Why Utilities and Energy Developers Should Always Avoid the Pejorative Term “NIMBY”



It is a dangerous term.

Shorthand for “Not in My Backyard,” it describes individuals who oppose projects because they are perceived as undesirable or hazardous to their land or community. These projects could be anything from a large industrial warehouse to a renewable energy project like a wind or solar farm. Regardless of the project, the term carries a negative connotation and is often used pejoratively by proponents to describe any opponents standing in the way of a project.

Used dismissively, NIMBY harms project developers in two very real and impactful ways.

First, many NIMBY concerns are reasonable and require a response.

After all, numerous factors can lead to opposition. Opposition may stem from perceived viewshed or lifestyle impacts. It may be rooted in a lack of trust in institutions and developers. It may be based on misinformation.

It is crucial that energy developers understand that the ideas behind NIMBY are often rational. Each concern should be treated as real and should not be dismissed. When one fails to understand their opponents’ concerns and instead uses labels like NIMBY, they undermine gains made through a thoughtful communications plan.

Second, the way a developer treats their opponents matters.

Some community members will never see eye-to-eye with a project they oppose. Some people may oppose a project for reasons that are irrational.

No matter what their reasons, these opponents must be treated with respect.

With any project that impacts a community, there are typically three groups of stakeholders: supporters, opposition, and people who may need to be persuaded. These people in the middle pay attention to the ways you treat their neighbors, family members and friends.

When you refer to a person or group as a NIMBY, you are implying that their concerns are selfish, unimportant and don’t need to be listened to.

Rather than dismissing opponents, energy developers should take time to listen to the views of each group of stakeholders. Doing this will allow for more effective communication between your project and the community at large, and show that you respect and hear your opponents’ concerns and opinions.

Utilities and energy developers succeed when the communications, engineering, legal, regulatory, and government experts are all working together as a team — sharing information and ideas, participating in strategy development and partnering to execute a winning plan.

Mower has worked with clients throughout the Northeast and played a critical role in more than a dozen successful siting projects. Discover ways Mower has delivered a positive outcome for previous projects and can do the same for future siting projects.