Valuing the appearance of an Alpine landscape: the costs and benefits of underground cabling of high-voltage power lines

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High-voltage power lines are crucial for the security of electricity supply, and also necessary for regional renewable electricity production. However, power lines cause damage especially to human health (electric smog, noise), and to sensitive ecosystems. The fragmentation and impaired appearance of Alpine landscapes has raised major opposition towards the planning of new power lines in Austria. An alternative, though very costly, to the erection of new lines is underground cabling. The current study presents the costs and benefits of underground cabling in a major Austrian tourist resort in the Tyrolean Alps; tourists were asked to value improvements of the appearance of the landscape with two approaches. The first presented respondents with manipulated pictures of the landscape with the existing and without power lines, and asked for the potential change of the frequency of trips to the area. The second ascertained the respondents’ willingness-to-pay for a nature conservation fund financing underground cabling. While 60% of respondents would positively change their travel behavior with an improved appearance of the landscape, and also stated a positive willingness-to-pay for underground cabling (on average about EUR 9 to 13), the additional costs of underground cabling would not be outweighed by the tourists’ willingness-to-pay. For the purpose of planning new power lines, it is thus important to explore the full range of benefits of underground cabling including the willingness-to-pay of Austrian residents which might be much higher than that of tourists alone, and not only concentrate on the significance of a pristine Alpine landscape for tourism.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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