Welcome to the website of the research project “Energy projects in the Münsterland: Strategies of legitimacy communication and their effects”.

The project, which is based at the University of Münster, explores the extent to which strategic communication influences the attribution of legitimacy to renewable energy projects. It is funded by the Universitätsgesellschaft Münster e. V. from May 2023 to April 2024.

Focus on energy communication

The production of and access to affordable and clean energy is one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (2021). However, the transition from fossil to renewable energy sources is not only a technical issue, but also a socio-political one. In Münster and the Münsterland region, for example, the use of public land for photovoltaic systems, geothermal energy or the cogeneration of electricity and heat from renewable energy sources is the subject of intense debate.

Public discussions on infrastructure projects for the production or transmission of renewable energy (e.g. in the form of biogas, solar or district heating plants or power lines) — hereafter referred to as energy projects — are among the most intense (Bräuer, 2017; Schweizer et al., 2016). They are often characterised, for example, by conflicts over the perceived risks of a technology, the “not in my backyard” phenomenon, conflicts of interest among project and decision-makers, and extensive media coverage.

Design and approach

The research project examines how the organisations involved communicate about energy projects with the aim of legitimising them and themselves, how this communication is perceived and what expectations are attached to this communication. To answer these questions, the project is based on a mixed-methods design. Two empirical sub-studies build on each other: A content analysis will be used to examine how project and decision makers communicate about energy projects. Subsequently, the Q-method will be used to capture the perceptions of affected and interested citizens.

Knowledge transfer

The aim of the project is to make a scientific contribution to the discourse on energy projects in research and teaching as well as for project and decision makers and society and the population in Münster and the Münsterland. To this end, the project results will be presented in scientific journals and conferences as well as in journalistic media. This website will also present current findings, e.g., for use in research and teaching or in communication practice.

If you are curious, we invite you to explore our website to learn more about our project, our team and our research. Thank you for your interest in our research project!