Participatory procedures, belief systems and commitment dynamics in a wind farm controversy in western Switzerland.

Pierre-Henri BOMBENGER (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland/School of Business and Engineering Vaud/Institut G2C – Equipe PlanI-D)
Adeline CHERQUI (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland/School of Business and Engineering Vaud/Institut G2C – Equipe PlanI-D)
Kevin BLAKE (University of Lausanne (UNIL)/ Institute of Higher Public Administration (IDHEAP) Public Policy & Sustainability)
Marie-Joëlle KODJOVI (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland/School of Business and Engineering Vaud/Institut G2C/Equipe PlanI-D)

In 2011, Swiss federal authorities decide to gradually shut down nuclear power plants and push the country towards a transition in energy politics that includes the use of wind power. This presentation addresses a case study led by the FNS Gouvéole research project on a wind farm pilot project that began 17 years ago in the Jura Mountains of western Switzerland. Our twofold analysis questions the evolutions of the dynamics of mobilization and commitment of different actors over an extended period of time.
On one hand, our work shows how participatory procedures and institutional processes have evolved during these last two decades. Far from being constant, the land-use planning institutional framework has become especially complex because of the raise in the number of regulated activities. The multiplicity of municipal, cantonal and federal regulatory devices and their gradual opening-up for territorial players have made coordination a challenge. The latter have increasingly been able to play with the procedural rules and even generate new ones in order to orientate the wind farm consent process. The case study brings to light the particular role played by collaborative efforts in conjunction with the referendary power held by citizens in the context of Swiss direct democracy.
On the other hand, our study analyses the evolutions of actor coalitions on two levels. Firstly, on a meso-logical scale, an advocacy coalitions approach focuses on the dynamics of construction and recomposition of groups of actors around common belief systems and representations. Secondly, on a micro-logical scale, sociology of social movements and militancy studies the recombination of the collectives whilst highlighting the relations held between actors, action resources (for example: relational, juridical, organisational) and social trajectories. These lead them to position themselves strategically in one or the other advocacy coalitions.
Finally, this communication aims to consider environmental controversies in an original perspective through wind power by placing the analysis in the long-term and different scales of territories.

MOTS CLÉS : Éolien, Suisse, procédure, engagement, systèmes de croyances.

The impossible technical democracy. The case of the French-Spanish Extra Hight Voltage Line.

Laurence Raineau (University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/Center for Technical Study, Knowledge and Practices – Cetcopra)
Aurélien Cohen (University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/Center for Technical Study, Knowledge and Practices – Cetcopra)

Our intervention intends to be a reflection about the role given to the citizen and to the consumer in the energy transition that is happening in France, and about the possible meaning of the separation of those two « participants ».
Our reflection is based on a fieldwork made in the Pyrénées Orientales area in France where the construction of a Extra Hight Voltage Line is in project. The moment large infrastructures are implanted on a territory is when large technical systems of energy are given a reality on the local level, with energy becoming then a tangible presence. On that occasion, local participants have the opportunity to take part in discussions about issues they used to have no voice in. The project of EHV has triggered the creation of a collective, and a reflection on the part of local participants about the various possible energy transitions. The public consultation about that project quickly became an open conflict which has seen activists opposing experts, but also experts opposing experts. In the process, activists’ argumentation has been limited to the scientific aspect of the issue (such as second opinions on economic and sanitary evaluations). Because they wanted to fuel the interest raised by the issue and maintain a key position in the debate, activists had to withdraw from the wider debate about energy transition and the various models of society that it implies. But this controversy also led to the creation of « hybrid forums », which can be seen as a compromise between political, scientific and local actors : the EHV construction will take place but it will be underground (a decision that entails a budget 4 times higher than it was originally). This conflict is a perfect illustration of a final decision elaborated with a wide collaboration of various participants, including laymen, and which reinjected a dose of local realities in the debate.
But this new implication of the citizens in the debate about the future of the energy system can also be seen as a form of domestication of popular mobilizations, which would be the unavoidable consequence as well as the limit of « technical democracy ». The citizens’ voice is heard and taken into account only in the limited scope of a debate with set boundaries. Therefore, the « technical democracy citizen » is allowed to participate in the debate about energy transition, but never becomes a true participant in the energy system. This gap between energy and its consumers, technical evolutions and evolution of customs, between science and common sense is still very much present (eventhough some tried to seal it up), and is not seen as a relevant topic in actual controversies. On the contrary, we see it as central among all the issues that will have to be resolved in the energy transition process.


Beyond Nimby: justification registers and logics of the mobilizations against wind farms projects. Case studies from the Aude and Ariège departments (France).

