RWE has ambitions to support the UK’s net zero goals and committed to investing £15bn in renewable generation in the UK. The business is rapidly changing, and we are tasked with helping the RWE team tell its evolving story.
To achieve its aspirations and contribute to positive change, RWE needed to transform its narrative and reach strategic audiences to reposition itself in the UK as a leading supporter of the UK’s journey to net zero.
Supporting investment and development aspirations required better relationships with statutory, political and community stakeholders. RWE’s new strategy and its impact on the UK was largely unknown, and educating those with influence was critical. Positively influencing at a national, regional and local level was also on RWE’s agenda to secure a greater share of voice.
Our approach was a sustained, multi-channel communications campaign to illustrate and reiterate the new brand and corporate strategy. Evaluation of the brand through the assessment of media and stakeholder sentiment gave us insight into share of voice, reputation and impact and, in partnership with RWE, developed a new corporate positioning strategy.
Already an integrated part of the RWE team, we developed a highly effective programme revolving around digital and social content laid the foundations for reaching critical audiences. Videos, animations, and graphics, delivered primarily via LinkedIn, visually bring RWE’s story to life. At the same time, we developed thought leadership pieces to begin to build RWE’s profile. Such assets supported our high-level media relations campaign and stakeholder engagement strategy designed to secure the attention of those most influential in the space.
The strategy achieved significant success for RWE, launching it onto the national stage, contributing to key conversations around renewables. We secured agenda-setting coverage in the Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and the Scotsman, and the BBC and Reuters. Significant exposure activity combined with a focus on high-level stakeholder engagement culminated in RWE holding a prominent role in the UK investment summit hosted by the Prime Minister. While further afield, we secured regional engagement with Welsh and Scottish devolved authorities and influencers.
Perceptions of the RWE brand shifted, it enjoys a greater share of voice and significant influence in relation to renewable generation in the UK. RWE is still on this journey and we continue to provide strategic and tactical support.
It’s been 14 years since the introduction of the Planning Act 2008 and little has fundamentally changed in infrastructure planning since. It’s a well-known process and, in most parts, well-liked by the industry. But while the world has changed immeasurably since 2008, the process seems not to have evolved to suit. Andrew Weaver, Copper’s Director of Infrastructure, looks at what the British Energy Security Strategy (ESS) tells us about the future of infrastructure planning.
To meet the challenges of today, the government has signalled that change to infrastructure planning is coming. Consultation on making the regime quicker and more fit for purpose took place last year. And with the release of the ESS, the green shoots of change can be seen. The question remains, what change and will it be enough to deliver the infrastructure the country needs to reach net zero?
The government has set out a clear desire to consent infrastructure projects quicker, particularly in the energy sector. The ESS sets out their ambition to cut offshore wind consenting from up to four years down to one year. We understand the saving is in reference to the period after DCO submission. Promoters and developers will be delighted I’m sure.
There is mention of trimming the timescales for the examination process. Given the Government’s record on sticking to existing timescales for decisions – around a third of applications under Boris Johnson’s premiership have been delayed at the point of decision – it is doubtful this is really going to make the difference.
Updates to National Policy Statements are promised and there is recognition of the need to consider how projects interact with each other, potentially grouping applications to enable a holistic approach to delivery. Both of these are long overdue. From a public perspective seeing projects for energy transmission in isolation to each other let alone the energy production has long been a difficult subject to explain. It would be good to see this rolled out to other sectors where understanding of the end product is essential to consenting its constituent parts – carbon capture storage springs to mind.
There is little more to add at this stage. Perhaps the Queen’s Speech will reveal more.
In the meantime, for me, greater change is surely required to meet our country’s need for speed. Planning needs to be simplified and offer the certainty and clarity promised back when the current regime was instigated in 2008. Change needs to go further than cherry picking certain types of infrastructure such as offshore wind and solar. It needs to be wholesale so that there is a consistent approach that the public and stakeholders can quickly understand and engage with.
The process also needs to become more transparent and less legally thick. To paraphrase Kwasi Kwarteng, you can’t build infrastructure where people don’t want it. The public support infrastructure projects if they can see how they would individually benefit from them. Ensuring there is a clear understanding around the need for projects and taking the public on the journey through the planning process is critical to timely delivery. Having a clear process to base these messages off is essential. Government has a role to plan in owning this message and communicating it to communities.
Change is needed and is coming. We’re seeing the shoots in the ESS and as an industry we should be ready to embrace it. We’ve got a good process to build on. Now it’s about stripping this back and dealing with what is essential to making a decision.
