Seizing the opportunity, how turbines will form part of our COVID-19 recovery

Seizing the opportunity, how turbines will form part of our COVID-19 recovery

In the UK, wind represents a success story on the path to Net-Zero and one of the greatest opportunities to reach this goal by 2050. Across Europe, wind energy now makes up 15% of the EU’s electricity. Recent months have seen a return for onshore wind being eligible to participate in CfD competitions. The growth of the floating wind market is now central to discussions as a viable alternative to conventional arrays.

However, the reach of COVID-19 will not escape the sector, with supply chains suffering lockdowns and impacts to manufacturing and plunges in forex rates beginning to hamper propositions in the coming months. Organisations will need to communicate their messages clearly, with authenticity and passion to be heard in this post-COVID recovery. Most companies supplying the UK with materials are from outside of the country and are mainly based in Europe and China. In 2019, €19bn was raised for the construction of new wind farms in Europe, 24% less than in 2018. Given the impact of COVID-19, we may have to revise our expectations in the coming years.

I believe though that the wind sector is in good shape despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s why.

High public acceptability

There is growing acceptability of offshore wind among key stakeholders. In recent Government polling, 81% of the population supported offshore wind and this sentiment has held steady over recent years. This attitude has largely been down to wind assets’ growing presence off our shores and public awareness growing alongside recognition of the importance of Net-Zero on the Government’s agenda.

Further projects are being approved and three major schemes are awaiting Development Consent Orders with the Planning Inspectorate due to confirm decisions by early June of the Thanet Extension, Hornsea 3 and Norfolk Vanguard sites.

However, some stakeholders retain an entrenched position, including US President Donald Trump who maintains the view of a “monstrous” wind project destroying the view of “perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world” (which happens to be his Trump International Links Course). The ensuing legal challenge has resulted in Mr Trump being ordered to pay £250,000 to the Scottish Government.

With new emerging technologies and licencing rounds, developers will need to continue engaging with communities and stakeholders to inform and educate residents around proposals in order to mobilise support and consent for projects. Developers can’t take stakeholder sentiment at a local and national level for granted – authentic and compelling engagements at key stage gates for projects help to bring stakeholders on the journey.

A golden opportunity for the UK

With the Crown Estate launching the next round of the wind leasing competition, we will likely see around 7GW of capacity awarded in new seabed rights. If fully exploited, this would nearly double offshore power output in the UK. This represents more than twice the amount of energy that will be generated by the upcoming Hinkley Point C nuclear plant – enough to power over 6 million homes. Wind is now starting to play an increasing role in each of our daily lives.

With each new project, developers will need to create a clear narrative and benefit case to justify the disruption to the communities around their proposed sites. One impactful way to do this is through virtual reality and rich media content. These methods can create vibrant learning environments that consultation and stakeholder engagement meetings have struggled to achieve.

European wind capacity rose by a third (15.2GW) in 2019 across Europe with the UK leading the way in the installation of 2.4GW followed by Spain, Sweden and France. Importantly, the increasing pace of UK wind deployment will form part of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda with potential supply chain benefits greatly boosting underperforming regions. Creating clusters of excellence around ports could result in long term economic benefits through development, operations and maintenance and then into decommissioning, which will enable a wide section of the energy sector to benefit from wind’s growth.

Innovating to further increase wind’s role in our energy system

Floating wind turbines offer a great opportunity for the UK given its leadership in offshore wind. The UK also needs floating wind given its tough Net-Zero climate targets. Floating wind installations offer greater cost competitiveness than conventional offshore wind arrays with less anchoring or pilling required to stabilise the turbines. Floating wind turbines increase the opportunities for onshore development with greater assembly onshore. These assets’ more mobile nature enables them to be moved further out to sea, where winds are steadier and stronger.

A single deep-sea floating turbine can produce up to 25MW of power per year, nearly seven times that of a traditional offshore turbine. Locating these arrays further out to sea also means that delicate ecosystems close to shore and communities concerned with noise can be better protected. However, there are still constraints around wind speed in highly volatile locations.

Roughly half of the world’s population lives within 125 miles of a coastline, placing demand close to offshore wind production locations. In the UK, the furthest we can be is 70 miles from the coast making short length cable runs for electricity transmission very attractive.

However, as Bruno Geschier, Chairman of the WFO Floating Wind Committee said on a recent Floating Wind webinar, work is still to be done to convince key stakeholders that floating wind is viable.

Geschier laid emphasis on Government Relations, policymaking and ensuring that developers set the right conditions to enable offshore wind to succeed. Engaging with government early, building clear areas of common understanding and then bringing stakeholders along on the journey of a project is key. Clear communications are central to enabling floating wind to achieve its goals.

Therefore, while COVID-19 will prove to be an obstacle to smooth sector growth, the overall prospects for wind in the UK remain positive. Week on week we are seeing developers seeking to mobilise supply chains and plough investment into coastal communities to support major arrays. It will be critical to ensure that the engagement, messaging and public face of these projects ensures support rather than creates voids where opposition can delay and disrupt projects.

