Renewable energy is widely regarded as the planet’s best bet for addressing climate change and protecting the health of our environment.
Yet it remains a massive challenge for companies to gain the community support needed to site renewable energy projects. Getting the project started doesn’t have to be an uphill battle, if you take the right approach from the start. Here are three tips from EMA’s Energy + Sustainability Public Affairs team to help you introduce your siting project, and inspire the support you need to see it through.
Educate the Public
They say knowledge is power, so start your campaign by showing the community what’s in it for them. How will the community benefit? What kinds of changes will the project create and how will those changes lead to positive experiences for people? Providing an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with stakeholders will empower them to feel confident and informed abut the project. Hosting town hall meetings, for example, gives the public a forum to engage and be educated, while also giving them an outlet to share their concerns and have a voice. Job creation, economic growth, less costly utilities, and greater reliability and protection against blackouts are all benefits that should be communicated to the public to put them more at ease and create a sense of camaraderie around the initiative.
Enlist Your Advocates
Once you’ve educated the public, it’s time to bring key representatives on board to share the message. In most cases, having an unbiased third party publicly support the project will go a long way toward gaining the proper approvals and avoiding unnecessary backlash. Local opinion leaders, politicians and economic development groups all make great advocates, and in some cases, regional and state regulatory bodies do as well. Research studies published by environmental agencies or case studies from other communities are tools that can help advocates when promoting the benefits of the project to the community.
Gain Public Support
With the key players informed and a chorus of strong voices supporting the project and its goals, it’s time to rally the troops and engage the public as part of your team. An open planning process can help by allowing interested parties to join in the conversation and feel as if their concerns are being addressed.. Making the community as a whole feel invested in the project leads to a much better chance of receiving the required permits and permissions to hit milestones on schedule (especially when this is done in conjunction with early planning and educating the community).
Today, many companies are doing their part to reduce carbon emissions and make our communities more energy efficient. With the correct strategy in place, siting projects can be less challenging, and companies can execute their vision for a more sustainable world.