Webinar: Enhancing social impact and acceptance
23 May 2017
11:30am (Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome)
10:30am (London, Dublin, Lisbon)
Presenters: Sue Barr, OpenHydro
Bruce Buchanan, Marine Scotland
Polls and surveys show that support for ocean energy is high among Europeans. A recent UK survey indicates that 77% of the population sees ocean energy as a viable alternative in the transition away from fossil-fuel power generation.
As ocean energy deployment increases, communities hosting projects and their grid infrastructure may express concerns, as is the case for most infrastructure development today.
To ensure support for ocean energy remains high and avoid costly challenges to project permits, how should the ocean energy sector engage with local communities? How can the benefits of ocean energy be properly expressed while taking into account local concerns? What can be learnt from experiences in other renewable energy sectors?
- The ocean energy industry needs to pay more attention to stakeholder engagement. As a young industry, there is little broader understanding of ocean energy technologies and how they work. People who feel they are affected by the development of ocean energy projects often do not feel any tangible positive impacts.
- Stakeholders’ engagement should start at the early stages of a project’s development. A mapping of all people affected by the project is required and a process to ensure they are consulted.
- Consultation is more than informing. It requires deeper participation. Beginning to inform stakeholders about the project during the consenting process is too late. Locals’ needs should be understood in advance.
- Not all stakeholders will have the same need of consultation: holiday home owners, for instance, will have less interest in the consultation than a local fisherman.
Impact on the environment
- Industry collaboration and cooperation with governmental organisations is very important. It is not possible to address all environmental concerns and negative perceptions, such as on fisheries, in a single project research.
- Impact on the onshore areas and landscape should be considered during project evaluation process and consultation.
- Industry must be more active in explaining how the technologies work and how they are different from other technologies, addressing fears that there is not enough supporting science. It is equally important to be honest about what knowledge is still lacking. Resources to develop a better understanding of data can lead to better decisions.
- Industry has to drive a message about the benefits of ocean energy in comparison to conventional power production, including the wider socio-economic benefits ocean energy can bring for a local economy. Delivering a “green” technology is not sufficient to be positively perceived by the general public. Marine Scotland studies on socio-economic effects on the different communities conclude that people in remote settlements want jobs, and a viable future for their communities. These aspects should be addressed by project developers.
- Working with communities from the start can help delays, costs and risk to the projects.
- Consider the stakeholder engagement process as an important step in project delivery. Make stakeholder engagement plans part of the project. Bad stakeholder relations cost time, money and add risk to projects.
- Give a voice to the local community and make it a partner in the project.
- Identify key stakeholders (who you should project developers be talking to).
- Differentiate communication according to the different audiences and stakeholder groups being addressed. In certain cases, it may be useful to have a third party deliver certain messages.
- Communicate honestly about what is or isn’t known. Adhere to social values and develop guidelines for developers on social work.
- Raise awareness of the specific benefits of ocean energy.
- Industry must work together and with the regulators to study impacts that are too big for a single project developer.
- Regulators and industry should prepare stakeholders’ engagement guidelines.