Addressing the Effect of Social Acceptance on the Distribution of Wind Energy Plants and the Transmission Grid in Germany

Social acceptance is increasingly becoming a limiting factor in implementing the energy transition in Germany. From today’s perspective, the expansion of wind energy and future transmission grids is only somewhat a technical or economic challenge rather than a social one. Since political decisions on the energy system transformation are often derived from findings of energy system modeling, it seems necessary to increasingly integrate the effects of socio-ecological aspects, such as acceptance issues in energy models. In this paper, an approach is introduced to address effects of social acceptance in energy system models by comparing the influence of different distribution scenarios of wind energy in Germany on the expansion need for future transmission lines. The results show that a socio-ecologic distribution of onshore wind installations according to a balanced burden of the German society does not reduce the grid expansion need significantly compared to an economic siting. An actual reduction of planned transmission grids could just be achieved by a more decentral scenario, including decentral market design. The sensitivity of regionalization is an opportunity to consider local acceptance issues within energy system models and should move more into focus inside the procedure of the current grid development process in Germany.