There is only so much you can put into a table! The matrix discussed earlier is an important way to catalogue stakeholders and ensure we know where to expect stakeholders to emerge even if they have not popped up yet. However, it is also worth taking a more specific look at some significant stakeholders, and making some general recommendations for action.
Individual citizens may be the smallest unit of society but they can also be among the most influential — such as when they vote or write a letter. Their source of engagement with renewables will generally be from a project level impact or from a point of principle (such as the environment).
Working optimally with project-impacted individuals relies on the art of community consultation - either by government or industry - and should be undertaken as thoroughly and expertly as possible. People who become involved because of a principle will have to be engaged by industry, NGOs or government and given avenues through which to have their voice heard (see Figure 4.9).
In terms of taking action to improve chances for positive outcomes, it is important to be on the front foot with citizens and be the first to make the approach.
Individuals may invest in renewable energy companies and therefore be financially engaged with the renewable energy industry. This tends to be quite a limited group since few investment opportunities in renewable-only companies exist, either globally or locally. People making the extra effort to find and invest in renewables are likely to be highly principled and motivated. They are also likely to be reasonably well educated and empowered and so would make excellent allies. However, they are hard to locate.
These people may be found through the companies that they are investing in, if those companies have ongoing contact. For more high-profile and upbeat companies this can also provide an excuse for a positive and dynamic engagement with their investors to elevate them beyond silent partners.
Figure 4.9 A public outreach website used to engage individuals and encourage action
These companies tend to support the highest renewable targets they consider politically feasible. This support can be undermined if some of the bigger companies have mixed interests in areas that may be adversely affected by increases in renewable energy production.
As we have seen in previous chapters, renewable industries need to be aiming for exponential growth. However, high targets can be undermined if some of the smaller companies have quite modest visions for their sector's future. A doubling of demand for renewables spells huge success for a small domestic manufacturer. However, given that such industries are always starting from a small base, meaningful environmental benefit is unlikely from such a gain. Nor will it put the industry on a footing to create large-scale manufacture and compete internationally. Thus there is a risk that such industry stakeholders could make poor negotiators for the industry as a whole.
Many of the larger companies are international and likely have top-down codes of practice that limit freedom of action to lobby or campaign overtly in a given country. This may be because of shareholder sensitivities or disclosure rules in their home countries. Alternatively, some transnational may have positioned themselves as taking a strong stand on renewable energy issues that can be activated in the new market.
Such companies will generally shy away from being overtly critical or vocal about governments to avoid prejudicing future government assistance for manufacturing plants and the like. However, the larger companies do have the ability to invest heavily to open up new markets and this can include helping their representative industry organizations who can do the lobbying and campaign work instead.
Although in principle these companies will be key proponents of renewable development, there is a need to take action to bring them together to ensure that they speak and negotiate with a unified voice. Rule Number 1: Don't try to promote your own renewable by criticizing another renewable.
Groups such as farmers or agricultural produce companies that control wind and biomass resources are generally absent in early policy debates — indicating that this group does not self-identify and is hard to mobilize. In fact, when establishing new markets, most of these resource holders may not be aware of the resource they have or of its value. For example, once somebody buys a solar hot water heater they effectively become a renewable energy harvester — they are part of the renewable industry! There may be very large numbers of such stakeholders available, who can be activated with suitable strategies.
Once established and experiencing significant real or potential income/benefits from renewables, the asset-holding stakeholders can become quite powerful. Although landowners and growers often have quite traditional and conservative political allegiances, as business owners they are very economically attuned and will treat any real economic opportunity seriously.
To make this group into effective stakeholders that represent their own interests well, others may have to take action to identify, educate and facilitate these stakeholders' engagement in the policy forming processes. Project developers will often have access to such stakeholders and potential stakeholders. They may be consulted through appropriate associations.
There tend to be two types of developer: single-interest and multiple-interest. We will concern ourselves with single-interest developers who are only or primarily focused on renewable energy development. As for multiple-interest developers, we will be concerned with those that have diverse interests stretching beyond renewa-bles. For example, in many countries the existing fossil fuel or nuclear companies are expanding into renewables.
While single-interest developers are likely to unequivocally support high renewable development targets, multiple-interest developers may have internal conflicts of interest that mitigate against large increases in renewable energy markets. State-owned companies will often have to toe the party line and adopt a position consistent with their government owners.
One other sensitivity here is market control. Some companies may actually support a slowdown in renewable sector growth to preserve a market advantage or to avoid a period of market instability that threatens their position. For example, in the case of Australia's MRET review we saw diverse posturing among renewable developers with positions advocating target levels ranging from 2 per cent to 10 per cent.
It is important to take the necessary action to ensure a consistency of voice on renewables if possible, to ensure the industry is seen as a credible whole. Given the mixed-interest issue, it is essential that renewable developers do not leave it to the largest companies to do their lobbying as they may represent other interests besides renewables.
Many big financial houses are now engaged in the renewable energy industry, including big names from Europe, North America and Asia. Many transnational finance companies are now familiar with and active in financing renewable energy projects and are seeking new markets.
Finance companies are likely to be early movers, perhaps ahead of domestic players, if renewable energy development policies are put in place. They have significant influence in big business arenas and therefore government circles. Although their representatives may attend lots of conferences it may be harder to get them to be active lobbyists on renewable energy issues until markets are actually underway.
These are influential industry participants. Even if they are not yet active in a particular country the mention of their name in connection with the international renewable industry can surprise and enlighten decision-makers.
Institutional investors can vary widely from large and silent monoliths to responsible ethical investment groups, and on to potentially quite militant union-based investors. The decisions that such investment houses make send strong signals that are useful if they are investing in renewables.
The power of the institutional investors lies in their wealth and placement of that wealth. Their engagement with government is infrequent. For example, there were no institutional investors noted among Australia's MRET review submissions, even though many may have sustainability criteria in their lending policies.
Nonetheless institutional investors will be experienced in political and policy processes and can provide useful counsel to other players in the renewable energy industry. Institutional investors are increasingly being targeted as ethical arbiters by environmental groups because they are a powerful group that is answerable to individuals.
Although their influence may not be as direct and tangible as in the company arena, institutional investors that are encouraged to participate may be a discrete voice which can gain the ear of government and parties of influence. They also have the ability to directly communicate to their members on issues they deem relevant. In terms of action, they can provide valuable experience and insight into the wider industry.
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