It’s an oft-repeated fact that while the majority of people in the UK support renewable energy, when it comes to planning applications and community consultations, they are drowned out by a small but vocal minority. In times past, this may not have been such an issue, but with a planning system increasingly geared around local politics, people power needs harnessing just as much as the power of wind or wave.
Both new and traditional media is awash with bogus claims about renewables, and the Action for Renewables campaign is not alone in spending a great deal of time fighting these myths. But when it comes to local campaigns for many it’s your peer group that you trust the most.
That’s why the Action for Renewables campaign works to train and support local campaigners across the UK to engage the wider public and demonstrate just how much of a minority the anti-renewables crowd is.
And there are a lot of positive messages to attract the public. Tackling climate change is still the number one reason to support renewable energy for many, but crucially other messages are emerging that push a different set of buttons for different people.
With rising imported gas prices pushing up the cost of electricity, and the UKs coal-fired plants on the cusp of shutting down, it makes sense that we look to the UKs natural energy resources rather than unstable imported energy. And building the necessary infrastructure to do this will generate green jobs and investment, often in areas of the country that need it most. These are powerful messages, but they are even more powerful when they come from members of the general public.
The government’s localism agenda is part of this shift. The power to trigger local referendums if at least 5% of the local public require it signals the onset of a politicised era in which winning in the court of public opinion becomes as crucial as winning the technical case. In these circumstances, providing the silent majority with reasons to be vocal will be crucial.
That’s why public and ‘small p’ political campaigns are going to become a feature of the renewables sector over the next few years, and Action for Renewables intends to lead that charge.