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Engaging Local Communities for a Smooth Tidal Power Entitlement Process

maiorino, al, public strategy groupLast month, the efforts of Tidal Lagoon Power, Ltd., to build the world’s first tidal lagoon progressed through a new phase in the United Kingdom’s entitlement process, bringing the South Wales project one small step closer to fruition. Following the conclusion of a six month examination period, the panel is set to produce a recommendation to Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, on the affordability and value of the project in the coming months. While this project has already secured important political champions as well as the support of the business community, hurdles may still lie ahead in the next six months before Secretary Davey issues his decision in mid-2015. As is the case with entitlement in any industry, a strong showing of public support is essential to bolstering a proposal’s chances for approval.

Swansea Bay is a unique project that lends itself nicely to crafting effective messaging for grassroots outreach. The £750-850 million proposal is the epitome of cutting edge, as it aims to use lagoon technology to power the equivalent of approximately 120,000 homes for 120 years to significantly reduce carbon emissions. This innovative approach is not lost on one of the project’s most important champions, Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb, who remarked, “This is great news for Wales and has the potential to provide a massive boost to the Welsh economy — creating thousands of jobs, attracting millions of pounds worth of investment and helping to secure Wales’s energy future.” In addition, the project has third-party support from the business community, including the Swansea Bay Business Club, which generally supports the proposal due to the boost to tourism that a new visitor center will create as part of the proposal’s educational, cultural and leisure elements. As shown with the cade of Swansea Bay, with an effective transmission of project benefits, supporters come out of the woodworks to speak to the positive impact the tidal project will have on the community.

However, though Swansea Bay has quality political and third-party advocates, opponents continue to vocalize their fears of contamination and depopulation of various species in the Severn Estuary that would house the project. In addition, the 2010 defeat of the £30 billion Severn Barrage scheme left many environmentalists with a preservationist attitude for the area. Given the strength of the opposition from only a short time ago, the engagement of supporters in the next six months will continue to be critical as Wales awaits a decision from Secretary Davey. Supportive letters to newspapers and officials are the key to the demonstration of tangible grassroots public support before the eyes of decision makers.

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