Campaign Strategy for Renewable Energy

We must maximize our chances with decision-makers who have the power to legislate. To do so we must strive to maximize the decision-makers' room to make positive decisions and minimize their room to make negative decisions. Therein is the basis of a campaign.

When Greenpeace International started work on its highly successful campaign for offshore wind energy development in the North Sea, a very seasoned press officer handed me a piece of paper with ten questions on it. Answer these,' she said, 'and we've got our communication plan.' I have rearranged these questions slightly for our purposes.

1 PROJECT OBJECTIVES: What needs to be achieved?

2 TARGET AUDIENCES: Who do we need to reach?

3 SITUATION ANALYSIS: What is the noise above which we must be heard?

4 STRATEGY: How will we reach them?

5 KEY MESSAGES: What do we need to communicate?

6 TACTICS: What are we actually going to do?

7 SCHEDULE: How much time do we have and when will we do what?

8 BUDGET and RESOURCES: What human, financial and other resources are required?

9 MEASUREMENT CRITERIA: How do we measure our progress?

10 DYNAMICS: How do we keep abreast of change?

For people with communications training these points are part and parcel of their everyday work; and I do not want to do an inexpert step-through of communication theory. However, for those unfamiliar with this field it is important to know how and why such campaigns are constructed. For experts, I hope the discussion will provide some insight into the peculiarities of renewable energy communications strategy. In striving to provide practical illustrations of how these ideas and concepts have been given life in the real world I will largely rely on the AusWEA MRET campaign as a rolling case study, for the reasons described at the start of this chapter, but please refer to Chapters 6—11 for other examples.

In 2002 the Australian wind energy industry found itself in a strange position. The federal renewable policy driver, the MRET, had resulted in significant industry growth, albeit from an extremely small base. Polling commissioned a year later by AusWEA leads me to believe that Prime Minister John Howard's government felt compelled to introduce the legislation due to the high popularity of renewables among the public. (For example, 80 per cent of poll respondents felt the Prime Minister would do better to install more renewable energy than to sign the Kyoto Protocol; see Table 5.1.)

Yet the very low 2 per cent target set by the legislation was poised to effectively become a glass ceiling that would within years stall wind industry growth. Moreover, because the target had been translated into a flat target of9500GWh by 2010 compared to 1997 levels, it would not actually increase the overall share of overall renewable energy generation, due to rising overall energy demand. Many groups, including AusWEA, viewed the 2003 review of the MRET legislation as a chance to increase renewable energy development.

At the same time, communities were raising concerns in the media about wind farms, and issues seen in other countries — birds, noise, landscape and property prices — were starting to emerge along with stories about wind farm objection. These were on a trajectory to overtake good-news stories. As I stated in a presentation to AusWEA at the time, wind power is an iconic clean, green image which has essentially become a brand. Wind farms are regularly used by environmental groups and socially responsible businesses as a symbol of a better future (see Figures 5.2 and 5.3). Yet no one has control or responsibility to protect and develop this common brand.

Overall, it was a dangerous situation for any industry and I was asked to put together a proposal to address some of these issues, and the resultant campaign was carried on throughout 2003 and into 2004 by myself and then-AusWEA Vice President, Mr Rick Maddox. The many battles won or lost along the way will provide useful illustrations for renewable energy industry campaigning.

Project objectives (What needs to be achieved?)

Defining objectives

Getting the objectives right is critical. The objectives we choose must lead to real and sustained increases in renewable energy generation. It is always tempting to suggest, 'Our objective is to raise a debate about ...' or 'Our objective is to raise the profile of ...'. However, these are not ends in themselves, rather they are tactics

Table 5.1 A public opinion poll commissioned by AusWEA confirms public approval is high for actions that support renewable energy

LEVEL OF IMPACT ON PERFORMANCE PERCEPTION

Table 5.1 A public opinion poll commissioned by AusWEA confirms public approval is high for actions that support renewable energy

LEVEL OF IMPACT ON PERFORMANCE PERCEPTION

ACTION

Much less likely

Less likely

Makes no difference

More likely

Much more likely

Don't know

Mean

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(5)

Increase the amount of

electricity generated by non-polluting means such

<1%

1%

18%

53%

27%

1%

4.06

as solar or wind energy

Increase research on

reducing greenhouse emissions from coal-

<1%

3%

30%

53%

12%

2%

3.76

burning power plants

Sign the Kyoto Protocol

which is an international agreement to reduce

<1%

3%

34%

45%

14%

4%

3.73

greenhouse pollution

Reduce land clearing

1%

3%

54%

29%

9%

4%

3.42

LEVEL OF SUPPORT

ELECTRICITY OPTION

Strongly oppose

Oppose

Support

Strongly support

Don't know

Mean

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

Building wind farms

1%

2%

27%

68%

1%

3.64

Building gas-fired power plants

11%

29%

43%

7%

10%

2.52

Building new coal-burning power plants

34%

39%

17%

4%

5%

Source: AusWEA.

to employ to achieve the real and measurable goals. In the case of renewables, I would argue that objectives tend to set themselves. Given the policy areas covered so far in this book, we now have a very clear idea of what works and what does not. Any campaign objectives must be in keeping with this understanding.

Although there may seem to be a continuous gradation of success, there is in fact a critical threshold to be crossed: either the policies create a self-sustaining environment in which renewables grow, or they do not. If the policies in place cross this threshold, we can be confident that a major objective has been reached. Until that point — and it may not be achievable in one go — our job remains incomplete and the ultimate objective is yet to be achieved.

In a one- or two-year campaign or within a given budget it may simply be impossible to move from a given starting point to see the required policies enacted. However, it may be possible to consolidate steps along the way. Perhaps you will witness legislation to allow consumers to purchase green power, or legislation to allow third-party access to the grid, and so forth. But as we will see, the assets

Note: The only form of generation shown is a wind turbine, for an actual energy mix that is 98% coal! Figure 5.2 Australian energy bill

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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