After weeks of wrangling in the Cabinet, the Government has finally released its much-anticipated energy strategy – the British Energy Security Strategy. Copper’s Energy Director, Sam Cranston gives his thoughts on the new plan for Britain’s energy future.
As the contents of the strategy were widely circulated by the media in the weeks leading up to its release, it was well known that nuclear energy and offshore wind would form the backbone of the document. What we were uncertain about, until its publication, was the Government’s position on onshore wind and fracking. And, well, I’m not sure we’re any clearer. For now, we know that onshore wind will be subject to consultation, and there will be an impartial technical review on the safety of fracking.
It is clear that the UK needed an updated approach to energy, especially in light of the war in Ukraine. It is also refreshing to see the Government being bold in its ambitions for building a power supply that, in the words of the Prime Minister, is “made in Britain, for Britain”. However, just like the ten point plan for a green industrial revolution and the Net Zero Strategy, the devil will be in the detail.
The key highlights include:
- Delivering up to 50GW of offshore wind by 2030
- Working with a ‘limited number’ of communities to bring forward onshore wind
- Growing solar five-fold (to 70GW) by 2035
- Increasing ambitions for nuclear to 24GW by 2050
- Maximising North Sea oil and gas production as part of the energy transition
- Boosting hydrogen production to 10GW by 2030
On offshore wind, the strategy reemphasises Boris Johnson’s 2020 commitment – to turn the UK into the Saudi Arabia of wind power generation. There’s no doubt that the sector is making huge ground on the original ‘40 by 30’ target, as shown by Vattenfall’s and Scottish Power’s recent success.
The revised target of ‘50 by 30’ has been welcomed by the industry. But achieving this will require a further step-change.
Helpfully, the strategy commits to reducing the consenting period to one year (a 75% reduction) to fast-track new developments. However, there is little detail on the proposed changes to the Planning Act 2008.
Despite having a dedicated section in the document, and an acknowledgement that it is “one of the cheapest forms of renewable power”, the Government’s approach to onshore wind remains vague. Emphasis will likely be on developers to demonstrate local support, which our recent polling shows is strong, suggesting a clear backing for prioritising onshore wind projects. But what constitutes “clear support” – as the strategy puts it – remains unclear.
Reactions from the sector have been critical, with many pointing out that onshore wind could be the quickest way to reach net zero cheaply and securely.
The strategy commits to increasing solar five-fold by 2035, from 14GW to 70GW. Much like offshore wind, the industry has welcomed this ambition. We eagerly await details over the new consultation requirements, as well as amendments to the current planning rules, which will support these new developments.
Nuclear power has been at the heart of the Government’s energy security plans for some time, and the PM is clearly a fan of making Britain a pioneer of nuclear once again, for both large-scale plants and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). The strategy outlines a number of funding and policy commitments that have been made to accelerate the growth of nuclear, and we’re now waiting to see how the sector can transform the Government’s rhetoric into tangible action.
Our recent polling showed strong public support for tidal power, but the strategy only gives it a single reference (under ‘other technologies’), which is unlikely to offer much reassurance to developers looking to bring forward new projects.
Oil & Gas
The Government sees the expansion of North Sea oil and gas extraction as critical to fuelling the transition to net zero and reducing bills, whilst removing our reliance on overseas imports. Unsurprisingly, this has been met with fierce opposition from various environmental groups. However, the strategy does commit to ensuring efforts to decarbonise the industry, as well as funding for new carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) clusters across the country.
Expanding and speeding up the delivery of the UK’s new electricity transmission network didn’t make headlines when the strategy was released. But it is a critical component of the Government’s vision. Without a grid to connect to, 50GW of offshore wind and 70GW of Solar will be useless, so it’s helpful to see the network upgrade as a key component of the new strategy.
For now, we shall wait and see how these commitments play out in reality. In the absence of significant policy reform, one thing is certain about this strategy: community engagement will be critical to its success. Our recent polling shows there is national and local support for new renewable projects, the job now is to build on that support and deliver a system that provides sustainable, reliable and cheap energy for the decades to come.
Rapidly rising oil and gas prices, combined with the war in Ukraine, have pushed energy supply security to the top of the Government’s policy agenda – the PM is expected to unveil the UK’s new Energy Strategy this week.
New research published today by Copper Consultancy shows that the public overwhelmingly supports the Government’s move to shore up the country’s security of energy supply, and back the development of onshore wind to support this.
