How to Talk Renewables So Farmers and Landowners Listen

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A survey by Energy Now in January this year revealed two startling statistics:

– 95 per cent of farmers and landowners believe renewable energy will be vital to the future of farming in the UK

– 42 per cent of farmers and landowners are confused about renewable energy options

For many farmers and landowners renewable energy is a must-have, not an optional extra. It offers an opportunity to diversify and increase income as well as cut costs. In fact, recent research from RenewableUK found that farmers who invest in renewables earn between £12,000 and £50,000 more each year.

Similarly, with 75 per cent of UK land area in the agriculture sector, farms have an increasingly important role to play in the UK’s future energy infrastructure. But despite efforts to help farmers and landowners enter into renewables, farms are not yet realizing their full potential.

Organizations like Forum for the Future have started investigating this issue. Working with Farmers Weekly and Nottingham Trent University, it has launched a new initiative to outline the role farms and rural communities should play in the energy system. The Farm as Power Station project aims to create a better understanding of the barriers and incentives for farm-based renewables, helping farmers and rural communities fulfill their role in the energy system.

The Soil Association is also actively supporting farmers in understanding how to reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emissions. Its Low Carbon Farming project provides farmers with advice and technical guidance on low carbon farm management and energy production.

However, there is also an immediate communications challenge emerging and this must be addressed directly by renewable energy companies and service providers. Ultimately, farmers and landowners aren’t receiving the information they need to understand and make a choice on renewables. Whether it is on wind, solar, biomass, AD or geothermal, many remained confused about the options available and how to capitalize on them.

We surveyed 130 farmers and landowners to find out directly how this issue can be addressed. We wanted to know what information they need to make investing in renewables simpler and how this should be provided.

Our respondents fell into three groups: Converts, those who have already invested in renewables, understand the benefits and are likely to invest again; Believers, those currently considering investing but haven’t decided whether or not they definitely will; and Latecomers, those who haven’t considered investing at all.

Overall, the research revealed a growing need for better, more targeted communications across all three audiences. Each group has its own specific needs when it comes to messaging, content, and delivery and a single, broad brushed approach won’t cut it. To realize the sales opportunities each group offers, renewables companies must improve how they talk.

The full report ‘How to talk so farmers and landowners listen’ outlines the information needs of all three groups, providing recommendations on how to communicate effectively with each – what to say, how to say it and where to say it. It provides the insight marketers need to design campaigns that get this balance right to deliver sales and enable easier investment.

The countryside plays a crucial role in the UK’s decentralized and clean energy future. But only by addressing the current confusion around renewables will greater investment from farmers and landowners be secured. Overcoming this barrier holds huge potential for farmers, landowners, renewable energy companies and the wider green economy. But to realize this potential, businesses must get their communications right. Downloading the report ‘How to talk so farmers and landowners listen’ and infographic is the first step to making this happen.

Article by Charlotte Webster, Head of CleanTech, CCgroup

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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