The article below was Published October 12, 2016 in Renewable Energy Magazine.
Society is currently undergoing a shift in many ways from traditional sources of energy to renewable sources of energy to become more sustainable. Although many positive factors come into play regarding the innovative approaches companies propose for their renewable energy developments, projects can still face substantial opposition and must build public support to counter it.
As engineering and construction approaches shift to more intricate and exciting approaches, it is important to remember the need for community outreach to educate residents on the proposal as it is under review.
Genex, an energy company based in Australia, plans to convert an old Australian gold mine into a pumped hydroelectric energy storage system. There are a myriad of benefits that will result from this innovative proposal.
First and foremost, this development is sustainable and will generate enough energy to power 27,500 homes by using sources of renewable energy. It will operate efficiently, but will not sacrifice the well-being of the environment to do so. Whereas the previous mining conducted on the site posed potential environmental hazards, this project brings new opportunities for clean energy production.
Second, Genex will provide employment opportunities to many in the Queensland area. For the pump to operate at maximum efficiency there must be workers to oversee the production and storage systems.
Workers will also be needed during the construction process of converting the gold mine to a hydroelectric pump. This is especially beneficial for the community because it will provide an opportunity for those who may have lost their jobs after the gold mine was closed to find new, more eco-friendly employment with Genex.
Third, new revenue will be generated in the Queensland area from restoring the dormant site to an active use. This revenue can support vital community services, such as public education and infrastructure repairs. The revenue generated will directly benefit Queensland residents and promote economic growth for years to come.
As countries look to replicate innovative transformations, like the one undertaken by Genex, the need to build public support for renewable proposals among community members should still be a priority.
While the transformation implemented by Genex seems like a no-brainer from the outset, members of the community could still have raised aesthetic, environmental, or economic concerns, as with any renewable proposal, especially if little information is available.
Renewable proposals constantly face new regulations or entitlement processes that can cause delays or make it more difficult to receive approval. For instance, the Polish parliament approved a new bill this past June for mandatory setbacks of new wind farm developments from residential housing. This new law, in part, is the result of collective calls for wind farms farther away from homes and communities—out of sight, out of mind. Without proper education, community members may default to positions that resist change. Yet if no one accepts developments in their neighborhood, communities cannot prosper by reaching healthy levels of sustainability.
Although the location of a renewable project may vary, the steps to make it successful are the same. Companies must make outreach through public affairs to receive permits and approvals in order to move forward. Delays are costly, and can halt a project indefinitely. Here are some helpful tips to get your renewable project approved:
The best way to stay informed is by researching the community’s potential concerns as they relate to the location you plan to develop. Being informed will save you time and will tremendously benefit your campaigning efforts from campaign planning. Hold open houses, reserve booth space at community events and find other creative ways to visit people in their community to introduce and discuss the proposal.
Create an Effective Website.
Developing a project website (or dedicate web page off an existing site) may be obvious, but it is important to remember to give it a grassroots flare. Link resources to educate viewers from third party sources and provide downloadable petitions, fact sheets, advocacy guides and more. Encourage people to sign up in support to gather a supporter database. Give citizens information on your development project to campaign most effectively.
Build with Social Media.
Creating a dedicated social media page on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn will allow rapid communication on the proposal’s benefits. Relationships can be built as supporters interact with content and share resources. Be sure to invite all people who Like page content to like the page, and start Facebook ads with different objectives (page likes, video views, awareness) targeting the demographics most likely to show support for cost-effective advertising. Once a solid following has been generated, use the similar audiences tool to direct ads to new people who share certain characteristics as the people who liked the page.
Leave a Paper Trail.
Although the use of technology and social media is prevalent nowadays, there are still people who prefer obtaining their information through newspapers and direct mail.Meet with reporters to provide the facts in editorial board meetings, and issue a press release to announce the project and digital resources.
Go with Grassroots.
Using grassroots tactics like a political campaign to raise awareness is an excellent approach to spread the word and build community support for renewable projects. Tangible support from citizens should be encouraged in the form of writing letters to the editor and submitting comment at hearings. This depicts true dedication and support for your project, and will leaving a lasting impression with public officials who issue permits.