The vision of a carbon-free future is growing and the renewable transition is accelerating with increased investment in new technologies and infrastructure. However, the change process isn’t always easy and the permitting process is a critical part of successfully navigating any renewable development.
Stakeholders today are informed and empowered, and the quality of every engagement can impact the success and speed of permit approvals. Organisations that take a robust, collaborative approach to stakeholder engagement at the beginning of a project’s life span will speed up the transformation. By ensuring these stakeholders are effectively managed, you will pave the way for successful engagement overall.
Early, meaningful engagement can help to win the hearts and minds of local stakeholders and achieve regulatory approval. If developers want to move their projects forward efficiently, they need to implement a comprehensive stakeholder management strategy that details when, where, and how they will gather feedback and involve stakeholders in the siting and design process.
The best engagement and outreach strategies include multiple stakeholder touchpoints that invite interactions with a wide range of voices. Outreach should also begin as soon as a renewable project is considered so that adjustments can be made in the early days. In the best cases, outreach begins before a location is selected. If stakeholder management commences when a project is publicly announced, stakeholders whose ideas differ may become unanticipated opponents, and the opportunity to assemble a productive stakeholder group can be missed.
By engaging early, and often, you can build comprehensive records of all impacted stakeholders. With a stakeholder management platform, these records can be easily linked, grouped, tagged, and prioritised throughout your project journey to develop a clear, transparent narrative for proactive monitoring.
Create Community Advocates
Collaborating with community stakeholders reduces friction and improves outcomes. It also has the potential to create advocates who can help to listen, respond to opposition, communicate benefits, and improve public perception of your renewable project. Positive perceptions will speed up the permitting process, so you need to inform and engage the full set of community groups, residents, and businesses who are impacted by your project and can influence it. When a community group has been active in a project, they are more likely to advocate for its benefits in public forums and the regulatory arena.
Your community advocates and their perspectives can be easily captured and analysed within a stakeholder management platform. If you are up-to-date with your key advocates and their current sentiments, activities, and events, then your entire team can mitigate any social risks from developing.
Gather Comprehensive Engagement Records
It’s important to showcase to regulators that you have used a collaborative process and no stone has gone unturned when considering the environmental, economic, and social impacts of your project. Stakeholder input might have informed project modifications and you should be able to prove that. In cases where challenges can’t be completely avoided, you need to be able to showcase the alternative avenues and solutions you considered throughout the decision-making process. That’s why a robust stakeholder management platform is essential. It helps you tap into all stakeholder interactions throughout the lifecycle of a project so that producing environmental impact statements and reports for regulatory bodies at any point is simple, accurate, and easy.
Preparation is Key
As the energy sector makes a shift towards renewables, stakeholders need to have a say. Meaningful engagement from day one can help to improve relationships, create better outcomes, and achieve regulatory approval, ultimately helping the entire community to achieve its decarbonisation goals.