Campos, I., Brito, M. & Luz, G. (2023) Scales of solar energy: Exploring citizen satisfaction, interest, and values in a comparison of regions in Portugal and Spain.Energy Research & Social Science, 97, 102952. DOI:10.1016/j.erss.2023.102952 (IF2022 6,7; Q1 Environmental Sciences)
Solar energy installations are transforming urban and rural landscapes, with diverse socioeconomic and environmental impacts on local populations. Social acceptance of solar energy has been found to change depending on the scale of the installations. Yet, the conditions that lead citizens to become actively engaged in different solar energy “size” projects are still underexplored. Drawing on both social acceptance and energy citizenship literature, this study focuses on two case study regions in Southern Europe (i.e., Alentejo in Portugal and Andalusia in Spain), where a multi-scale solar expansion is advancing, with significant investments in large centralized solar photovoltaic systems (i.e., >50MWp). The aim of the article is to explore how citizens perceive the importance of the energy transition and gain further insight into the conditions that make citizens most satisfied with, and interested in, actively participating in the development of solar energy projects. The study draws on a representative survey (n = 832) collected in the two study regions and includes a vignette experiment. Statistical data analysis supports an understanding of the relational nature of social acceptance, which is suggested to be also applicable to energy citizenship, across different scales of solar energy production, from large and centralized to small-scale decentralized installations. The conclusions offer new findings on the intersection of social acceptance and energy citizenship research, as well as insights into energy policies related to solar energy expansion, useful for other regions and countries with comparable geographies in the Mediterranean and Southern Europe.