Sun, Citizens and Sustainable Businesses: An ex-ante analysis of the willingness of citizens to participate in Waternet’s solar panel project
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Moving from grey energy to green energy presents citizens the opportunity to participate in the energy production process. They can do so by investing in green energy production installations. Although citizens can decide to individually invest in these installations, organisations may invite citizens to collaborate in a local green energy project. If an organisation starts a green energy project and invites citizens this project contains citizen participation. The success of these projects is highly dependent on the ‘willingness to participate’ of citizens. Although scientific research into willingness to participate has been conducted, a knowledge gap exists. The aspects that increase (drivers) and decrease (barriers) citizens’ willingness to participate have never been researched in one project. Instead, in all studies a small number of drivers and barriers were researched in different projects, which makes it difficult to compare their impact. This research aims to help fill this gap, by researching the drivers and barriers in one case study. This is the citizen participation solar panel project which Waternet currently develops. The knowledge gap in scientific research is also a knowledge gap for Waternet, as they do not know how willing citizens will be to participate in their project. Next to filling the scientific knowledge gap, this research therefore also aims to analyse the influence of these drivers and barriers in Waternet’s project and present recommendations based on this. It thereby helps Waternet to create a successful project. The central research question of this thesis is the following: “Under which conditions can citizens be expected to be willing to participate in business initiated local solar panel projects, such as the project of Waternet?” A total of 28 drivers and 21 barriers which potentially influence citizens’ willingness to participate was identified in this research, based on scientific literature, a pilot project of Waternet and reasoning. After testing these drivers and barriers in a survey it was found that only 14 drivers and 5 barriers influence citizens’ willingness to participate in local solar panel projects in practice. It is clear Waternet should not expect a high willingness to participate. Waternet only uses two drivers in practice in the project as it is currently planned, and no barriers in practice are tackled. However, most can (partly) be used or tackled by Waternet in their project. By incorporating the drivers and barriers citizens’ willingness to participate will increase, making it more likely this project becomes successful.