Stéphanie DECHEZELLES (Institute of Political Studies of Aix-en-Provence/CHERPA)

Since the 2000’s France launched onto the promotion of the renewable energies in its nationally produced and used electricity. Locally this policy comes in numerous projects. As far as wind energy is concerned, two bordering but contrasted counties offer the possibility for stimulating comparative investigations. On the one side, the department of Aude can be considered as a pioneer territory because of its wind characteristics and the importance of the wind farms on his territory. On the other side, the Ariège department counts no park for the moment in spite of numerous doorstep selling led by private promoters. In this two counties, several associations and groups have emerged in order to oppose new projects. They mobilize intensively during the participatory democracy consultations and public inquiries. For the social scientist, they are very interesting occasions to question and understand the logics of the contention.
Strongly forced by the high technical level of these projects, the members of the mobilized groups try to compete in every fields of expertise with the public institutions, private companies and specialized engineering consulting firms. Using arguments they pull from their biographic experiments, professional careers or social networks, they do not however confine themselves to the “cold” and unique register of the technical expertise. They also operate, according to certain conditions, forms of hybridization with sensitive registers (affection for the local territory, aesthetic evaluations, ordinary patrimonialisation process) which can be sometimes understood by public authorities. Indeed, for the latter, these emotional registers or these “relative” appreciations are not totally different from new forms of territorial public action (labeling politics, ranking, participatory democracy…).
Thus the different actors are committed in a race for the production of evaluation and argumentation criteria which swing between several regimes of justification and various scales of legitimacy. We shall in particular attempt to show how, far from mobilizing only expert arguments, the opponents try to articulate them and to combine them in more emotional or located modalities of framing.
We shall in particular try to go beyond the (dis)qualifications of “NIMBY” that is used by certain private and public actors, but also a high number of social scientists. This (dis)qualification blur or darken more than analyze the reasons why some people, who are very interested in energy sobriety or environmental protection, oppose nevertheless to these projects.
The communication will lean on a corpus which is composed by around thirty semi-directive interviews, public documents of orientation and territorial reports, numerous sessions of direct and participating observations, naturalistic databases, registers of public inquiries…

KEY WORDS: Mobilization, wind energy, controversies, participatory democracy, expertise.

Antagonising the « shale gas revolution »: anti-fracking movements in France and Poland.

Roberto CANTONI (École des Ponts Paris Tech/UMR CNRS 8134 LATTS)

According to a 2011 report by the International Energy Agency, the world has entered a “golden age of gas”. Undeniably, this statement has been prompted by the radical changes brought about by unconventional sources of gas to energy markets: in particular, this is the case for shale gas. American gas findings led to a transformation of the US market, and Europe too is starting to be affected by this phenomenon: shale prospection campaigns have already started in a number of European countries, including Poland and the UK. While including my analysis within the broader geopolitical framework of gas trade, I will develop two points: first, I will show While including my analysis in the broader trade natural gas geopolitical framework, I will show how the attitudes of a number of European governments towards the exploitation of this unconventional resource are characterized, following neoliberal political agendas, by geostrategic issues focused on energy independence and a purely economic logic.
Secondly, I analyze the emergence of movements opposing the mining industry of shale gas and material practices that are perceived as very real risk of pollution, caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a technique are the basis of this operation. I show how the industry has underestimated the complexity, scope and influence of the anti-fracking movement, and interpreted protests as if it were « NIMBY syndrome » masquerading as environmentalism. My study argues instead that the demonstrations are based on a coalition of various interests and ideological achievements, which are unlikely to be swayed by studies funded by industry or public relations campaigns in glossy magazines.

KEY WORDS: Shale gas, mobilisation, Poland, France, fracking.

A citizen’s energy transition: laboratory of experiment for local public policies?

Frédéric BALLY (Pierre-Mendès-France University of Grenoble 2/ Literature, Languages and Society Laboratory – ED Human science, Policy and Planning)

Energy is not infinite anymore, as we supposed to, but it still stays a stake of innovation and of a new social perspective (Raymond, 2013). If there are many injunctions to act like an eco-citizen (Chavanon et al., 2011) which emerge under the light of public policies and international commitment, society also bet on a technological evolution to facilitate virtuous behaviour.
At the same time many small revolutions grow locally (Manier, 2013), through ordinary citizens. The territory of Lyon is, for example, the breeding ground of a certain amount of citizens’ initiatives, in terms of enhancement of natural resources and energy saving : we can quote Share gardens, housing community or citizens’ associations like Graines Rhône-Alpes or Anciela, which highlight a sustainable territory. This non-exhaustive list shows as much as potential fields where citizens’ initiatives take part in favor of another definition of the notion of sustainability, economy (Lagane, 2011) and sociability (Ripoll, 2010), in discrepancy, and sometimes in prolongation of an institutional vision.
Our communication will try to question logics and potentialities of theses citizens’ initiatives in a local level. We will study first the diversity of the forms that citizens’ initiatives can take on the territory of Lyon, just as their founding’s values, through the way these citizens get together.
Next, it’s about to show relations that can emerge between these citizens’ initiatives and the local institutions to legitimate/ develop local public policies in the fields of energy. This can question the bottom-up logic and revive it also.

