Building credibility for wind power: more persuasion ahead
Previously, I reviewed the first three steps Nanos Research recommended to CanWEA for future messaging on wind energy as “cleaner, healthier and more sustainable” and “humanizing” the industry by engaging celebrities and using “children and young families” as the face and voice of the industry.
Nanos Research recommended three more steps CanWEA together with examples of past successes.
“Further strengthen industry-government relations through joint communications opportunities around wind-related educational programs, contests and events engaging schools, youth and young families.”
This recommendation is simply a reiteration of what CanWEA have successfully done since their inception with great success. Examples of their success include:
- CanWEA joined OSEA as a member. OSEA’s predecessor, the GEAA (Green Energy Act Alliance) convinced the Liberals to develop the Green Energy Act.
- CanWEA teamed up with Toronto Hydro to sponsor events aimed at promoting wind to kids.
- CanWEA’s press release of September 2009 indicates the group’s relationship with the Ontario Liberal government when an announcement was made by then Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman at the opening ceremonies of CanWEA’s annual conference. “We welcome the Ontario government’s plan to upgrade this province’s electricity grid,” said CanWEA President Robert Hornung. “This is a huge boost to the continued development of wind energy as a viable renewable energy source in Ontario. This plan opens the door for the wind industry to grow…”
- CanWEA successfully influenced the science curriculum in schools as noted in a series of articles I wrote, “Ontario’s Green Religion.” CanWEA hosts an annual contest for students, and sponsors bursaries, as well as monitors and rewards students’ blogs.
CanWEA has already been out front to ensure their message reaches the OLP and our children; it is hard to imagine they could actually do more to strengthen their government relationships or influence “youth and young families” but we should expect renewed efforts to do so.
“Continue to build comfort and credibility in wind energy through creative social media products aimed primarily at diminishing public misapprehensions of wind turbines, repositioning turbines as merely the latest version of wind energy devices to have evolved over centuries of mankind’s harnessing the wind.”
This next step from Nanos is really a recommendation to continue the “spin” by ignoring issues related to: human health, killing birds and bats, unreliability and intermittent production, shadow flicker and the economic costs and creation of “energy poverty” for people on fixed incomes, with disabilities or stay at home parents. CanWEA generally does this by insuring their supporters and their media activities focus only on the perceived “positives” about industrial wind turbines.
- In order to foster “comfort” and “credibility” CanWEA welcomes organizations to join; a Tweet on January 26 links to a new YouTube video which extols the virtues of corporate membership.
- Twitter has also been used in recent weeks to tout the idea that a fundamental change in thinking is occurring (“Energy shift requires a shift in conversation,” January 12) and that wind power is a positive for the economy (“Guelph emerging as leader in renewable energy sector with 2,000 jobs tied to alternative energy sources,” January 7). Again, this refers back to earlier advice to portray wind power naysayers as “backwards” and “out of touch.”
- Pew Research recently noted in a report that 71% of adults who are regularly online use Facebook. CanWEA has a presence here too, with an adult and corporate focus. Recent posts include promotion of 2015 corporate events and news stories such as “Wind offers a healthy way to generate power” December 22, 2014.
From the foregoing it becomes obvious that the activity aimed to build “comfort and credibility” has focused on those who are already sold on the concept, so we should expect to see the focus shift to the general population with an emphasis on youth and young families. That appears to have started as the CanWEA website has three short Fact Sheets on Health, Property Values, and Price in which it is claimed “experts” have dispelled any negatives on those issues.
No fact sheet exists to dispel bird and bat deaths caused by industrial wind turbines, but we should expect CanWEA will locate an expert to do that. Noted in a 2012 press release: “As the Environmental Commissioner has clearly stated, wind turbines are not a major cause of bird fatalities, but the industry is working diligently to reduce and mitigate impacts. In Canada, we have partnered with the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Bird Studies Canada to create and maintain the Wind Energy Bird and Bat Monitoring Database that provides the information required to assess the impact of wind turbines and inform the development of appropriate regulatory frameworks and mitigation requirements,” said Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA.” The database is not linked or publicly available on the CanWEA website—could it be that it shows Ontario’s kill rate of birds and bats (including several “species at risk”) is the worst in Canada?
“Use survey data and benchmarking to measure progress and fine-tune the narrative, and provide the data to government and other stakeholders to further enhance support.”
This is calculated advice for CanWEA because the survey respondents were “blinkered”! A significant proportion of the respondents were city-dwellers, and many admitted they were not well-informed on wind power issues. The report failed to detail the knowledge level of respondents, or poll those who actually reside in affected communities, failed to focus on health, failed to focus on property value losses, and failed to focus on issues affecting nature.
As the Ontario government prepares to accept new applications for as much as 300 megawatts of new wind power capacity in 2015, this type of industry persuasion will continue. It will fall to those of us who care about Ontario’s rural communities and the economic health of this province to present all sides to these persuasive arguments.