Utility Week

Utility Week 4th October 2013

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Page 24 of 31

Customers Market view Home truths A fair wind blows UK water metering lags behind Europe Windfarm developers must act early to get local communities on board to support a project – and communications must be extensive, honest and effective, says Caroline Matthews. A s I write, protest marches are going on in the UK in opposition to plans for two different windfarms – in Scotland and North Devon. To many people, wind power is still seen as ineffective, noisy and expensive. We understand from industry research that only 8-16 per cent of residents around an affected area tend to oppose windfarms. However, this is still a portion of the population that needs to be brought on board if a project is to succeed. Concerns often focus on how the windfarm will look, how noisy the turbines will be, how it will affect property prices and whether it will have an impact on an area's tourism. A good marketing campaign is vital to make everyone in an area affected by a wind development aware of just what the project will involve, and to address their concerns. This should reduce the number of opponents. Having created marketing campaigns for two major UK windfarms – London Array in the Thames Estuary and Navitus Bay Wind Park off the south coast – we appreciate that the public consultation process is critical for any large wind power project. It gives local communities a chance to have their say on plans and allows them to see how the project is developing. The more opportunities the public have to contribute and raise issues, the happier all those involved can be with the finished development. At the consultation stage, the marketing campaign and branding perform several functions. Most importantly, they define the developer's values, ethos and character. Used consistently for all communication, people can learn to recognise those values and grow to trust the developer. Any campaign must include clear plans and facts, presented in a way that is easy for everyone to understand. These should set aside the myths surrounding windfarms and put residents' minds at ease. Another vital marketing aspect is to form two-way communication between the community and the developer, which can't be done through irregular announcements and online forms. Instead, the best practice is to keep residents updated through events and a range of communication channels. This allows everyone to voice their opinions and be informed of any updates. It's key to work together and make sure residents know that developers are interested in their concerns. Public input can be sought from consultation events, public libraries, town halls, online or by post and email. Through this process, a much richer knowledge of the local area can be built up, which works to the advantage of all involved. The consultation results should be worked into communication material, so people and organisations outside the immediate area know what's happening. Some windfarm developments are joint ventures between household names and renewable energy specialists. This creates both the challenge and the benefit of starting from scratch but within an established brand. In a recent development, for example, the consistency of the brand representing the joint venture, with its recognisable and well-defined values, helped to give a face to the partnership. However, awareness of the project needed to be raised and lines of two-way communication opened up with a cautious community. Other developments have other specific marketing requirements and challenges. London Array, a partnership between three leading energy giants, forms part of the UK's plans to lead the global field in offshore wind farm development. It needed the brand to not only reflect this on an international scale but also to help raise its profile in the local community and with potential suppliers. As windfarms become ever more popular, an increasing number of challenges will arise as more communities will need to be consulted. In such a critical situation, energy companies and developers must be incredibly careful with how they position their brands and campaigns. Caroline Matthews, account marketing director at creative agency Michon The European Environment Agency (EEA) has said the lack of metering in the UK is discouraging efficient water use. According to Gorm Dige, the author of a recently published EEA report, metering is more advanced in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. "Water pricing in general is happening, but in some cases metering infrastructure is not in place. That means flat rates are used and this does not provide the right incentives for using water more efficiently," Dige told to Utility Week. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently said that no water firm would be required to introduce compulsory metering. We asked the industry for its views: Trade association Water UK, agreed with the EEA' that metering was vital in the to improve water efficiency. Neil Dhot, head of corporate affairs at Water UK, said a lot of companies were working to roll out metering. Despite this, he admitted there was cynicism from customers over water metering. "It is a hard sell at first, but once they get used to it, it seems to work out fine. Some companies have found it challenging to get the message across about water efficiency and particularly metering." Regulator Ofwat said metering was the fairest way to charge. A spokesman said: "The new way we intend to regulate includes a range of proposals that should encourage water efficiency measures – in the wider context of an approach that focuses on customers and outcomes." The regulator forecasts that by 2015 about half of households will have a water meter. UTILITY WEEK | 4th - 10th October 2013 | 25

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