Renewable energy NGOs
Renewable energy associations can of course be expected to be great supporters of pro-renewable energy policies. However, in new markets they will have a few challenges. They are likely to be small or, worse still, non-existent. In some cases, renewables may find themselves represented by other associations which have mixed agendas that conflict with the promotion of pro-renewable policies. The associations are quite likely to be fighting among themselves — often because they are competing for limited resources.
Both of these points will take a heavy toll on renewable associations' political influence. With no industry to show, no workforce to flex and little influence with voters, the message of these associations can sometimes sound like a list of promises. It is, in effect, a promise of carrots with no accompanying stick.
In the early days of their development, such associations will need to take action to make strategic links with natural allies that already have influence within the society. We will discuss this in detail in the next chapter.
Although it may seem to be merely a semantic distinction, sustainable energy NGOs are distinguished here as addressing the increased use of energy efficiency and gas (which may or may not be limited to co-generated gas) in addition to renewable energy technologies.
Sustainable energy NGOs have other considerations that may compromise their unmitigated support for renewables — or at least mean they have other foci. There may be non-renewable industry members/groups within the sustainable energy NGOs that are more established and wealthy. This can increase the overall influence of the NGO but may also allow these powerful members greater influence over decision-making than renewable energy members.
Thus, it must be understood that sustainable energy NGOs are useful and potentially powerful advocates, but may have internal conflicts of interest that affect their level of support for renewable energy industry and policy reform.
Local business/economic NGOs
Many local communities have organizations, or are branches of larger organizations, that allow local business people or professionals to meet, network and collaborate on assisting the wider community.
Renewable energies can provide a benefit to local communities through installation and ongoing operation of renewable technologies or fuel collection, and where relevant through manufacturing capacity. Unless there are projects already in process, local business NGOs are unlikely to be aware of the community's renewable resource and its economic implications.
In terms of actions, a programme of liaising with local economic NGOs can help to overcome uncertainty about renewable energy and provide important and influential local contacts and allies for wider policy processes.
Industry associations can often take stronger positions than the companies that fund them. The companies have their credibility on the line and perhaps also a brand to protect. An industry NGO has no such constraints and so can be far more vociferous in its campaigns to limit the development of renewable industries.
A fossil fuel industry association by its very name does not allow for diversity. Whereas a member company may see an advantage to diversifying into renewables and keeping an open mind to new opportunities, the fossil fuel NGO will see only the threat to the fossil fuel industry as a whole, and any other interests of their members are beyond its concern.
Fossil fuel NGOs are likely to be extremely influential with government as their products dominate most economies. They will also have significant wealth with which to resource their causes through PR companies, lobbyists and getting influential consultants to write reports. There may be little room to persuade such groups to be on side with renewables or take a neutral stance.
However, these groups are also answerable to their membership. Members (which do have brands and are more visible in the community) can call the associations to take more progressive or more neutral stands.
In summary, there is no way to out-gun large conventional energy industries at their own game. However, the minimum that can be done is to take action to carry out a basic level of lobbying to ensure politicians are aware of a different viewpoint, and provide correct fact sheets and information on issues. Moving early can also help set the standard of the debate about clean energy. And finally fossil fuel NGOs can be reined in by their members if it becomes necessary.
Generator associations may be specific to a fuel source, or their fuel source may be diverse. The former can be expected to resist loss of market share; the latter will potentially be more neutral.
In terms of actions, renewable generators as members or industry colleagues should strive for healthy working relationships to encourage progressive or neutral positions.
The complexion of any energy retailer association will reflect the complexion of its members — who in principle need not be attached to any particular fuel source. Renewables may have some representation with retailers if they have some existing renewable interests such as the supply of green power.
Renewable retailers must take the necessary action to gain membership or representation with these NGOs, to ensure such associations do not take a defensive attitude that resists change.
Chambers of commerce or other broad-based national industry and commerce organizations tend to be very conservative in their positioning and have a big-picture focus. On issues of climate change they will tend to focus on the Kyoto Protocol or carbon trading end of the debate rather than become too technology specific.
In practice, because there will be winners and losers in most areas of climate change action, such groups are often unable to make a stand one way or the other. If they do take a stand against renewables because of the increased cost to business as a whole, for instance, then they can be very influential on government. Exceptions are NGOs that represent environmental businesses, which of course have a proactive position on environmental action and will want to be seen to take positions.
Although in principle they should be neutral, the influence of these NGOs is important. These organizations should be actively informed and engaged by the renewables industry as early as possible.
Environmental NGOs can actually be the most dynamic proponents for the push to get renewable energy policies underway, as Chapter 9 on Spanish energy policy demonstrates. Bigger environmental groups that engage on climate issues will invariably do so in a positive way and will often have pro-renewable energy policies. Note that their agenda is to employ renewables to solve climate and pollution problems, not build the renewables industry for its own sake. Smaller NGOs may be more locally focused on ecological issues which can potentially result in an anti-development reaction to renewables.
The Green vote and environmental credibility are increasingly influential in many countries and these NGOs hold the keys. Furthermore, environmental NGOs usually work through building a public support base which is potentially a great asset for the renewables industry.
Environmental NGOs' understanding and support for renewable energy cannot be taken for granted. It is important to take the necessary action to develop good working relationships with these groups.
These NGOs address issues that affect people and their social space and include landscape and cultural heritage NGOs, churches and local community organizations. They are critical stakeholders that may be tangentially affected by climate impacts but may not have formed policies. They may be less adversarial or activist than environmental groups, perhaps taking up a role of advocacy with government.
Conservation NGOs will tend to regard any development as detrimental (as something is changed rather than conserved). However, this does not rule out their acceptance of balanced interests. Active dialogue can help develop their appreciation of the contexts.
In terms of action, early engagement of these critical stakeholders is essential as they will often be called upon for advice by concerned citizens local to proposed projects.
Professionals such as doctors, lawyers and engineers have associations that are respected by wider society. Polling indicates that awareness of environmental issues increases with income and education, so professionals will often be some of the most environmentally aware people in society. Some — such as doctors — may have a direct interest in climate change due to the current or anticipated health impacts, and their NGOs may have environmentally active sub-groups. Others may be interested in an industry angle.
Professional NGOs are unlikely to self-start in support of renewable energy, but will usually have a process for addressing requests for support. This can be a worthwhile exercise since professional groups can make powerful public and private allies for a new industry.
In terms of action, these groups can be asked for specific support on key issues, for example, a piece of legislation.
Anti-Renewable NGOs These come in three broad groups:
1 genuine members of communities that are concerned about specific issues;
2 think tanks or industry-funded organizations that have a specific anti-renewable agenda on energy or environmental issues; and
3 groups with mixed agendas which are less issue- and more cause-focused; for example, many anti-wind groups purport to support wind in the right locations, but have been seen to criticize wind power on any grounds and in almost any location; thus the cause may have become an end in itself as far as wind development is concerned.
Unfortunately these three types of groups may coalesce or overlap, making it difficult to deal with genuine issue-based concerns and equally difficult to demonstrate secondary motives if they are present.
These things considered, it is important to take action to address community concerns early and thoroughly. It is also important to correct wrong information provided by such groups through normal media correction, but also through legal means if it becomes persistent, deliberate or malicious. It may also be critical to ensure that supporters of clean energy are heard at a local level.
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Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.