Over 78 per cent of those surveyed believe the UK needs to become more self-sufficient in generating its energy. As well as expressing support for addressing the issue in principle, most people said they want to see a range of renewable technologies prioritised for development.
Contrary to current political thinking, a large section of the public back the mass expansion of onshore wind – 38 per cent favour this. Such support rises to 40 per cent among those who voted for the Conservatives in the 2019 election.
These findings suggest the Government is unlikely to get the level of pushback from its supporters that some ministers and other MPs expect, with the research showing that the majority have become more likely to support proposed energy projects in their local area over the last six months.
The nationally representative polling has revealed that public opinion on the remainder of the Government’s energy priorities is in line with current political rhetoric, as 45 per cent believe offshore wind should be prioritised and 37 per cent support the expansion of large scale solar, with backing for nuclear energy slightly cooler at 24 per cent.
The energy and cost of living crises have inspired a radical policy rethink, as industries previously considered taboo, such as fracking, are apparently back on the table for Ministers. With this increase in policy flexibility, combined with mounting evidence in support of onshore wind, we shouldn’t discount another change of heart from Number 10 before the Energy Strategy is published.
Sam Cranston, Energy Director at Copper, said: “Our research challenges current thinking, showing clear, continued public support for the UK’s move towards renewables, and that consumers want action to address rising prices and provide national security of our energy supply.
“Such public backing should give confidence to developers and the wider industry to continue their sustained drive to meet the Government’s 2050 net zero target”
Contact Sam Cranston for further information.
Viking Link is a planned 1400-MW interconnector between the UK and Denmark. It comprises over 760km of underground subsea cables between converter stations at Bicker Fen in the UK and Revsing in Denmark. The onshore cables run 68km from the Lincolnshire coast to the inland converter station.
Alongside National Grid and a multidisciplinary project team, Copper was brought on board to lead the communications and consultation activity across three consultation phases for this sensitive project.
This project was politically sensitive and politically charged, spanning multiple local authorities and Westminster constituency boundaries. As a result, communications needed to be meticulously planned to avoid additional conflict and secure political acceptance.
Linked to this was public opposition to EU-backed projects resulting from the timing of the pre-application phase, which coincided with the Brexit referendum, and a high proportion of Leave voters in Lincolnshire.
Given the project sensitivities, it called for an engagement and community-led approach. Central to this was developing a compelling need and benefits narrative to help stakeholders and the public understand what the project means for their community.
The geographical spread of the development required a wide-reaching consultation strategy to ensure all corners of the communities along the route could share their views. Alongside this, we focused on bringing political stakeholders into the conversation through a robust political engagement strategy.
Such a large, linear utility project spanning five local authority areas necessitated a collaborative project team approach to consultation and engagement.
Alongside crafting an audience-focused narrative to bring the project to life for local people, we created a straightforward narrative to articulate the complex route and siting process ahead of the route options consultation. This helpef built project understanding and emphasised its positive contribution to the local community in a way that was accessible to a broad audience.
With equal emphasis on engaging political stakeholders, in conjunction with the project team and National Grid, we developed a political engagement campaign that kept MPs and councillors fully briefed on the project, focusing on the scheme’s advantages for the local area.
We also delivered a communications and stakeholder ‘drumbeat’ outside of key consultation milestones, which was vital to maintaining momentum and building acceptance and advocacy for the project. This included regular political briefings spanning site visits and presentations at full council meetings and hosting our own events.
The multi-pronged, collaborative approach resulted in high levels of participation from residents, landowners, parish councils, elected members and community and stakeholder groups. More than 1,000 local residents and stakeholders participated in the consultation, providing 600 pieces of meaningful feedback to help shape and guide the project.
Viking Link is currently under construction and expected to be operational in 2023.
The Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farm is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) which, along with its sister project – Norfolk Vanguard – will have an installed capacity of 3.6GW, representing 10% of UK household demand.
The 725km2 wind farm site is located 72km off the North Norfolk coast and will consist of between 90 and 180 wind turbines with rated capacities of between 10MW and 20MW.
Copper was brought in to deliver compliant consultation and stakeholder engagement, fast.
Projects of this size and scale bring a level of interest and concern amongst local residents and businesses. However, Vattenfall’s flagship UK projects faced increased scrutiny. Developments of this kind are becoming ubiquitous along the whole Norfolk coast, and Vattenfall’s projects are just two of several proposals. As a result, there was vocal opposition to associated onshore, above-ground infrastructure. With the potential to adversely impact communities along the cable route too, a compelling narrative and engaging consultation were imperative.
