Photographer: onbekend

dr. M.P. (Maarten) Wolsink

  • Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
    GPIO : Urban Planning
  • Visiting address
    REC BC
    Nieuwe Achtergracht 166  Amsterdam
    Room number: C4.10
  • Postal address:
    Postbus  15629
    1001 NC  Amsterdam
    T: 0205256229

Maarten Wolsink is associate Professor Environmental Geography

His expertise is:

  • Social acceptance of energy innovation, in particular renewables and smart grid developments
  • Energy policy, particularly with regards renewables, infrastructure developments
  • Environmental conflict, in particular about infrastructure decision making (energy, waste, water)
  • His courses mainly concern
    - environmental geography and analysis of enevironmental issues
    - energy issues, in particular renewables' innovation and infrastrastructures
    - climate change, mitigation and adaptation
    - social science methods

History and Track Record: Renewable Energy and Environmental Conflict

At the Environmental Science department (1984-1999), Maarten Wolsink became the world-wide pioneer of social research on renewable energy (non-hydro) implementation. In the late 1980-ies he published three of the very first articles on the issue of acceptance of wind power within the society in international peer reviewed journals (Neth J Housing Environ Res 1987; Environ Impact Assess Rev 1988; Wind Engineering 1989; see Scopus overview below). On this research he also wrote his PhD thesis in 1990 (see cover above). The focus was  not on publshing as many papers as possible, but on papers that would have impact. Several have been successful; the conceptual elaboration of the concept of social acceptance of renewable energy innovation became the most cited paper ever written in the department of geography (Wustenhagen et al. Energy Policy) and five papers have beenawarded the label "hihly cited" in the Web of Science, indicating that the belong to the top 1% impact within the specified domain (two in social science; three in engineering). See details in WoS overview.
On the issues of social acceptance of renewable energy innovation and environmental conflict in infrastructure decision-making, in recent years several of his papers are among the most frequently cited in the department and the research institute, as well as in the domain of social acceptance of energy innovation worldwide (see Scopus and ISI/WoS citation overviews) . The key articles (for example Renew Energy 2000; Energ Policy 2007; Renew Sust Energ Reviews 2007 and 2012; Transactions IBG 2006; Land Use Policy 2010; J Env Plan Man 2009; Encyclopedia of Sustain Techn 2012) can be accessed directly through links at the "Key Publications and Research" page (link top of this page). Other options to find full texts are the personal overview on GoogleScholar, and "Research Gate".

Field work in the Highlands of Scotland


His academic education started with studying physics (University of Groningen). His study was interrupted for 16 months waste of time in the army (1974-1975). At the physics department he became inspired by Pugwash conference members and started following courses at the Peace Science Department ("Polemologisch Instituut") in Groningen. After those experiences he continued with reading Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. Educated with veritable respect for empirical research in the physics tradition, as well as inspiring confrontations during a short stay in 1977 in the US (UC Berkeley and State University, BowlingGreen, Ohio) his specialization becam Social Science methodology as specialization (and still during stydy he worked 3.5 years as assistant in the Methodology department), and a second major with a 2nd thesis in Mass Communication. 
While studying methodology he developed a critical view on most of the positivist types of social research on the one hand, but on the other hand a thorough scepticism towards much 'social theory' built upon fuzzy 'concepts' without solid empirical foundation; and unfortunately those are numerous, often common sense 'concepts'. The fundamental starting point for all his work became: no proper measurement without a theory; no valid data without proper measurement; no valid theory without empirical data supporting it. Consequentially, this is disqualifying many social 'theories', as they remain largely disconnected from empirical evidence. This applies in particular to many 'theories' that are prominent in policy (and as such they are in fact nothing more than mere "policy-beliefs"). Ironically, many of such 'theories' are put forward by academics educated in natural sciences, and it is common practice in the domain of environmental studies. See for a textbook example of such invalid common sense 'theories' the Key Publications and Research page-link (top of this page) about the 'backyard theory'. Another striking and sad example in environmental studies is the Tragedy of the Commons, a fully falsified but still advocated "concept".

In 1979 he became research and education assistant at the Social Science Methods Department, and in 1982 he graduated: MA Social Science Methodology; Political Science and Mass Communication.

From 1979-1982 research assistant at the Department of Methodology (Political Science,University of Amsterdam)
From 1983-1993 contract researcher at IVAM, Department of Environmental Sciences.
1990 PhD in Social Psychology (thesis on the Public and Social Acceptance of Wind Power)
1994-1998 associate professor Social Sciences at the Interdisciplinary Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Amsterdam
Since 1999 he is associate professor Environmental Geography at the Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Some significant sideline positions (among others) outside the University of Amsterdam:
* NWO (Nederlandse organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek; the Netherlands Research Council): Member of the Board of ESR (Economic Social Research council; 1997 merged into NWO MaGW) from 1994-1997.

