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Tidal power – the future of renewable energy?

There’s a growing concern regarding global warming, as atmospheric carbon dioxide has recently reached 399.00ppm (July 2014), compared to levels in December 2013 (396.81ppm) and December 2012 (394.28ppm). To combat these rising levels of atmospheric CO2, targets are in place for the UK to source 15% of their energy via renewable means, by 2020. Therefore, it’s vital to look at all renewable options available.

In a 2010 case study, Patrick Devine-Wright talks of tidal power’s ‘social potential’ (Devine-Wright, 83), given that it has yet to fully take-off in the same manner as wind and solar power. Following research into public response, it was suggested that tidal power was welcomed as a method of renewable energy, dispelling the supposed ‘Not In My Back Yard’ (NIMBY) stance towards renewable energy solutions. The negative NIMBY response is based largely on aesthetics, especially concerning onshore wind farms. However, since tidal lagoons are located offshore, evidence shows that aesthetic concerns aren’t as much of an issue.

Devine-Wright carried out surveys in two potential sites for tidal energy generators. Such questionnaires encouraged the public to give emotive responses. Aside from ‘curiosity’, the prospect of tidal power drew mostly positive responses, with consultees expressing hope and pride regarding potential developments. Over the two locations, there was little in terms of negative response, with only 10% disagreeing with the project (Devine-Wright, 89).

The general consensus deemed tidal power an effective method of renewable energy production. However, Devine-Wright also posed a number of outcome-based questions, asking consultees to interpret the consequences of tidal power. On average, the public accepted that tidal power drew a number of benefits, such as high energy production and a lessened environmental impact when compared to other renewable energy sources (Devine-Wright, 88).

As with all renewable forms of energy, there isn’t a fear that tidal power will inevitably run out, or cause significant damage to the atmosphere. In fact, one of the key benefits of tidal energy is that it is not regulated by weather conditions. Due to the predictable, consistent cycle of tides, there is a regular output of power generated. As a result, tidal power could be one of the most efficient forms of energy production available.

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Consense houses the single biggest source of public opinion on renewable energy sources. As part of an ongoing series, we will soon be publishing further pieces on other forms of renewable energy production, with an aim to compare and explore the benefits of each.

In a recent consultation, 86% of respondents answered yes to say they are in support of a proposed tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay.

Sources:

Devine-Wright, P. 2010. Enhancing local distinctiveness fosters public acceptance of tidal energy: A UK case study. Energy Policy 39. 83-93.

Online Consultation for Dummies

I am now a month into my new role as Account Executive at Consense and to say it’s been a learning curve is an understatement. 

As a young graduate with a passion for marketing, being given the opportunity to work at a full service marketing agency has felt like hitting the jackpot. I presumed that working here would satisfy my passion for marketing, what I didn’t bargain for was for a whole new passion for renewable energy and community planning. 

Having studied History of Art, I can hold my hands up and say I have never been a brain-box at science. However, during my time at Consense, it is hard not to join in on the office enthusiasm. It is refreshing working with people who are not only providing a service, but are also passionate about the development and outcomes of both community and renewable energy planning applications.  I’ve begun to understand the important role both play for our future, and how community consultation helps with the process.

Obviously I did research prior to my role and understood the core of Consense - a community engagement service that specialises in online consultation.  What I didn’t realise was that it is much much more than that. This is what I’ve learned so far…

Why is community consultation important?

In an age where over 80% of the population is online, it is important to harness the web to consult and reach those you normally wouldn’t.  In this new era of ‘bottom up’ planning (I learned that here), where communities are being encouraged to shape local plans, it is important to consult the public. Community consultation is essentially a two-way communication, which offers opportunities for both sides of the debate to get involved with innovative and tried-and-tested engagement practices. Making the effort to research your community and engage with people in innovative ways, will almost always create positive reactions.  All in all, consultation is crucial to producing a solid application and meeting the requirements of the ‘Localism Bill’. It ensures planning applications are given the best chance.

 What I’ve learned so far?

  • Variety is good. There are so many different aspects of marketing communications, and it’s important to adopt a mix of channels to consult. Luckily Consense does just this with its mix of online and offline consultation.
  • A good relationship is key! I’ve learned that one of the main reasons Consense is successful at consultation is because the relationships between the agency and their clients are strong. Clients are able to have communication with their account handlers throughout the day and discuss any queries/concerns they may have.
  • A good team is at the core of Consense success. A mix of interactive and social professionals with key expertise ensures the success of projects; a developer + a designer + a project manager = dream team.
  • You need to be flexible. One of the quickest things I’ve needed to learn as Account Executive is the ability to respond and evolve as necessary during the consultation process. Luckily, as far as I have seen we are always able to meet the timescales, demands and changes of our clients. 
  • And lastly, the importance of communication! Communication is the essence of consultation; communicating with the public ensures planning applications are given the best chance possible to succeed.