Given the level of scepticism and misgivings about such infrastructure, our priority was to build trust and earn respect from stakeholders and local communities.
With a requirement to deliver ‘gold standard’ consultation at pace, the first step was to understand the key audiences – who they were, their likely perceptions and potential concerns, to be as targeted and proactive as possible. Using stakeholder mapping, we identified and gathered insight into key stakeholders, community groups and general public audiences. Armed with intelligent data, we delivered audience-focused workshops and events and held meetings to discover and address concerns, proactively resolving issues.
Throughout the consultation period, we delivered 31 community consultation events and workshops and organised more than 200 meetings with the local parish councils, groups and representatives. In addition, we supported seven events people and proactively engaged with 100% of landowners along the cable corridor.
Our creative team supported the audience-centric, proactive approach with a full suite of statutory consultation material in an easy-to-understand format. The materials were designed to articulate the project, its benefits and encourage input from stakeholders and the community. Assets included a consultation summary booklet, information banners, response form and bespoke information leaflets.
We secured a high volume of meaningful feedback during the consultation, which formed the basis for a comprehensive consultation report, and the project received consent in December 2021.
Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is part of the Government’s strategy to keep the lights on in the UK. National Grid is building a high-voltage grid connection for the project, between Bridgwater and Seabank near Avonmouth. In 2009, we were tasked to develop and deliver a consultation strategy to support the Development Consent Order application. We have been retained ever since, taking this major project from planning through to construction. The project is in construction, and we continue to support National Grid and its contractors. Our team also works to protect and enhance National Grid’s reputation to leave a positive legacy for the project.
Hinkley Point C is a nationally significant infrastructure project and a major investment in the region’s electricity network. However there was significant local opposition to the proposals throughout the planning and development stages. This posed a risk to the project if it were to continue into the construction stage. We needed to switch the communications approach from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’ and reposition the narrative to concentrate on the project’s benefits.
We worked closely with National Grid’s team to identify and promote positive stories about the project. We used this as the foundation to develop and implement a sustainable programme of project communications to meet the formal requirements of the Development Consent Order.
To minimise the risks of project delays, opposition and criticism we provide clear and timely information to stakeholders about the work in their area too, and quickly respond to any concerns. We devised procedures to inform and update local communities and other stakeholders about construction work and the steps National Grid and its contractors take to reduce local impact. We also put processes in place to monitor the mood of local communities, allowing us to identify and respond rapidly to any emerging issues.
Since construction started, we have communicated with more than 10,000 households. We also maintain and regular update a project website, making it the ‘go to’ place for stakeholders to learn the latest information. We have established positive relationships with local community groups and parish councils and use these links to help spread information as widely as possible. Should there be any concerns amongst the public, a responsive 24-hour contact centre service enables the local community to get a swift response.
Despite the highly disruptive nature of the work, there is widespread public acceptance of the project. A minimal number of complaints have been received and no issues have been escalated by local residents or community stakeholders to the media or their elected members. These successes have given National Grid the confidence to reposition the project narrative going forward. In the future, communications and engagement will place an even greater emphasis on the positive impact and benefits National Grid will bring to the area over the next five years and beyond.
HyNet North West is an innovative carbon capture and hydrogen project to unlock a low carbon economy for the North West and North Wales. It will put the region at the forefront of the UK’s drive to net zero. By creating the UK’s first low-carbon hydrogen cluster, the project seeks to provide clean hydrogen energy for the future, de-carbonise the region’s heavy industry, protect existing jobs and create thousands of new ones.
As the project moved towards a more public-facing stage, we were engaged to evolve the HyNet North West brand and tasked to create a communications campaign to support the launch of the public consultation for the first stage of the project.
We developed the UI designs and redeveloped the HyNet webite, simplifying the navigation and streamlining information. We created a series of graphics and assets that could be utilised across multiple channels, as well as on the website.
Sitting alongside the website, we developed a consultation microsite to support the first consultation on the HyNet North West project. The look and feel reflected the overarching HyNet brand.
We develop social graphics to support HyNet’s key messages, encourage engagement and explain complex concepts to stakeholders and the public We develop social graphics to support HyNet’s key messages, encourage engagement and explain complex concepts to stakeholders and the public.
HyNet North West is made up of several different projects, the first of which is a carbon capture pipeline. We designed and delivered an animation to help explain key elements of the project in an accessible way, enabling people to easily respond to the project’s public consultation.