* SWOME: Member of the Board from 1991-2008 (National platform of social science researchers on environmental and energy issues).

* SENSE (Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment; research school 7 Dutch universities) Research Program Board 1996-1998.

Key publications (with links to full text)

M. Wolsink (2016) Environmental education excursions and proximity to urban green space – densification in a ‘compact city’. Environmental Education Research. 22, 7, 1049-1071.

Wolsink, M. (2016) ‘Sustainable City’ requires ‘recognition’—The example of environmental education under pressure from the compact city. Land Use Policy, 52, 174-180.

M. Wolsink (2014) Distributed Generation of Sustainable Energy as a Common Pool Resource: Social Acceptance in Rural Setting of Smart (Micro-)grid Configurations. In B. Frantál & S. Martinát (Eds.) New Rural Spaces. Towards Renewable Energies, Multifunctional Farming, and Sustainable Tourism. (pp. 36-47) Brno: UGN Academy of Sciences Czech Republic.

M. Wolsink (2013). Wind Power : Basic Challenge Concerning Social Acceptance. In L.Y. Kaltschmitt, M., N.J. Themelis, L.Y. Bronicki, L. Söder & L.A. Vega (Eds.), Renewable Energy Systems (pp. 1785-1821). New York: Springer. [go to publisher site]

M. Wolsink (2013). The next phase in social acceptance of renewable innovation. EDI Quarterly, 5(1), 10-13. [go to publisher's site]

M. Wolsink (2013). Fair Distribution of Power Generating Capacity: Justice, Microgrids and Utilizing the Common Pool of Renewable Energy. In K Bickerstaff, G Walker & H Bulkeley (Eds.), Energy Justice in a Changing Climate. Social equity and low-carbon energy (pp. 116-138). London / New York: Zed Books. Series “Just Sustainabilities: Policy, Planning, and Practice” #2 FullText

M. Wolsink (2013). Acceptation sociale de l’innovation en matière d’énergie renouvelable: en quoi l’offshore est-il différent? In G. Gueguen-Hallouët & H. Levrel (Eds.), Energies marines renouvelables: enjeux juridiques en socio-économiques: actes du colloque de Brest, 11 et 12 octobre 2012 (pp. 215-238). Paris: A. Pedone. [go to publisher's site] FullText

M. Wolsink (2012). Undesired reinforcement of harmful 'self-evident truths' concerning the implementation of wind power. Energy Policy, 48, 83-87.

M. Wolsink (2012). The research agenda on social acceptance of distributed generation in smart grids: renewable as common pool resources. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16(1), 822-835.

M. Wolsink (2012). Wind power: basic challenge concerning social acceptance. In R.A. Meyers (Ed.), Encyclopedia of sustainability science and technology. - Volume 17 (Springer Reference) (pp. 12218-12254). New York: Springer. [go to publisher's site]

M. Wolsink (2011). Discourses on the implementation of wind power: stakeholder views on public engagement. In P. Devine-Wright (Ed.), Renewable energy and the public: from NIMBY to participation (pp. 75-87). London: Earthscan.

M. Wolsink (2011). De homo economicus onder stroom: energie-opwekking en -gebruik in smart grids. In S. Pront-van Bommel (Ed.), De consument en de andere kant van de elektriciteitsmarkt: inleidingen op het openingscongres van het Centrum voor Energievraagstukken Universiteit van Amsterdam op 27 januari 2010 (pp. 136-166). Amsterdam: Universiteit van Amsterdam, Centrum voor Energievraagstukken.

M. Wolsink (2010). Contested environmental policy infrastructure: socio-political acceptance of renewable energy, water, and waste facilities. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 30(5), 302-311. [go to publisher's site]

M. Wolsink (2010). Near-shore wind power - protected seascapes, environmentalists' attitudes, and the technocratic planning perspective. Land Use Policy, 27(2), 195-203. [go to publisher's site]

M. Wolsink & S. Breukers (2010). Contrasting the core beliefs regarding the effective implementation of wind power: an international study of stakeholder perspectives. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 53(5), 535-558.

J. de Vries & M. Wolsink (2009). Making space for water: spatial planning and water management in the Netherlands. In S. Davoudi, J. Crawford & A. Mehmood (Eds.), Planning for climate change: strategies for mitigation and adaptation for spatial planners (pp. 191-204). London: Earthscan.

