The ‘NIMBY’ (Not In My Back Yard) concept is commonly used to explain public opposition to new developments near homes and communities, particularly arising from energy technologies such as wind farms or electricity pylons. Despite its common use, the concept has been extensively critiqued by social scientists as a useful concept for research and practice. Given European policy goals to increase sustainable energy supply by 2020, deepening understanding of local opposition is of both conceptual and practical importance. This paper reviews NIMBY literature and proposes an alternative framework to explain local opposition, drawing upon social and environmental psychological theory on place. Local opposition is conceived as a form of place-protective action, which arises when new developments disrupt pre-existing emotional attachments and threaten place-related identity processes. Adopting a social constructivist perspective and drawing on social representation theory, a framework of place change is proposed encompassing stages of becoming aware, interpreting, evaluating, coping and acting, with each stage conceived at multiple levels of analysis, from intrapersonal to socio-cultural. Directions for future research and potential implications of the place-based approach for public engagement by energy policy-makers and practitioners are discussed. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.