Attitudes Towards New Renewable Energy Technologies in the Eastern Ontario Highlands
Stewart Fast, University of Ottawa Robert McLeman, University of Ottawa
As governments seek to expand generation capacity from sources such as solar farms, wind turbines, hydroelectric and biomass generators, rural responses to renewable energy become increasingly important. In early 2011 we conducted a mail-out survey of permanent residents, a concurrent internet-based survey of seasonal residents and follow-up focus groups in two rural eastern Ontario municipalities to assess public attitudes and to project acceptance and potential uptake of various technologies. Survey participation was relatively high (n = 180, response rate 22%). One focus group included local and regional government decision-makers, the other for residents representing a range of socio-economic and demographic groups. Results showed strong support among residents to pursue alternative energy sources (89%), mostly out of concerns with rising energy costs, but also from a desire to use local energy sources. Support was highest for solar technologies (87%) and lowest for wind turbines (58%) and new hydroelectric dams (58%). There was little evidence of NIMBY views being prevalent among permanent residents. Seasonal cottage dwellers were less supportive of hydroelectric dams and a wood pellet facility. Our findings suggest rural residents start with favourable attitudes towards alternative forms of energy production. Acceptance and uptake will likely be strengthened by locally relevant demonstration projects and by supporting citizen involvement in task groups, workshops or other venues for information sharing.
Keywords: Renewable energy, attitudes, NIMBY, acceptance, feed-in-tariff