M. Wolsink & J. Devilee (2009). The motives for accepting or rejecting waste infrastructure facilities: shifting the focus from the planners’ perspective to fairness and community commitment. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 52(2), 217-236. [go to publisher's site]

M. Wolsink (2009). Planning: problem "Carrier" or problem "Source"? Planning Theory & Practice, 10(4), 539-543.

M. Wolsink (2008). Vernieuwbare energie. In T. Dietz, F. den Hertog & H. van der Wusten (Eds.), Van natuurlandschap tot risicomaatschappij: de geografie van de relatie tussen mens en milieu (pp. 111-117). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

D. Toke, S. Breukers & M. Wolsink (2008). Wind power deployment outcomes: How can we account for the differences? Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 12(4), 1129-1147.

R. Wüstenhagen, M. Wolsink & M. Bürer (2007). Social acceptance of renewable energy innovation: An introduction to the concept. Energy Policy, 35(5), 2683-2691.

M. Wolsink (2007). Planning of renewables schemes. Deliberative and fair decision-making on landscape issues instead of reproachful accusations of non-cooperation. Energy Policy, 35(5), 2692-2704.

S. Breukers & M. Wolsink (2007). Wind power implementation in changing institutional landscapes: An international comparison. Energy Policy, 35(5), 2737-2750.

M. Wolsink (2007). Wind power implementation: The nature of public attitudes: Equity and fairness instead of ‘backyard motives’. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 11(6), 1188-1207.

S. Breukers & M. Wolsink (2007). Wind energy policies in the Netherlands: Institutional capacity-building for ecological modernization. Environmental Politics, 16(1), 92-112.

M. Wolsink (2006). River basin approach and integrated water management: Governance pitfalls for the Dutch Space-Water-Adjustment Management Principle. Geoforum, 37(4), 473-487.

M. Wolsink (2006). Invalid theory impedes our understanding: A critique on the persistence of the language of NIMBY. Transactions - Institute of British Geographers, 31(1), 85-91.

M. Wolsink (2004). Policy beliefs in spatial decisions: Contrasting core beliefs concerning space making for waste infrastructure. Urban Studies, 41(13), 2669-2690.

M. Wolsink (2003). Reshaping the Dutch planning system: A learning process? Environment and Planning A, 35, 705-723.

M. Wolsink (2003). Utilities as tools for shaping the city: waste management and power supply. In S. Musterd & W. Salet (Eds.), Amsterdam human capital (pp. 143-161). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. [go to publisher's site]

M. Wolsink (2003). The planning system and its impact on sustainable urban form and energy demand. In S. Attali, E. Métreau, M. Prône & K. Tillerson (Eds.), Time to turn down energy demand: energy intelligent solutions for climate, security and sustainable development: ECEEE 2003 Summer Study proceedings (pp. 575-586). Stockholm: European Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. [go to publisher's site]

M. Wolsink (2002). Der "Infrastrukturansatz" und der Versuch zur Neugestaltung des Niederländischen Planungssystems. Planungsrundschau, 6, 42-67. Planungsrundschau_Wolsink_Infrastructuransatz

S. Carvalho & M. Wolsink (2001). Instrumentos da política de redução de resíduos: a experiência holandesa. Indústria e Ambiente, 22, 10-17. [go to publisher's site]

P. de Jong & M. Wolsink (2001). The Structure of the Dutch Waste Sector and Impediments for Waste Reduction. In J.C. Powell, R.K Turner & I.J. Bateman (Eds.), Waste Management and Planning (pp. 397-414). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

M. Wolsink & K. Wortmann (2001). Further than ever from Kyoto? Rethinking energy efficiency can get us there. Dynamics of consumption. Paris: ECEEE/ADEME.

K. Wortmann & M. Wolsink (2001). Dynamics of consumption and the need for an institutional perspective. In M. Wolsink & K. Wortmann (Eds.), Further than ever from Kyoto? Rethinking energy efficiency can get us there: Dynamics of consumption (pp. 274-278). Paris: ECEEE/ADEME.

M. Wolsink & P. de Jong (2001). Waste Sector Structure: Institutional Capacity for Planning Waste Reduction. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 92(2), 148-163.

M. Wolsink (2000). Learning in environmental policy: the obstinacy of policy beliefs and other structural impediments. In A. Gijswijt & F. Buttel (Eds.), Sociological Theory and the Environment, partII Cultural and Social Constructivism (pp. 223-228). Amsterdam: SISWO.

M. Wolsink (2000). Wind power and the NIMBY-myth. Institutional capacity and the limited significance of public support. Renewable Energy, 21(1), 49-64.

P.T. de Jong & M. Wolsink (1999). Afvalreductie en de structuur van afvalsectoren; lessen uit het buitenland. Milieu: tijdschrift voor milieukunde, 14(1), 11-23.

E. Tellegen & M. Wolsink (1998). Society and its Environment. An Introduction. Reading, UK: Gordon and Breach Publishers.

