Introduction: Because of an increasing demand for reliable and renewable energy supplies, new high-voltage power transmission lines will be introduced into the environment. These salient environmental objects are associated with several burdens for residents living in the vicinity. Formation of local pressure groups and protests in response to plans for building new power lines demonstrate the importance of this event for local residents. Understanding these reactions might help to improve communication between stakeholders to minimize the impact. The scarce literature on power line objections is mainly quantitative in nature and focusses on residents living near existing power lines. The aim of the present research is to gain deeper understanding of residents views regarding the announced construction of a new power line route through semi-structured in-depth interviews. To take full advantage of the explorative and inductive nature of the chosen method a broad research question is formulated: how do residents experience the planned construction of a new high-voltage overhead power line in their vicinity?

The study took place from April till June 2013 in the Netherlands where a 65 kilometers long high-voltage power line route is planned to be built in 2014. Residents living within 500 meters distance of the new transmission lines were included with exclusion of residents who lived less than 1000 meters from an existing overhead power line. Of the 50 invited residents, 30% responded to our invitation (N=15). The interviews were conducted at resident’s homes and lasted about 30 to 45 minutes. The interview guideline consisted of open questions related to what residents had heard about the planned construction and what they thought of it. Interviews were transcribed and coded with Atlas TI 5.2 software. Thematic analysis was used to identify patterns of meaning within and across the interviews.

Overall, residents experienced the planned construction of a new power line from very negative to somewhat neutral or indifferent, mainly depending on whether they perceived to live close to the new line. Identified dominant themes were the experienced uncertainty regarding the planning process, but also uncertainty with regard to the health effects of living near a power line. Residents were unsatisfied with information provision because of its content (difficult to understand, abstract, not personally relevant) and inadequate timing or frequency of the information. Other identified themes were a strong feeling of a lack of influence on and perceived injustice of the planning process.

The present research suggests that the impact of a new high-voltage power line might be minimized by reducing uncertainty with regard to the planning process through informing residents in a more personalized, concrete and prompt manner. Openly informing residents about potential health risks and other burdens in a clear way could be helpful as well. Concrete suggestions for improving communication are discussed. Future research into opposition against power lines should encompass these feelings of uncertainty, in addition to the more well-known themes of perceived injustice and the lack of influence.