KEY WORDS: sustainable development, eco-citizen, energy transition, ordinary actors, sociology of citizen’s initiatives.

A thermal Power Station on the Boil

Ghislaine GALLENGA (University of Aix-Marseille–AMU/ Institut d’Ethnologie Méditerranéenne Européenne et Comparative – IDEMEC CNRS UMR 7307)

Since 2003, the town of Gardanne has been coming to terms with the demise of a coal mining industry which, for over a century, along with its accompanying industrialisation, had entirely dominated the area. After the closure of the mine, the thermal power station converted into using new sustainable energies, thus bringing about a transition in the energy mix. Most notably, it is preparing a transition from imported coal to wood granules. This change worries the employees. How are the power station staff dealing with these developments, from the closure of the mine to the transition to using wood granules? Around which issues are employees’ fears centred and how do they become apparent? Do the workers see energy transition more as a threat and a worry which adds to the many uncertainties about the future that have arisen since the coal crisis? Does it not spell the end of the local identity and working-class culture? Finally, is it not just a rhetorical tool designed to go hand-in-hand with economic cutbacks?

MOTS CLÉS : ethnology, thermal power station, working-class culture, memory, mine.

State Suppression of Environmentalism in the Post-911 Era of Peak Oil : The Canadian Case.

S. Harris ALI (York University, Toronto, Canada)

In its attempt to be an “energy superpower,” the Canadian state has adopted deliberate strategies to undermine and disarm their chief political adversaries – environmental groups. In so doing, the state has attempted to weaken and even remove the influence of those advocating for de-carbonization and the development of renewable energy sources. In this paper, a social constructionist perspective based on discourse analysis is used to examine how the Canadian state has attempted to limit the influence of the environmental movement with respect to their plans to expand the operations related to the extraction of “dirty oil” from the tar sands of Alberta. In conjunction with corporate oil industry interests, state strategies aimed at subverting the activities of environmental groups include: the targeted financial auditing of specifically environmental charities; intelligence gathering and monitoring of activities of environmental group members; the muzzling of government climate change scientists, and the pursuit of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPS). The analysis will draw upon literature from the area of surveillance and critical security studies to help understand the social and political process through which environmentalism in Canada becomes conflated with terrorism and threats to the nation-state in a post-911 neoliberal age of peak oil.

KEY WORDS: Suppression of environmentalism, tar sands, climate change, neoliberalism, securitization.

The renewable energy cooperative and the commons: some elements of field inquiry.

Léa EYNAUD (PhD Student ADEME/ EHESS –Marcel Mauss Institute/Study of Social Movements Centre)

This communication will address the articulation between the notion of the « commons » and the activity of renewable energy cooperatives. While this link is often drawn by activists – especially by advocates of the commons – and mentioned in a few theoretical contributions, a lack of research remains regarding the empirical modalities of this articulation. Our contribution constitutes a response to this acknowledged gap. Based on a pragmatist approach inspired by the work of J. Dewey, it investigates the way energy cooperatives actors experience the commons, the way they define and reclaim them as part of their concrete actions on the ground – with particular attention being drawn to the exploratory dimension of these processes.
In which way does the notion of the “commons” find expression in the practical and discursive activities led by energy cooperatives actors (e.g. internal governance processes; ethical choices regarding energy supply; communication to the consumers; lobbying and political negotiation; mobilization within larger social movements)? What are the democratic and environmental dimensions of energy re-appropriation through the commons? In return, how does the specificity of energy as an object contribute to a particular understanding of what “commoning” means – as compared to what prevails in other domains with which the commons are more generally associated, such as knowledge? Finally, what are the political, institutional and legal difficulties (or obstacles) facing the actors on the ground, and how are they tackled?
Our communication will be based on analysis of qualitative data collected by the PhD student over the course of her first months of research (from September 2014 on). It will draw on a series of interviews carried out in the French renewable energy supply cooperative “Enercoop” as well as with other actors (e.g. other cooperatives within the European network REScoop, especially in Germany; politicians; activists; competitors; energy producers; consumers; citizen investment funds), supplemented with the first results of an ethnographic inquiry led within the energy cooperative. Besides the answer to the aforementioned research questions, our contribution will insist on the heuristic and empirical validity of a connection between commons and energy in relation to ecological transition. Attention will also be drawn to the employed methodology, notably the focus on actors’ point of views and field research.

KEY WORDS: energy cooperatives, renewable energy, commons, ecological transition, citizen initiative.


Does energy transition emancipate?