P. de Jong & M. Wolsink (1997). The structure of the Dutch waste sector and impediments for waste reduction. Waste Management & Research, 15(6), 641-658. [go to publisher's site]

M. Wolsink (1996). Dutch wind power policy. Stagnating implementation of renewables. Energy Policy, 24(12), 1097-1088.

E. Tellegen, P.T. de Jong, M.P. Slingerland, S. Wijmer & M. Wolsink (1996). Nutsbedrijven en de beperking van het huishoudelijk milieugebruik in Nederland. Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift, 23(1), 218-241.

M. Wolsink (1995). Natuur en milieu uit de eerste hand [Review of the book -]. Jeugd en Samenleving, 25(8), 501-503.

M. Wolsink (1995). Grote projekten: een wrr-advies over betere besluitvorming. Milieu: tijdschrift voor milieukunde, 10(2), 72-78.

M. Jonk & M. Wolsink (2003). De wijk naar het winterbed. Risicobeleving rond woningbouw in de bedding van de Maas. In M. Wolsink & M. Baumeister (Eds.), Van nijlpaard tot Maasbedding. Verscheidenheid en samenhang in de milieugeografie (pp. 121-145). Utrecht: Jan van Arkel.

M. Wolsink & M. Baumeister (Eds.). (2003). Van nijlpaard tot Maasbedding. Verscheidenheid en samenhang in de milieugeografie. Utrecht: Jan van Arkel.

M. Wolsink & M. Baumeister (2003). Verscheidenheid binnen een Amsterdams milieu. In M. Wolsink & M. Baumeister (Eds.), Van nijlpaard tot Maasbedding. Verscheidenheid en samenhang in de milieugeografie (pp. 11-28). Utrecht: Jan van Arkel.

M. Wolsink & L.A. de Klerk (2002). Kwaliteit van de leefomgeving. Modernisering en de verdeling van de ruimte. In H. Knippenberg & M. van Schendelen (Eds.), Alles heeft zijn plaats: 125 jaar geografie en planologie aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1877-2002 (pp. 377-398). Amsterdam: Aksant.

M. Wolsink (2000). Ontwikkeling van burgerzin? De gevaren van NME als instrument voor gedragsverandering. In D.J. Joustra (Ed.), NME met een duurzaam perspectief; Essaybundel Extra impuls Natuur en milieueducatie 1996-1999 (pp. 30-33). Amsterdam: Nat. Comm. voor intern. samenwerking en Duurzame Ontw..

P. de Jong and M. Wolsink, 1997. The Structure of the Dutch Waste Sector and Impediments for Waste Reduction. Waste Management & Research 14 (6) 641-658.

M. Wolsink (1997). New experimental electricity tariff systems for household end use. In Sustainable energy opportunities for a greater Europe: the energy efficiency challenge for Europe: proceedings of the 1997 ECEEE summer study 9-14 june 1997, Spindleruv Mlýn, Czech Republic (pp. 54/1-54/14). København: Energistyrelsen. [go to publisher's site]

M. Wolsink (1996). Het NIMBY-denken: eindpunt of startpunt van een leerpeoces. In R. van Est, H. van der Graaf & J. Eberg (Eds.), Leren met beleid. Beleidsverandering en beleidsgericht leren bij NIMBY, milieu- en technologiebeleid (pp. 19-40). Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis.

M. Wolsink (1996). Dutch Wind Power Policy. Stagnating Implementation of Renewables. Energy Policy 24 (12) 1079-1088.

M. Wolsink (1996). Resultater af EF-unders?gelsen (Annoyance from windturbine noise on sixteen locations in three countries. In T.H. Pedersen (Ed.), Genevirkning af st?j fra vindm?ller (pp. A6 1-A6 5). Lyngby (Dk): Delta Akustik & Vibration. Lydteknisk Institut.

P.T. de Jong & M. Wolsink (1995). Waste reduction and the structure of the Dutch waste sector. In R.S.A.R. van Rompaey, M.T.J. Kok, S. Zwerver & M.M. Berk (Eds.), Climate change research: evaluation and policy implications (pp. 1105-1108). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.

M. Wolsink (1995). Policy failure in the introduction of renewable energy; wind power in the Netherlands. In A. Persson (Ed.), Sustainability and the Reinvention of Government - A challenge for Energy Efficiency. Part II (pp. 103-114). Stockholm: European Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Wolsink, M. (1994). Entanglement of interests and motives: assumptions behind the 'nimby-theory' on facility siting. Urban Studies 31 (6) 851-866. [full text ResearchGate]




Introduction main directions

Three broad topics have main been research objects of Maarten Wolsink over the years. The most significant one is the implementation of renewable energy : social acceptance and the institutional character of this concept (see next section).

