Legitimacy and Acceleration in Green Energy Initiatives and Transitions (LEGIT)

At the core of LEGIT is the recognition of how the need for an accelerated green transition in the Nordic countries, through e.g. large renewable energy projects, mining for critical minerals or upgrading electricity grids, are increasingly in conflict with other environmental and societal challenges, including the unequal distribution of benefits and burdens, nature degradation, and the violation of local and minority rights and interests. More democratic participation is considered necessary for ensuring the legitimacy of green energy projects. However, there is increasing evidence that the capacity for democratic involvement to create legitimacy is under pressure from the need for increased speed, scale and scope that is at the heart of an accelerated transition.

In light of such tensions, the objective of LEGIT is to examine the role of democratic engagement and citizen-involvement in legitimising green transition initiatives, and how democratic engagement compares to other grounds for justification. To achieve this objective, LEGIT will address the following research question: Considering the tensions created by the acceleration phase of the green transition, what role does, and can, democratic engagement in various forms play in the legitimisation of green transition initiatives?

To answer this question, LEGIT aims to combine insights from studies of political legitimacy and democracy with that of sustainability transitions. The project employs a comparative research strategy and will combine case study analyses of democratic involvement in ongoing or planned green energy initiatives across the Nordic region, with a national-level analysis of policies and systemic conditions, alongside strategies and actions of key actors. LEGIT combine a variety of different methodological strategies, including case studies based on in-depth interviews and document analysis, and it will use a qualitative comparative analysis to help understand how different forms of democratic engagement can explain the perceived legitimacy of green transition projects across the Nordic region.

LEGIT is a Nordic collaboration between Syke (Finland), University of Copenhagen (Denmark), NIFU (Norway) and Linköping University (Sweden). It consists of leading researchers on sustainability transitions at these institutions.