Process

Gaining community support for biomass projects

January 23, 2013, by Al Maiorino, President, Public Strategy Group, Inc.
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

shakinghandscrop

Questions are increasingly raised concerning the various environmental, economic, and social issues that surround biomass production and use. But with continuous research and dedication to the advancement of modern ideals and methodology, the biomass industry is looking to ensure increased energy accessibility, efficient resource usage, and sustainable production.

Nonetheless, companies need to look at their strategy of building public support to counter the NIMBY (not in my backyard) effect on biomass projects, as the outcome for a smooth project is at risk.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce data shows that in 2011 over 350 energy projects were delayed or abandoned due to public opposition – and the economic impact of these projects was estimated at about $1.1 trillion in GDP and 1.9 million jobs per year. That is a lot of missed opportunity for jobs and clean energy, all due to public opposition.

Having been in the business of running public affairs campaigns to build public support for controversial projects for nearly twenty years, I can tell you that the key piece of the puzzle missed by developers in their public outreach strategy is the “campaign” style approach the opponents can do so well.

Just announcing a biomass project...

Too often biomass developers do not offer up an aggressive public affairs campaign when they announce a project, often letting crucial time pass between the announcement of a proposal and when public outreach begins. Opponents use this time to build opposition and sway residents against these projects. By running a political style campaign, you can reach all residents, identify the supporters, and harness them into action for your project. Here are some crucial tactics that biomass should consider in their outreach efforts:

Announce your proposal wisely

When announcing a project, have a direct mail piece ready to hit all the households in the host community to spread the positive benefits of the project. It is effective to follow this up with newspaper and web ads, and phone banking of the community to, again, further identify supporters. Have an open house to answer residents’ questions and recruit supporters.

All of this should be done in the first few weeks after announcing a project, to not allow the opposition to gel and take over the narrative. Too often companies allow precious time between announcing a project, and disseminating information to the community.

Meet with identified supporters

Once you have a database of supporters built from the mailers, ads and phone calls, the developer should meet with them so that they know they are not alone in their support, and they are a grassroots force that can begin to write letters to public officials, the newspapers, and attend key public hearings and speak out. Rarely will a supporter write a letter for you or attend and speak at a public hearing if you have not had the face to face contact with them previously.

...in 2011 over 350 energy projects were delayed...

Build grasstops support

In addition to reaching out to residents, stakeholders and well known members of the community, along with businesses, associations, and other civic groups should also be met with to attempt to bring on board for support.

Keep an updated database

As you begin to identify supporters of your project, that information should be put in a database to refer to throughout the entitlement process of your proposal. Coding your supporters by local legislative districts can also help if you need to target a particular local legislator who may be wavering in support.

The key goal of these types of campaigns is to never allow the opponents an opportunity to seize the moment because of inaction by the developer. Just announcing a biomass project is not enough to assume that everyone will be on board to support it. By running an aggressive campaign and identifying supporters, you have taken a key step of any successful campaign. Knowing what to do with the identified members of a community who support your project is the next step, and one that will allow vocal support to outnumber opponents – whether it be petitions, letters or crowds at public hearings.

When announcing a project...

In 2013 and beyond, expect NIMBY opposition to biomass. Meeting this challenge with proven grassroots techniques will be critical to making 2013 a success for renewable energy.

Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1995. His firm has developed and managed corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries.

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2013 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission required to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
Chase Ezell writes in Earth911.com about the irony of Algenol’s biggest friction source on the way to marketing their carbon reducing algal-based ethanol being — the EPA ...
Portuguese cement facility, Secil, and microalgae biotechnology company, A4F, also based in Portugal, have formed AlgaFarm, a joint venture to develop the use of cement f...
SCHOTT AG, of Mitterteich, Germany, and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Algatech), based at Israel’s Kibbutz Ketura, have signed an R&D agreement to strengthen their partnersh...
Analia Murias 
reports for fis.com that Chilean exports of products made from macroalgae generated a total of $195 million US in the first seven months of 2014, according...
U.S. farmers and biofuels makers are watching for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final decision on the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard rules, which will set t...
Arizona is taking advantage of its open land and ample sunshine to assume a leadership position in the algae biofuel field. The state is home to two national algae testbe...
With their new CO₂ processing-platform called AstaCos, AlgaeBiotech can produce waxy particles of only 50-100 µm in size with a loading of 25% astaxanthin oleoresin. The ...
Algix, parent company of Solaplast, will be inaugurating their algae-to-plastic facility in Meridian, Mississippi, on November 14, 2014. Solaplast's facility will be focu...
MicroBio Engineering, Inc., of San Luis Obispo, California, has introduced a full suite of open pond microalgae growth systems designed for quick deployment of research- ...
Renewable fuels company Muradel has launched Australia’s first integrated demonstration plant to sustainably convert algae into green crude, as a first step towards a com...
Iran-based Qeshm Microalgae Biorefinery Co. (QMAB) has launched a biofuel being marketed as BAYA®, produced from a species of Nannochloropsis (strain 6016) isolated from ...
William Tucker writes in fullfreedom.org about the lure the oceans have for advocates of biofuel, particularly in Scandinavia. “Two-thirds of the globe is covered with wa...
Most Americans get plenty of protein, primarily from animal products including meat, eggs and milk. But for many, ensuring a healthy protein intake can be challenging. In...
Phys.org reports that, in collaboration with the Berlin, Germany LED manufacturer FutureLED, scientists at the Technische Universität München have developed a unique comb...
Allan Koay writes in thestar.com about a Universiti Malaya research project paving the way for the commercial production of paper pulp and bioethanol from seaweed. The Al...
Much of the development of the algae industry in 2014 was driven by domestic and international alliances, partnerships, and mergers that brought complementary skills and ...
Fort Myers, FL-based Algenol has announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved fuels made from Algenol’s process as an advanced biofuel, meet...
Fort Myers, FL-based Algenol, and India's Reliance Industries Ltd., have deployed India’s first Algenol algae production platform. The demonstration module is located nea...