If there is a magic bullet that defines the perfect approach to engagement with all stakeholders it is to treat them all individually and understand their resources and concerns.
At a local level, solutions may often include taking the engagement downstream. It may be that a certain study satisfies the planning authority, but does it satisfy the local people. If not, then what would? What do they need to know for their concerns to be put at ease? For example, could the wind developer commission a wildlife expert trusted by both industry and community, instead of or as well as the one the developer usually employs?
For non-local stakeholders it may be more resource efficient to look at ways to shift the engagement away from a project-by-project basis upstream toward a strategic level. That is to reach multi-project, regional or national agreements on guidelines, practices, experts and so on. Expanding on our wildlife expert example, we might choose an individual acceptable to all major stakeholders, who will define the methodologies for flora and fauna monitoring to be undertaken. Or we could agree on the terms of reference for transport surveys for biomass processing plants. In this way the specialist resources available from some stakeholders may be used more efficiently, while human and time resources for interventions at the project-by-project level are reduced for both developer and stakeholder.
In both planning systems and guidelines provided by industry, the assumption often exists that engagement starts at the project level. Yet, as we have seen, that level may not suit the resources of many stakeholders. Perhaps the best level to start is with the entire vision, as illustrated in Box 4.2.
Box 4.2 Strategic stakeholder engagement: The Danish pre-planning systems
Krohn (2002) quite effectively explains what may be required for a high-level vision of renewable projects based on experience with Danish policy in this area:
With a highly visible technology such as wind turbines, the development of models for dealing with public planning (zoning) issues has been very important for many countries' acceptance of the technology. In Denmark the public planning procedures were initially developed though local trial and error. In 1992 more systematic planning procedures were developed at the national level, with directives for local planners. In addition, an executive order from the Minister of Environment and Energy ordered municipalities to find suitable sites for wind turbine siting throughout the country. This 'Prior Planning' with public hearings in advance of any actual applications for siting of turbines helped the public acceptance of subsequent siting of wind turbines considerably. A similar planning model has since been introduced in Germany with considerable success. Other countries are studying these experiences with a view to overhauling their planning procedures.
The Danish consultations on offshore wind power also provide useful examples of engaging with stakeholders at a strategic stage, well before actual projects are implemented. In these cases, assessment of the various use functions of the waters surrounding the concerned areas were conducted including: fisheries, oil and gas fields, military uses and so on. At the same time, stakeholders from the various industries that might be affected, including environmental and ecological groups and tourist industries, were invited to contribute to the assessments. After quite lengthy and in some cases vigorous debates on the issues and sites considered, various areas were identified that would be made available to large-scale (several hundred megawatt) offshore wind developments. Thus the stakeholders were engaged at a strategic (pre-project) level in order to reach agreement on suitable sites rather than only being introduced at the project-by-project stage. Krohn (2002) sums up this experience thus:
Around 1997 another set of planning regulations were developed for offshore wind farms, with a central, national authority - the Danish Energy Agency - being responsible to hear all the interested parties, public and private. This 'one stop shopping' method has facilitated the planning process considerably, and is widely studied around the globe.
The efficiency of the 'one-stop shop' approach to consultation prior to any development, as set out by Krohn in Box 4.2, clearly lends itself to a government-led process. There are, however, options for industry and even developers to move consultation with certain stakeholders at much earlier stages, even without government leadership.
Some expert stakeholder groups may enter the debate only at the planning stage, leading to an engagement via the planning process, as illustrated in Figure 4.6. This obviously provides very inefficient dialogue for all concerned, as by this point the project is very evolved and change will be expensive, and also because the planning cycle is slow and cumbersome. Industry guidelines often counsel the avoidance of such oversights and list some of the stakeholders that could slip though the net of local consultation.
Figure 4.7 Current best practice at a project level suggests consultation as the project is being develop
Figure 4.7 illustrates where stakeholder engagement sits as suggested by typical industry guidelines. This is perhaps the only way to engage with most local residents, homeowners and landowners in the absence of a government-led zoning process.
However, many stakeholders could be engaged more efficiently. As discussed earlier, many specialist stakeholders' resource constraints render them unable to take part in project-by-project consultations. Instead they may prefer involvement at a strategic level with the industry or prefer that a large developer agree suitable processes, practices and assessment criteria for multiple projects. Thus, at a project level, their involvement may only be to check that a larger agreement has been adhered to by the developer. If the best specialist stakeholders are not engaged at this strategic level, developers may well find themselves dealing with more locally focused or possibly less expert groups or self-appointed experts — a situation unlikely to benefit the developer or the issue at stake.
Figure 4.8 illustrates a model that may be more appropriate for engaging with regional or national stakeholder organizations.
Was this article helpful?
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.