The article below was Published March 27, 2020 in Renewable Energy Magazine.
With the increasing number of COVID-19 related postponements of public hearings across the country, many pending land use approvals have been put on the back burner. This puts the projects at risk of not meeting critical timetables.
In the time of social distancing during a global pandemic, it is more than wise to cancel the majority of scheduled in-person gatherings—like graduations, parties, or weddings. While this is the safe and healthy route to take to avoid the spread of COVID-19, some communities are starting "virtual hearings" for land use projects, and even renewable energy meetings will see the same for the coming weeks or longer.
In order for residents to stay relevant at virtual hearings, towns and cities currently allow e-mails to voice opinions on projects, and that will become more prevalent during the pandemic crisis. An e-mail expressing opinion on a renewable project to an elected or planning official should weigh just as much as a resident attending a packed hearing and speaking. Listening to all residents in this time of anxiety is critically important. The world will come out of this pandemic stronger and more focused, and the need for clean energy will always be present.
The safety of society should always be prioritized. However, we can still work together to make sure renewable project approvals will continue to move smoothly. Here are some additional concrete tactics to help your project gain approval:
Launch a Website:
Effective use of the internet during times like these is an important tactic to help motivate members of the community. The most important piece in starting a call-to-action is preparing a website that regularly updates residents, dispels myths and updates citizens on the latest information. This website should also link resources to educate viewers on ongoing projects and provide downloadable petitions, fact sheets, or infographics. Encourage people to sign up in support of approval and create supporter database.
Harness Social Media:
Opening dedicated social media accounts for the project creates a specific target audience to reach with regular posts. The use of important, widely-used tools such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter promote awareness of the project’s approval status, boost engagement, and drive website traffic to help the community learn more about what needs to get done!
A video in can be inserted in many platforms. Whether on the homepage of a website or in a social media post, utilizing video captures attention. This is an important way for community members to relate to the project. These videos can also spark conversations online.
Host a Virtual open house:
Renewable companies can host a community open house via zoom or Facetime allowing residents to have virtual one-on-one conversations with the project team. Residents can voice their input about the project or ask questions individually to the renewable company to ensure their voices are heard.
Encouraging the community to take these steps will help make a difference in getting your renewable project approved on time and more efficiently in the time of COVID-19.