Renewable energy for sustainable rural development: Synergies and mismatches

Laura Tolnov Clausen*, David Philipp Rudolph

*Corresponding author for this work

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Energy transition is increasingly regarded as a promising opportunity for the economic development of rural areas. This possibility is associated with the siting and (co-)ownership of decentralized (small-scale) renewable energy facilities. The underlying productive link, however, has been taken for granted, rather than conceptually and practically cultivated. Thus, while renewable energy-based rural development has been stated as a desired by-product of energy transitions, its potential has remained largely unfulfilled. This review aims to illuminate the ambiguous interplay between renewable energy and rural development in the context of the current trajectories of the energy transition. In doing so, we first examine different ways renewable energy may contribute to rural development and explore how the synergetic conflation of renewable energy and rural development has played out in Denmark and Scotland, as two countries that have forged ahead with renewable energy in rural areas. Second, we draw on the different experiences in the two countries to critically discuss policy-related mismatches that hamper a more efficient contribution of renewable energy to rural development, and sketch out some thoughts about the need to bring rural matters and rural communities into the discussion if the synergies between energy transition and rural development are to be taken seriously.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111289
JournalEnergy Policy
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Renewable energy
  • Rural development
  • Synergies
  • Socio-ecological fixes
  • Disembedding
  • Democracy


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