So far, working at Consense has been both exciting and challenging. Working for an agency provides me with the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and with a number of different people. It is refreshing to be part of a team who manages all aspects of a campaign, including final reporting on the process and its outcomes.  The benefits of working with an enthusiastic and successful team who all play a vital part in the consultation is that you come to genuinely care about the consultation process.

For someone who has never worked for an online consultation company before, I didn’t think that 4 weeks in I’d be scouring the internet for news on wind turbines and community planning in my spare time. The energy and passion at Consense is infectious, and I’m looking forward to the months ahead. 

Don't forget the print!

I love printed design – you simply can’t beat the smell of a freshly printed newsletter and the feel of the stock on your fingertips!

In recent years there has been a dramatic move to online consultation as developers strive to ensure community and stakeholder engagement is more accessible, interactive and auditable.

Whilst there are clear and tangible benefits to online consultation, such as the ability to attract a broader audience, it is imperative that developers don’t neglect traditional methods of communication.

We recognise the need for a well-planned strategy, which facilitates both genuine and meaningful consultation, part of this is ensuring you have the tools available to involve everyone in the engagement process, not just those with a broadband connection.

With an in-house design team and large-format printing facilities we are able to provide our clients with a variety of printed materials which can aid the consultation process. These materials form part of our full consultation management service, but can be used on a flexible, ad-hoc basis too. Given we hold these capabilities in-house, lead times are reduced and our prices are competitive.

Typical projects include newsletters, exhibition boards, posters, invitations, leaflets and logo/brand design. We can also supply address databases and arrange distribution via Royal Mail. To find out more about our full service offering please click here.

Budget 2013: Building the UK out of recession

The 2013 budget delivered a mixed bag to our diverse range of clients. Whilst house builders are rejoicing in light of the Chancellor's speech, renewable energy developers will be disappointed to hear they have been overlooked in favour of shale gas.

With an extra £225 million for affordable housing, a new ‘Help to Buy’ project and an additional £800 million for the existing ‘Build to Rent’ scheme, George Osbourne has finally addressed the shortfall in available housing in the UK.

This financial boost, coupled with the recent changes to planning law, should in turn create a notable increase of jobs in the construction sector and have an added knock-on effect to the wider economy.

The benefits of these proposals are already visible from this morning's markets with shares in Barratt Homes and Taylor Wimpey up 6%.

Our renewable energy clients may however be slightly more sceptical of yesterday’s budget with George Osbourne first exclaiming that the shift to a low carbon economy “should be done in a way that creates jobs rather than costing them” but then going on to segregate fracking as his energy source of choice adding: “Shale gas is part of the future. And we will make it happen.”

Renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, tidal and hydro did not receive a single mention in yesterday's statement, despite contributing to nearly one third of economic growth in recent years – a serious blow to those who believe the green economy could pull the UK out of recession.

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom for the environment with the Chancellor promising to take forward two new carbon capture and storage plants, taking up to 90% of carbon emissions from burning coal and biomass for storage beneath the North Sea.

No doubt there will be a strong reaction to the budget over the coming days from both sides of the spectrum, there's certainly been divided opinions in the Consense office!

One thing’s for sure, we look forward to seeing how the planning process evolves in light of yesterday's announcements and how we as a company can support the range of applications proposed by our varied range of clients.

The move to mobile and responsive web design

We've all had the same frustrating problem, you visit a website on your smartphone or tablet and the formatting is so distorted that you quickly go elsewhere.

Apple sold over 125 million iPhones last year, Microsoft has just launched a new range of tablet computers and Smart TVs are being billed as “the next big thing”. As the industry changes it is vital that developers embrace these emerging technologies and adapt their online consultations to improve functionality and increase accessibility.

Rather than creating a website for desktop viewing and an additional site for mobile viewing, responsive web design uses fluid grid layouts to automatically adapt the design of a site to the relevant browser and screen size, whether that is a traditional PC screen, a tablet or a smartphone.

An obvious advantage of implementing responsive web design is improving usability, and in the case of community consultation, further broadening your audience and ensuring inclusivity. Also, since responsive web design uses a single URL (separate mobile sites would typically need an additional URL) it makes it easier for users to interact with the site and share content.

In a the new era of ‘bottom up’ planning, where communities are being encouraged to actively shape local plans, good community consultation is a crucial element in producing a robust planning application. Responsive web design not only demonstrates a willingness to engage but also opens up your consultation to a whole new audience – an audience which wouldn't attend a traditional village hall exhibition.

If you make the effort to engage in new and innovative ways you may be surprised by the positive reaction you receive.

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2011