Adam & Aneta Jareš, Czech Republic, 02 February 2018
The Protivanov town in the Czech Republic
In 2015, a reconstruction of a wind power plant park and its subsequent extension from existing two to another five wind turbines began to be discussed within the municipality council. There are a number of positive aspects showing from the municipality councils´ records, which can be clearly identified as examples of positive practice.
At first, elected representatives agreed that the citizens of this town should be involved in the topic. Therefore a public survey was proposed and that the results of it should be followed by a local referendum. Relatively thorough detection of an opinion of the citizens of the municipality was reasoned by the fact that the planned wind power plants construction exceeds the electoral period of the current council. Further, the municipality council records shows, that the representatives considered the proposed payment to the municipality at 1% of the annual turnover as unacceptable in view of the situation on the green energy market and that the conditions of the operators of other wind power plants were more interesting. Last but not least, at the meeting of the council, it was said that the representatives and their family members should not accept invitations to the wind power plant park visits by its operator to avoid situations that could induce any potential conflict of interest and that the representatives, including their families, had the possibility to view and explore the wind power plant park closer with other citizens on an open day. In the end of the council’s meeting representatives approved a resolution on the survey and the local referendum in a ratio of 10:1.
In March 2016 the survey was conducted that showed that the citizens did not take a negative stand to the wind power plant park, wind turbines did not bother them and they were not worried about possible negative impact on their health. The survey was attended by 53% of citizens older than 18 years and almost half of respondents (47%) inclined to expand the wind park.
In July of the same year, documents on declaration of the local referendum were prepared in order to follow up the conducted survey. The date of the local referendum was set on the 7th and 8th of October 2016, in order to match the local referendum with the elections to the Olomouc Regional Council in accordance with a number of recommendations and consistent case law. The local referendum voting took place in the same building of the Protivanov city office where elections were held, but again in accordance with recommendation of the Ministry of the Interior, in its separate part (another room). At the end of the meeting of the city council the local referendum was declared on the question: "Do you agree that town council shall support the extension of the existing wind power plant park located in the cadastral territory of Protivanov by maximum of another five wind turbines?" The documents were approved and a resolution on the declaration of a local referendum was adopted in September 2016 in a ratio of 7: 2.
The local referendum was attended by 48.9% of entitled persons; therefore the local referendum was valid. Among those who participated, 225 (56.82%) voters voted YES and 155 (39.14%) voted NO. The local referendum was then also binding as more than 25% of entitled persons registered in the lists of entitled persons expressed their opinion on the reconstruction and extension of the wind power plant park.
The wind power plant park has been operating for ten years near the Protivanov town. During this time, citizens had the opportunity to get acquainted with the wind park, gain some experience with it and form a qualified opinion. Municipal representatives considered this opinion to be important and they tried to look into this opinion quite closely while considering whether to accept one of the investor's options, starting with the reconstruction of the two existing wind turbines, up to the extension of the wind power plant park by another five wind turbines. Municipal representatives were interested in the opinion of their citizens mainly because the construction exceeded their existing mandate.
It is these situations that are ideal for the local referendum execution as citizens of a given municipality should decide directly in similar cases. Efforts to limit potential conflicts of interest and circumspect consideration of the green energy situation on the market in order to achieve the highest possible performance for the municipality are commendable as well.