The public responded very favourably to the campaign. There were more than 8,000 visits to the consultation hub website during the non-statutory consultation period, driven by promotional materials and social media.
We saw a marked increase in social media engagement across multiple channels, with Twitter seeing a 279% increase in impressions, LinkedIn experiencing a 303% increase in new followers and HyNet North West’s Facebook account having more than an 8,433% increase in engagement.
The campaign built a positive platform for future stages of consultation and engagement needed for HyNet North West to succeed.
Ben Heatley, Managing Partner at Copper Consultancy discusses how the UK should respond to war in Ukraine, suggesting that it should be a catalyst for more rapid change in the country’s energy system.
The world has looked on in horror as scenes of violence and destruction have emerged from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The crisis is humanitarian, and every effort must be taken to bring pressure on Russia to halt their aggression, so that focus can move to supporting the millions of Ukrainians who have been bereaved, injured and displaced.
Western nations have responded swiftly, seeking to exert economic and political pressure on the Putin regime, in an attempt to force a change in strategy, and to limit funding to the Russian armed forces.
There is a significant limitation to the West’s plan, namely Europe’s reliance on Russian oil, and particularly gas. Some Eastern European nations are almost exclusively supplied with Russian gas, while Germany and Austria receive about 50% of their gas supplies from Russia.
On the surface, the UK is not as dependent, receiving approximately 5% of our supplies from Russia, but that doesn’t tell the full story as we live in an interconnected world, and it’s challenging to distinguish exactly where gas that arrives via pipeline has originated from.
One response to this crisis, will inevitably be to seek to increase supplies from the North Sea and Norway, along with LNG supplies from Qatar and elsewhere. However, that is a short term solution that will not address the fundamental challenge of an overreliance on one country for our energy supplies. It will also not enable us all to transition to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.
The International Energy Association has produced a ten point plan to reduce the use of Russian oil and gas, while accelerating the transition to net-zero. As a country, the UK needs to take every opportunity to enact these recommendations, so that we can put greater pressure on Russia, and accelerate our own transition to an affordable, reliable, sustainable and self-sufficient energy system.
The good news is that we are already in line with a number of the EIA’s recommendations. We are planning a transition away from gas boilers, we are expanding renewable energy systems with offshore wind and solar schemes booming, and we do have a strategy to support the nuclear industry, particularly by backing small modular reactors.
We must move faster to support the UK’s energy market at a time of enormous uncertainty and price rises, and to play our part in international relations. Renewable technologies not only represent the most environmentally sustainable solution, but they are also the most affordable and self-sufficient options.
Making rapid progress in our own energy independence also sends a message to Russia that we are preparing for a future where dirty, carbon intensive, imported fuels will no longer be necessary, and therefore cannot be used as a high stakes bargaining chip.
In practical terms, that means the Government making clear and decisive policy decisions to prioritise a rapid transition to clean energy independence. It must come forward with the long expected National Policy Statements on energy, giving clear and unequivocal backing to renewables and nuclear power, and transmission upgrades. The Government must emphasise that at a local level, planning authorities should support solar energy schemes as a means to get additional clean energy into the grid quickly. The Government must also rescind the moratorium on onshore wind in the England, as a clear statement of intent.
At a domestic level, far more needs to be done to insulate homes and install heat pumps in place of gas boilers. The hydrogen and district heating industries must also be further supported to play their part in decarbonising domestic heat.
Some commentators have suggested that the UK should reinvest in domestic gas production, and possibly even fracking, in response to war in Ukraine. There may be a small role for increased domestic supply from the North Sea. But in the long term this is seriously flawed logic, as it only serves to tie the UK further into a hydrocarbon based energy system, which is interconnected to Russia and has faced unprecedented price inflation in recent months.
The future isn’t about replicating the past. Instead we must accept the compromises inherent in the need to genuinely shift from an unsustainable system, to a sustainable one. In that process, we must all make compromises, by accepting that new energy infrastructure will impact us all in some way with views and landscapes changed, and our homes altered.
We must simultaneously do more to support the poorest, helping them to weather short and medium term price rises far more effectively than we have to date.
In the second world war, the UK was encouraged to dig for victory, in order to supplement domestic food supplies and reduce reliance on imports. That initiative saw parks, playgrounds and gardens transformed into allotments. We face a very different situation today, but in order to tackle the combined threat of climate emergency and energy insecurity, we may need a similarly united national effort to achieve our goals.
Interested in learning more about this or other topics discussed on our website? Then please contact us at: https://www.copperconsultancy.com/contact/