You would never have guessed it from the headlines, but yesterday’s announcement from DECC on community engagement in wind farms could be good news for renewables.
In an effort to placate the anti-wind lobby, government press officers seem to have spun the announcement as a crackdown on wind energy – with some newspapers even reporting that communities would now have a ‘right of veto’ over new developments (this in the Telegraph, for example).
The reality is somewhat different. Government is actually asking developers to begin dialogue with communities earlier, before the planning stage, and to work with local people to find out how they want to be involved. None of this is much more than a good developer should be doing anyway. (There is, however, a worry about the increased amounts that developers will be expected to pay into a community benefit fund, which could make some sites uneconomic.)
I recently did some research for an independent wind developer, Airvolution Energy, to help them think through their relationship with communities. The work showed that time invested upfront to engage with local people was likely to lead to a better development, and a better reputation for the industry as a whole. Airvolution published this work today, in the hopes that other developers will be able to learn from it too.
It’s a shame that the government decided to hide a sensible policy behind some knee-jerk headlines.