One of the relevant issues within this domain is the siting of facilities and decision making about such energy infrastructure. The simplistic common sense views among developers and authorities alike can be recognized as a dominant pattern of thinking and behaving. As such they are the manifestation of a real  'institution' . Those views are that resistance in society against infrastructure is dominated by mere selfish "backyard feelings". This view is fully flawed, although in how many ways it is incorrect depnds upon the sort of infrastrcuture. This idea of not-in-my-backyard (nimby, a concept with roots in organized crime in the 1970-ies' US waste industry) is a popular a myth, but it has an intriguing persistence which had to be investigated. Wind farms are a clear example of the invalidity of the Nimby-'theory', as already came out of my research the 1980-ies.

  • Why is it so popular? Answer: its simplicity and its 'flat' one-dimensional portrayal of human behaviour and its motives; in fact it is very much "Thatcherite thinking". Nevertheless, some serious attempt have been made to conceptualize the idea in a consistent theory (for example: Dear, 1992, JAmPlanAssoc. He described the theory in terms that can emprically be tested, such as the proximity hypothesis).
  • Does it make sense? Answer: hardly in most cases, though depending upon many geographical factors. Most problematic is that the Nimby-label is suggesting a lot about the motives to resist among loacal residents, without properly investigating such motives. The popularity of the label is that it suggest that we already know why people would resist, which is hardly ever true.  (In many cases most people do not evern resist. Many wind schems are in fact initiated by civilians to build in their backyard). Reseach shows a wide variety of motives, and only a few are real 'backyard motives'. Furtmemore, the proximity hypothesis (the smaller the distance, the stronger the opposition) is fully falsified. For wind power, the majority of cases shows the opposite realation.
  • And what are the consequences of using this label and believing that it is actually describing real motives? Answer: ineffective and often counterproductive policies and strategies; enhancement of mistrust among actors who need each other to reach good quality desisions. Calling people nimbies is in fact an insulting them, to legitimize further neglection of their arguments. A perfect receipt for wrecking trust.

Generally speaking, the nimby syndrome is not a phenomenon of a disease among residents, but it is in fact reflecting a limited understanding among authorities, developers, and shallow journalism. The label is often used to mask the use of misconceptions and of incompetence in planning andpolicy. Consequently a second research topic became environmental risk and conflict in waste, water, and energy infrastructure decision-making.

Three dimensions of Social Acceptance of Renewable Energy Innovation

Socio-political acceptance
is related to the support or resistance to policies that effectively promote the implementation of wind power. This is not only related to government, but also to societal actors like energy companies, environmental organisations, tourist organisations etc. An even more common misunderstanding is that the strongest barriers are found in community acceptance ('local resistance') whereas the positive acceptance (local initiatives and support for community energy initiatives) atlocal/community level is in fact remarkably high. The concept of social acceptance is elaborated (see figure) in the high impact papers in Energy Policy, 2007 (Wüstenhagen et al.; Top25 energyPolicy#4) and Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews (link 'most cited' below; link to paper next section). Most widespread non-acceptance concerns a variety of reasons for actors in policy (also governmental actors, despite their lip service in positively formulated policies and objectives) as well as actors in the market, to refuse to set the proper conditions for enabeling the high potential of  acceptance at the level of communities to materialize. These impediments are always institutional by nature. The first time the institutional character of renewable's acceptance and implementation issues was defined was in 2000 intwo high-impact articles: Jacobsson & Johnson (2000, Energ Policy 28: 625) and Wolsink (Renewable Energy, 2000). After 10 years the latter paper is still in the top-25 of most downloaded papers in the journal.

The most recent publication (RenSust Energ Reviews 2012; link below) is also the most import one. It covers all dimensions of the acceptance of elements that will be part of energy supply based on renewable sources. It concerns the social acceptance of the various characteristics of "smart grids" as a carrier of renewables implementation. These will become an important next phase in renewables' deployment. The paper is called "The research agenda on social acceptance of distributed generation in smart grids: Renewable as common pool resources" in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 2012. (link below; also to a Dutch text on this topic).
In micro-grids there can be an integration of distributed generation with renewable sources by fine-tuning of different sources among eachother, and with demand in these smart microgrids.

Institutions defining social acceptance of renewables' innovation

Innovation - A change of ideas, that becomes manifest in products, processes, or organizations, that are applied successfully in practice.
An energy supply and consumption system containing a substantial part of power generated with renwable sources should be considered a new socio-technical system (STS). This is a system with new scientific and technological as well as socio-economic and organizational components, which is reflecting new ideas and concepts on the proffered design of such new systems. For any innovation the linkages between these both components, must be addressed. The development of innovations and their implementation requires favourable institutional conditions and extensive social learning. This also holds for renewables. All aspects of a new STS featuring a substantial amount of renewable energy are subject to social acceptance: any actor may accept certainaspects, while simultaneouslyrejecting other aspects, as a result of social, economic, and/or political learning processes.

