The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has released a new report providing a diverse range of ideas to help set a new standard of excellence for community engagement across the wind industry, reflecting the industry’s commitment to adopting best practice in this area.
The independent report, Enhancing Positive Social Outcomes from Wind Farm Development, was researched and written by Jarra Hicks, Taryn Lane, Emily Wood and Nina Hall.
The report was funded by the CEC and 11 wind companies to determine the most effective ways for developers to approach community engagement and benefit sharing.
It found that each community engagement and benefit sharing approach should be tailored to a community’s needs and expectations, and that there was no standard formula that could or should be applied to all projects.
It also found that there was no substitute for face-to-face engagement by the developer with the community.
“This is the most rigorous and in-depth research to be done at this scale in Australia. The findings are independent and provide useful insights and direction for industry, government and communities,” lead author Jarra Hicks said.
“The Australian wind industry is now leading other energy developments nationwide and has become the benchmark for good practice.”
CEC Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said wind developers recognised that community support was essential to the success of the industry as a whole, and the industry had made this a large focus of how it went about planning and developing projects.
“The wind industry has made a concerted effort in recent years to lift the quality of its community engagement practices, and this focus is reflected in a reduction in complaints made by community members over time,” Mr Thornton said.
“Developers who invest time and effort to build relationships with their communities based on trust and respect are those that are most likely to be embraced by their communities. The report shows that this is far more important than employing any particular initiatives such as consultation committees, neighbour payments or grant funds.”
The report also found that community engagement guidelines developed by the Clean Energy Council in 2012, and governments in more recent times, had been widely adopted by the industry.
“The wind farms under construction or poised to start at the beginning of 2018 add up to more than $6.2 billion of investment and around 2000 direct new jobs,” Mr Thornton said.
Many of these benefits will go into regional parts of the country, and these projects also provide opportunities for contractors and local businesses.”