Home About RSS

Environmental & Energy Insights
Environmental & Energy Insights

Visibility, public consciousness, and NIMBYism

Riding the train to the COP each morning in Denmark, I pass within spitting distance of not 1 but 2 major coal fired power stations operated by DONG, the local utility. Every morning, the generating units and their pollution make clear just how the lights stay on here in Denmark. I generally find that when I ask my friends, colleagues, and students at Stanford where the power stations are that provide their electricity, they haven’t the foggiest idea. Quite a contrast.

At the same time, Denmark leads the world in both renewables and innovation in the use of coal-fired generation. Denmark has somewhere north of 20% installed wind capacity; DONG co-fires biomass in all of its fossil generating units and operates some of the most efficient and up to date power stations anywhere.

Does having one’s dirty fossil generation in plain site of the citizenry motivate change and a willingness to see the real tradeoffs between, for example, siting of new wind and new coal capacity. Does keeping the power stations out of site (or in California’s case, out of state) lead to resistance to environmentally superior but more visible alternatives?

Just maybe.

One Response to “Visibility, public consciousness, and NIMBYism”

  1. John Nagle says:

    The NIMBY idea that seeing how energy is produced could affect how we want to produce it builds upon a lot of the recent writing about food production, and thus holds some promise. My experience at Notre Dame, though, raises some questions. Our coal-fired power plant is right on the edge of campus, and while that has made students and faculty alert to minimizing the pollution from the plant, I haven’t heard any suggestions that it prompts people to want to switch from coal altogether. In fact, proximity to energy production sources may backfire against renewable energy, for wind farms and solar projects are provoking lots of aesthetic complaints from neighbors throughout the country.