Problematic in innovation are so-called institutional "lock-in's". Most barriers to innovation can be brought down to such lock-in's that exist because the current institutions (the way society is organizedand stuctured) are not fit for the new developments and ideas. The existing structure is based on historic developments ("path-dependency") an an example of such historic developments in the energy and wastsectors can be found in the 2003 chapter "Utilities as Tools for Shaping the City".
Institutions - Existing patterns of behaviour and thinking,determined by existing societal rules; "the rules of the game in a society".
The acceptance of innovation requires new patterns in thinking and behaviour of all different types of actors. This is institutional change, and therefore the support orresistance tothese institutional  changes is the fundamental factor in social acceptance. Some examples of institutions are (among others):
- theorganizationand dominant ways of thinkingin the energy sector;
- the ways of thinking among developers and authorities about decision-making about investing and building renewables (e.g. J Env Plann Management 2010);
-the persistence of the interpretation of problems in community acceptance in terms 'backyard' protection (e.g. RenewSustEnergyRev 2007).
This latter pattern of thinking,which implies also a rigid idea about nimby-ism, has as such becomea major impediment for renewables implementation (also see 'environmental conflict' below). The truth is that debates about for example windturbines are debates about landscape, not primarily about energy (e.g. Land Use Policy 2010; Energ Policy 2007). Furthermore, they concern all kinds of variables that are associated with local and community identity, and with community involvement in decision making as wellas the energy schemes themselves. 

Environmentalconflict and infrastructure decision making

Research on the genuine reasons for objecting and/or supporting renewable energy as well as support or resistance to concrete schemes, had a spin-off of studies in environmental conflict in infrastructure decision-making. In EIA Review 2010 you can find a recent comparison of renewable energy, waste, and water infrastructure. This research line concerns the original criticisms of nimby-thinking (Urban Studies 1994) as well as more recent criticisms (Transactions IBG 2006). Furthermore, empirical research on energy and waste infrastructure.
Important in the empirical research is the development of a reliable "nimby scale" (a set reliable set of items measuring an acceptance-rejection position based on the theoretical references to the backyard).  Interesting is in particular that this scale reveals that if there is an inclination to reject this is not reflecting the pre-supposed egitist nature of residents to 'protect ones turf' (as hypotheticallyproclaimed by Dear 1992). It rather indicates a commitment to other closely related others and it is more a community values scale. In fact any reference of residents to the 'backyard' isassociated with feelings about equity and perceived fairness of process (J EnvPlann Man 2009). Meanwhile, the ways of decision making are again linked to very specific institutionalized patterns of thinking, as shown in studies that apply the special method of Q-sort. Examples of this: on waste infrastructure  Urban Studies 2004; on international comparison of beliefs among actors involvend in windpower implementation: Wolsink and Breukers, J of Env Plann Man 2010).

A base lineis that the procliamed environmental benefits of inrastructure is not taken for granted. The claims, for example about new energy infrastructure, among policy makers and developers can be criticizedfor very good reasons. This applies for example for Carbon Sequestration (CCS; not exactly an innovation, but an effort to continue coal base power generation) or 'shale-gas fracking' (high environmental impact and also an effort to continue natural gas based energy supply). Obviously, most forms of biomass or biofuels can also be criticized for very good reasons. See for example the brief overview on renewables ("vernieuwbare energie") in the Dutch text below.

Invited Lectures and Keynotes (since 2008)

  • Energy Landscapes Perception, Planning, Participation and Power, Dresden (D) 16-18 September 2015. Keynote 17 September Participation as co-production — Inevitable Community Involvement in Distributed Generation in Micro-Grids DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1056.3282

  • ‘Sharing Futures’ Summer School: Interdisciplinarity and intergenerationality in planning sustainable urban environments
    24-26th August 2015. University of Birmingham, Edgbaston. Institutional Conditions for Microgrids: Social Acceptance of Integrating Distributed Generation and Land Use Required for the Infrastructure.

  • Conference “Controversy over Energy Technologies: What Shapes Community Acceptance of Wind Power?” 24 October 2014. Danish Technical University, DTU Management Engineering; Lyngby (DK) Integration of renewables supply and demand; social acceptance of crucial smarts grid elements ─ Scale Conflicts about Distributed Generation.

