Renewable energy development occurs only if the status quo is changed. This change may be happening anyway due to power shortages or environmental imperatives, or it may need to be driven. An embryonic renewable industry comprising a handful of individuals and businesses can do little on its own. It must leverage help from more powerful allies and constructively engage current and potential critics.
The ideal situation is that people receive information that is both engaging and factual, be that from a company, industry association or NGO. In the last chapter we mentioned the use of TV advertising. But it may be a poster or advert in the paper like the UK's 'Embrace Wind' campaign.
Figure 4.1 The billboard poster for the British Wind Energy Association promoted higher renewable energy targets while also conveying the benefits of renewable wind power to the general public
Compare this as a first exposure with hearing a radio show like the one extracted below, with comments by a popular British botanist who now flies around the world to talk as an expert on wind farms:
Famed environmental campaigner Professor David Bellamy yesterday backed Noel Edmonds' anti-wind farm campaign, describing them as a 'scam'.
'My main thing against them is that they can only work, if you are very lucky, for 30 per cent of the time,' he said yesterday. 'Going by the ones in Denmark it is about 17 per cent of the time.
'So how are people going to be able to boil their kettles, or how are we going to power our hospitals the rest of the time? It means that we have got to keep our other stations running, spinning in reserve, inefficiently and pouring out carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide and the like.' (Country Guardian, 2003)
In practice, renewable energy will be on the agenda in a given country because some pro-renewable stakeholders have put it there: they may be interested academics, environmentalists, energy providers or others. Such stakeholders will be active even before the renewable industry itself.
Equally, renewables will have a set of impacted stakeholders with which it must contend. These people and organizations will have a stake due to the effects renewable energy development will have on the energy sector specifically, the economy more widely and the physical placement of actual projects in environmental and social space.
Many of these parties will not actually realize they are stakeholders at the outset of renewable energy development. Their reaction to renewable energy upon realization that it affects them will often be coloured by the party that contacts them first and the information they receive. If the first news a local resident receives about a wind development is that turbines sound like Second World War bombers and look like a skyscraper with no windows, that is not a promising start. If by contrast residential energy consumers are engaged in the vision of a clean energy future, the harnessing of a local resource and a new rural industry, they will often be supportive.
Apart from the politically important role stakeholders play in the contest to win a place for renewables in energy markets, stakeholders also play a useful role in the actual development of renewable energy. They help identify all aspects that must be considered to achieve an industry that provides maximum possible benefit across all sectors of society.
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