As we mentioned in earlier articles, Europe is facing strong headwinds against renewable energy sources, particularly in Germany. The Brussels home association, WindEurope, just released a report that calls into question any growth in the renewable sector in the next four years. The amount of wind energy has stalled in the last few years, and uncertainty seems to abound. WindEurope states that while "political will" is one reason for this slow down of wind energy, local opposition is the main problem.
Courtesy of NREL
Germany is also running into self imposed targets. They have agreed to phase out nuclear power in the next three years (by 2022) and coal power will be phased out by 2038. With these two sources going offline, they will need to increase renewables to compensate. Groups such as EPAW (European Platform Against Windfarms) is putting money and legal challenges into fighting projects.
Italy is facing opposition as well - to solar. In the central Lazio region environmental groups are opposing multiple solar projects because they will lead to the reduction of agricultural land in areas with little cultivable soil.
In the UK, despite the recent banning of hydraulic fracturing, the new government is still at odds with many renewable projects, and nearly fifty wind farm projects in Scotland could be canceled if a ban on access to the energy market is not lifted soon.
There are some silver linings, however. Recently, France, Greece and Bulgaria have pledged to update their national targets for renewable energy to 33 percent, 35 percent and 27 percent respectively by 2030. While there are just 10 years to go before these targets must be met, they allow companies and governments to plot out the near future to ensure they are met.
Regardless of whether government bodies or people need educating and a showing of mass support for these projects, the tactics we have outlined over and over still can have a major positive effect on gaining support and approval for renewable projects.
Unmask the opposition
Opposition to renewables is often corporate, not grassroots level residents, as many are led to believe. Those that do not favor renewables, or want to see a slowing of their growth, often back opposition groups, petitions, anti renewable websites, etc. Big money can stall wind and solar, and even be responsible for canceling some projects. Renewable developers should not be shy when it comes to studying and revealing the identity of who is funding the opponents.
Take Advantage of Social Media
Renewable developers wishing to reach local residents with facts would be remiss not to include a social media campaign. Opening dedicated social media accounts for the project creates a defined target audience to reach with regular posts. Paid advertising is cost-effective on social media platforms, and it helps to build your audience and promote both awareness of the project and resources that help the community learn more. Producing video content to share on social media network feeds (either organically or paid) is a dominant tactic to grab your audience’s attention.
Talk to Stakeholders
Stakeholders go beyond landowners. While gaining the support of the landowners and immediate neighbors for a new renewable project is essential, remember that stakeholders can include a variety of people and groups, such as former elected officials, business organizations, neighborhood groups, civic and nonprofit groups and provincial stakeholders. Start by reaching out to these groups to set up presentations to members or meeting with leadership. There are many ways stakeholders can help amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, social media engagement, events and more.
Communication is often the key to gaining approval on any renewable project, and often it is the difference-maker between project approval and defeat.
Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1995. His firm has developed and managed multiple corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as gaming, cable television, retail development, auto racing, energy and residential projects. Additionally, his firm has worked on projects in twenty-six states and three countries.