  • KlimaCampus Hamburg 22 May 2014, KlimaCampus Colloquium Invited Lecture. Scale Conflicts in Renewables’ Deployment ─ Distributed Generation as a Common Pool Resource.
  • Rooilijn Kenniskring “Baas over eigen energievoorziening” 16 juni 2014. Mini-college Vernieuwbare energie in ‘smart grids’ ─ ‘Distributed Generation’ als gemeenschappelijke hulpbron.
  • Keynote presentation CWE2013 Conference on Wind Power and Environmental Impacts.  "A further elaboration of social acceptance of renewables' innovation" Vindfall. Stockholm, Sweden 5-7 February 2013. DOI: 10.13140/2.1.4373.3449 (or see link below)
  • NWEA; Nederlandse Wind Energie Associatie. Winddag 14 juni 2013, Ossendrecht. Maatschappelijke acceptatie van vernieuwbare energie-innovaties. Voorbij wind als project, naar geintegreerde energievoorziening.
  • Sea Tech week 'MERIFIC' workshop 'Marine energy for 2 peripheral areas: Finistère and Cornwall. Brest (D) Les Énergies Marines Renouvelables pour les territoires îliens et périfériques. 11 Octobre 2012.
  • L'Energia Spigata. Festival dell'Energia.15-17-06-2012. Perugia, Italia.
    Distributed Generation with Renewables - Social Acceptance of Smart Micro-Grid Configurations. 15June 2012.
  • Les énergies marines renouvelables: enjeux économiques et juridiques. Brest (F) Social Acceptance: Institutional Conditions for Wind Power, from Onshore to Offshore Schemes. 10 Octobre 2012
  • ESRC- Interdiciplinary Cluster on Energy Systems, Equity, and Vulnerability. (INCLUESEV). Conference "Energy justice in a changing climate: defining an agenda". London, November 10th and 11th 2011.
    The role of self-governance in the social construction of smart grids - How does extended community renewable energy implementation in resilient microgrids relate to equity and fairness?
  • TNO symposium "Verduurzaming van de energie-infrastructuur. Macro-aspecten van het Nederlandse energiesysteem" Uden, 27 Juni 2011.
    Maatschappelijke acceptatie van energiesytemen. De cruciale rol van instituties.
  • Universität Karlsruhe, Institute of Technology. " Mobility Infrastructures and Spatial Conflicts" 17 December 2010, Karlsruhe
    Contrasting Core Beliefs: Environmental Conflict about Infrastructure Decisions.
  • Academy of Sciences Czech Republic, Brno Institute of Geonics. Invited lecture series 'New rural spaces: conflicts, opportunities and challenges'.  4 June 2010.
    Distributed generation of sustainable energy as a common pool resource: Social acceptance of smart (micro-)grid configurations.
  • Centrum voor Energievraagstukken,Universiteit van Amsterdam. Inleiding Masterclass "Smart Grids" 29 april 2010. Eigendom, controle en zeggenschap in de ruimtevraag voor "Distributed Generation in Smart Grids".
  • ProjectManagementBureau gemeente Amsterdam. "Continuebedrijf Amsterdam". Excursie.  3 september 2010.
    Inleiding: Wat is afval?
  • Centrum voor Energievraagstukken, Universiteit van Amsterdam. Symposium ter gelegenheid van de opening van het Centrum, 27 januari 2010.
    De homo economicus onder stroom; energieopwekking en -gebruik in 'smart grids'.
  • University of StAndrews , Scotland. Economic and Social Research Council "Seminar on Wind Power", 6 May 2009.
    Socio-political acceptance: facilitating market and community acceptance instead of grand designs for wind power.
  • Alliander Oprichtingsconferentie Verduurzaming van de Energie-Infrastructuur, Zutphen, 24 juni 2009.
    Vernieuwbare energie innovaties.
  • Queens University Belfast, Invited lecture Economic and Social Research Council Seminar 'Wind Power and the Planning Problem', 4 November 2008.
    Socio-political acceptance of wind power implementation: Beyond the limited focus on 'public acceptance'.
  • Helsinki University of Technology. Key note conference 'Environmental Conflict Mediation and Social Impact Assessment: Approaches for Enhanced Environmental Governance?'   Helsinki 14th-15 February 2008.
    Social Acceptance of Contested Environmental Policy Infrastucture. A Comparison of Renewable Energy, Water Management and Waste Management.
  • SenterNovem. Novemdag Windenergie, 30 oktober 2008.
    Maatschappelijke acceptatie van windenergie,of van windenergieprojecten?



