On the (un)successful deployment of renewable energies: territorial context matters. A conceptual framework and an empirical analysis of biogas projects


  • Sebastien BOURDIN Normandy Business School
  • François RAULIN
  • Clement JOSSET




Given the goal set by the French government to open 1000 biogas plants by 2020, we believe it is important to investigate the factors linked to the success or failure of anaerobic digestion projects, especially as the inherent challenges mean that there are barely 300 in operation today. We thus developed a conceptual framework to help us to study territorial energy transition projects which we applied to an empirical analysis of the biogas production process. We conducted a quantitative study (logit model with 91 anaerobic digestion projects) and a qualitative study (49 semi-structured interviews and 455 articles from the regional daily press) to identify and understand the processes that anaerobic digestion projects go through for a successful outcome or, conversely, to ultimately fail. Our findings indicate that projects may be abandoned or interrupted due to the presence of a group of objectors who are often wary of such projects and do not trust the project leaders. Lack of anticipation and early dialogue tend to inhibit success. Furthermore, social acceptance appears to be correlated with proximity to the biogas plants but not to the size of the digester. Finally, operating and/or investment subsidies are seen to have a positive and significant effect on a project’s success. In this study, we highlight the need to implement place-based policies rather than one-size-fits-all policies to develop renewable energy in specific regions.