mover in this state-backed renewables programme. it began as energy users also acted as energy generators. Despite parliamentary and legal challenges orchestrated by the utilities. Moreover. (Interview with Sven Teske. but this opposition was overcome (Jacobsson and Lauber 2005. but it is useful to give some pointers for future research in this area. There is insufficient space here to study all the technologies and their stages of development. It was only in 2004 that the present system of 20 years guarantees of feed-in tariffs for particular projects was introduced. including various forms of biomass and solar photovoltaics (PV). feed-in tariffs developed differently as part of a renewables programme backed by a national energy consensus (including major utilities). confidence in the developing Spanish renewables industry was created through public–private partnerships. Biogas is now becoming a major renewable energy technology. the technology was developed through the same cooperative information-sharing process associated with .72 D. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 Eventually. although initially there were no long-term guarantees for the levels of the tariff. 135–136). grassroots pressure from independent renewable generators (wind but also small hydro) succeeded in persuading sufficient backbench members of the Bundestag to support legislation to enact a feed-in law to take effect in 1991. A movement defended the feed-in tariff law against attack by the utilities in 1997.

pp. in the 1970s and 1980s (and for sometime thereafter). Arthur Wellinger. 2004. the incumbents either saw their interests as being directly threatened or. Jacobsson and Lauber 2005. as time goes on. now the president of the European Biogas Association. This pressured the federal parliament to introduce a special premium-rate nationwide solar PV feed-in tariff in 2000 (Jacobsson et al. were initially unwilling or unable to develop the technologies. the dominant energy incumbents. interview with Preben Maegaard. We started off with one busload full of farmers and then we did 8 tours a year. these bus tours to biogas installations’ (interview with Arthur Wellinger. at least initially. this was done in the context of strong anti-nuclear movements (Jacobsson et al. As in Denmark in the 1970s and 1980s. A strong ‘industrial opposition movement’ (IOM) (Hess 2007) existed in the form of the anti-nuclear movement whose demands for a technological substitute for nuclear power could not initially be fully resolved under the existing energy-industrial regime. Another possible research area for SM activity in renewable energy is the case of solar PV. solar PV feed-in tariff was organised through a broad-based movement. Cities led by Hammelburg. 2004. 16). Germany has accounted for a large proportion of the early growth of grid-connected solar PV. usually in opposition to the utilities. p. Conclusion SMs have played a crucial role in the early development of renewable energy technologies such as wind power because. the standard operating plan of EM (Mol 1995) whereby the main industry reforms its practices to conform to environmentalist pressures could not work. Various groups and individuals were active in encouraging farmers to adopt the technology around Germany for idealistic motives without any expectation of financial gain. p. Fell 2009. 15–19. by bus we went to the plants. but even there the technology was borrowed initially from the Danes (where the wind power technology SM had been in action) and only brought onto the energy agenda by a grassroots movements that brought into being the pioneering ‘Ecotecnia’ turbine makers. lacked the innovative capacity and will to develop renewable energy technologies. if for no other. ‘We organised the Biogas tours. I think that gave the breakthrough. Of course. Freising and Aachen set feed-in tariffs for solar PV in 1993. National conditions and traditions influenced the balance between SM activity and incumbent opposition. so I think it was a really big deal. 18 April 2009). Nevertheless. apart from anything else. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 wind power (Raven and Gregerson 2007. conventional ‘incumbents’ are increasingly involved in the deployment of renewable energy. Spain saw the most enthusiastic involvement from incumbents in renewable energy. The campaign for a specific. . again. in the 1970s–1990s. 5). 6 January 2010).Environmental Politics 73 Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. was an academic and campaigner for biogas technology. the utilities. For this reason. sometimes with 2 to 3 buses. ‘cost covering’ or fair return-based.

Eurelectric. there is a great emphasis on open meetings. SMs are crucial to the development of renewable technologies in the field of politics as well as technology. In the energy sector. albeit with a bigger emphasis on the need to explain the Downloaded By: [Vrije Universiteit. income streams and bond issues to finance new plant. one hypothesis that flows from this case study is that EM theory’s account of the role of SMs (and therefore EM’s own applicability) becomes less relevant when there exists a TPM. even today. they will involve as many agents as possible and engage in activities that maximise the ease of transfer of knowledge. a further hypothesis is that as the mainstream energy industries derive an increasing proportion of their income from renewable energy. Feed-in tariffs are beneficial for independent generators who need guaranteed access to the grid and long-term security of income streams that feed-in tariffs can provide to allow prospective generators to borrow money from banks and persuade investors to support the projects. Since the aim of a technology SM is to encourage as wide as possible a range of agents to adopt the technology. it is no surprise that feed-in tariffs became the favoured financial support technique for the movements supporting renewable energy. at least beyond a certain point. leading utilities continued to oppose the feed-in tariff laws after 2000. companies like EDF have called for limits on renewable energy deployment to leave room for nuclear power generation (EDF 2009). Hence. the utilities are loath to offer agreements and will not offer premium prices to renewable generators in the absence of some incentive scheme organised by government. Library] At: 12:13 20 May 2011 . During the debates that led to the 2009 EU Renewable Directive. In the United Kingdom. as implied earlier. Energy incumbents can use their own resources. However. SM involvement and political engagement in the details of renewable energy policy will decline. the organisation representing big electricity utilities. argued for a system of panEU tradeable certificates. energy utilities are only developing renewable energy because of incentive programmes that have been politically driven by a coalition of social and commercial forces supporting renewable energy. This would allow a more conventional EM explanation. This is opposite to conventional industrial practice where companies attempt to keep information about technological innovation to themselves in order that they rather than their competitors may reap the returns on investment in that technology. Since the purpose of technology SMs is to maximise the use of knowledge to develop a technology. conventional energy industries. idealistic sharing of knowledge through free publication and campaigns to publicise the technologies. In many countries. which was seen by the main renewable energy trade associations as a barrier to smooth deployment of renewables (Toke 2008). but. It may be possible for independents to secure power purchase agreements from the energy incumbents. may be reluctant to promote renewable energy technologies. with their own path-dependent reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power. In Germany. there is evidence of continued reluctance by industrial incumbents to develop renewables. Hence. Toke Indeed.74 D. as was clear in the early days of renewable energy.

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