Maarten Wolsink was promotor for the admittance to the degree of doctor of several PhD's:

  • Nadav Haran: The power to collaborate. How judicious useof poweraccelerates the strategiccapacity of regions in the Netherlands. University of Amsterdam, 10 March2010. Promotores: Willem Salet & Maarten Wolsink (Habiforum, grant Willem Salet)
  • Sylvia C. Breukers: Changing institutionallandscapes for implementingwind power. A geographical comparison of institutional capacity building. University of Amsterdam, 31 Januari 2007; Promotores: Maarten Wolsink, Ton Dietz (NWO Open Competition MaGW; grant Maarten Wolsink).
  • Jeroen L.A. Devilee: Decision-making aboutwaste facilities. Analysis ofreaction of local residents in a risk society.Univers ity of Amsterdam, 27 February, 2002. Promotores Maarten Wolsink & Roel Meertens (NWO Open competition MaGW (ESR); grant MaartenWolsink]
  • Nanda G.E. van Baren: Planhiërarchische oplossingen: een bron voor maatschappelijk verzet. University of Amsterdam 9 October 2001. Promotores: Maarten Wolsink, Rob Hoppe (TUTwente) (NWO Open competition MaGW (ESR); grant Maarten Wolsink).
  • Paulien deJong: Organizing waste reduction in the Dutch waste sector. University of Amsterdam 25 November 1999. Promotores: MaartenWolsink & Egbert Tellegen (NOP Climate Change grant M.Wolsink, E.Tellegen).
  • Stephan Slingerland: Energy Conservation and Electricity Sector Liberalization. University of Amsterdam,10 November 1999. Promoteres: Egbert Tellegen & MaartenWolsink (University funding).


Maarten Wolsink was External PhD Reviewer or a member of the PhD Thesis Committee and viva - opposition:

  • Neil David Simcock: Imposition or "the will of the people"? Procedural justice in the implementation of community wind energy projects. Lancaster University (UK) 26 November 2012. Pr. G.Walker, S.Vermeylen.
  • Jingyi Han: Renewable energy development in China: Policies, practices and performance. Wageningen University, 8 December 2009. Pr: A.P.J.Mol.
  • Susanne Agterbosch: Empowering wind power.On social and institutional conditions affecting theperformance of entrepreneurs in the wind power supplymarket in the Netherlands. Netherlands Geographical Studies 351. Utrecht University, 27 November 2006. Pr:P.Glasbergen, R.M. Meertens, W.J.V. Vermeulen
  • Sander vandenBurg: Governance through Information; Environmental monitoring from a citizen-consumer perspective.   Wageningen University. 18 April 2006. Pr: A.P.J.Mol, G.Spaargaren.
  • Bas van Vliet: Greening the Grid. The ecological modernisation of network-bound systems.Wageningen University, 22 March 2002. Pr. G. Spaargaren, A.P.J. Mol.
  • Nijs Lagerweij: Milieugedrag bij kinderen. Ontwikkeling van een instrument voor hetmeten van milieugedrag.Universiteit van Amsterdam, 28 November 1995. Pr: P.G.Swanborn.
  • Gea van Oortmarssen: Beïnvloeding van het tijdstip van elektriciteitsgebuikdoor huishoudens. Universiteit van Amsterdam, 3 December 1991. Pr: E.Tellegen, R.Meertens (NWO proposal written by M.Wolsink)

Social Acceptance of Renewable Energy Innovation

Rolf Wüstenhagen, Maarten Wolsink, MaryJean Bürer

Special Issue Energy Policy, 2007. Twelve papers with very high impact, in particular the lead paper about the concept of Social Acceptance of energy innovation. 

Social Acceptance of Wind Power

Thesis Publishers, Amsterdam 1990.

(Maatschappelijke acceptatie van windenergie; ook verschenen als proefschrift Universiteit van Amsterdam).

Society and its Environment - An introduction

by Egbert Tellegen & Maarten Wolsink

Routledge, 2006.

(1st Ed. published by Gordon & Breach, 1998)

Mileu en Samenlaving. Een sociologsiche inleiding.

Egbert Tellegen en Maarten Wolsink

Stenfert Kroese, Leiden, 1992.

Ruimte voor Milieu

Natacha Bakker, Ton Dietz, Maarten Wolsink (red.) Ruimte voor Milieu. Jan van Arkel, 2007.

Van Nijlpaard tot Maasbedding. Verscheidenheid en samenhang in de milieugeografie.

Maarten Wolsink & Michael Baumeister (Eds.)

Jan Van Arkel.


  • Wolsink, M. (2016). 'Sustainable city' requires 'recognition' - The example of environmental education under pressure from the Compact City. Land Use Policy, 52, 174-180. DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.12.018 [details]
  • Wolsink, M. (2016). Environmental education excursions and proximity to urban green space – densification in a ‘compact city’. Environmental Education Research, 22(7), 1049-1071. [details]


  • Wolsink, M. (2015). 'Sustainable City' requires ‘recognition’ – The example of environmental education under pressure from the Compact City. 1. Paper presented at Urban Green Space, Montpellier, France. [details] [PDF]

Journal editor

  • Wolsink, M.P. (reviewer) (2016): Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews (Journal).
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