Madano advises clients in the energy and infrastructure sectors adapting to the impacts of COVID-19 and transitioning to lower carbon operating models – if you’re interested in learning more please drop me or the team a line. You can also follow Madano on Twitter.

Email: [email protected]

Blog written by Andrew Turner, Senior Account Director, Madano (Energy and Environment).

Diagnosing your ‘real’ communications needs while navigating the COVID-19 change curve

Diagnosing your ‘real’ communications needs while navigating the COVID-19 change curve

It’s worth reminding ourselves of simple tools that have helped you and a myriad of our clients to manage communications challenges whatever the circumstances.

Below is Madano’s communications diagnostic that provides a simple but really effective framework for Business Leaders and Communications Professionals to consider what are your ‘real’ communications needs.

Click the image below to access the full PDF.

If you have any questions please get in touch with Founding Partner, Matthew Moth.

Follow Madano on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

COVID-19: Is there space for disease awareness campaigns right now?

COVID-19: Is there space for disease awareness campaigns right now?

Collectively we’ve never cared about our health as much as we do now. Over the past few months we’ve come to analyse every cough and headache, scroll obsessively though epidemiology statistics and sign off emails “stay healthy”. But the news cycle, which now rarely deviates from COVID-19 coverage, has swallowed up opportunities for raising awareness of other health conditions.

Awareness days, weeks and months are a key time to spotlight certain conditions and disease; research and patient support organisations can fundraise, patients can share their experiences of living with a condition and information on signs and symptoms is shared widely to promote early diagnosis.

Research from the University of Oregon shows that early Breast Cancer Awareness Months resulted in diagnoses spiking every November after October events, however this effect only lasted for a few years. Other objectives for campaigns are notoriously hard to pin down. Whether you’re counting the number of people who may have been reached via news media circulations or social media impressions, it’s difficult to gauge the impact of your activities. While campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge have been successful in bringing little-known diseases to public consciousness, these have proven to be the exception rather than the rule.

Forgoing quantity for quality

The most tangible way to demonstrate wide-ranging impact of a campaign has been through media coverage. Placements in print publications and radio and television spots have been able to guarantee an audience of thousands, if not millions. But right now, unless a story is centred on COVID or is COVID-adjacent, it simply won’t run.

In accepting that “raising awareness” isn’t a feasible measure of success, it’s important to consider how best to support the patient community. Social distancing has had a wide-ranging effect across the care continuum; halting clinical trials, impeding the manufacturing and distribution of medicine and limiting the care that many people are receiving.

By acknowledging and addressing these challenges, industry can reassure patients that our commitment to care is unwavering. Organisations have invested in creating COVID-19 resources that cover everything from the practicalities of travelling to care centres to emotional support during periods of isolation. Sharing content that resonates during a difficult time will offer a sense of continuity and solidarity to patients and their caregivers.

Taking it online

While we’re all spending our time glued to the internet, it can be difficult to cut through the noise. This is where you can benefit from a targeted approach.

Google and YouTube offer functionality that ensures your content gets in front of people looking for it. Allocating some of the budget earmarked for novelty pins on boosting carefully created content will result in more meaningful engagement with the patient community. Even without paid promotion, you can increase visibility by optimising your content through simple SEO techniques like utilising effective keywords and spending time on your meta description.

On social platforms too, small investments in promoting content can start conversations and build relationships online. Here it helps to know your audience well and set your targeting parameters carefully. The opposite of this advice remains true, however. If your resources don’t offer a benefit to the community, liking or sharing third-party content would be more appropriate at this time.

Just remember that social media is designed to start conversations and right now people have a lot of questions. While standardised response matrixes can be a quick and effective tool in the ‘normal’ world. During a crisis, a more personalised and empathetic response can make a world of difference.

So, is there space for disease awareness campaigns right now?

Yes. May, which previously represented a key opportunity for diseases as varied as cystic fibrosis, bladder cancer, lupus, and Huntington’s disease, has morphed into “COVID-19 Awareness Month”. The domination of one disease has come at the detriment of many others, and at a time when patient communities need more support than ever.

We have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with patient communities and our approach needs to be careful and considered. As in most areas of life, there is a ‘new normal’ when it comes to disease awareness campaigns, and this will continue long after lockdown is lifted.

Written by Emma Purdy, Account Director, Madano Healthcare.

Stay alert to Madano’s COVID-19 coverage by visiting our communications hub here.

Redefining social licence in a post COVID-19 landscape – placing climate action at the heart of our recovery

Redefining social licence in a post COVID-19 landscape – placing climate action at the heart of our recovery

We are bombarded with information and insight on the COVID-19 outbreak from rolling news updates to daily press conferences. As we look back at April, National Grid reported drops of 10% in power demand was a result of the lockdown. This prompted a warning for wind farms and interconnectors to be on standby to ease up supply and hydro-electric installations to potentially need to consume surplus energy.

We saw scare mongering that construction site closures would create a shortage of biomass for power stations. We also saw headlines showing that we were breaking new records for renewables penetration and not requiring coal to generate energy for homes. Perhaps this momentary hiatus of daily life has been one of the strongest demonstrations that our low carbon transition is working.

It’s clear that organisations will now focus on developing resilient operating models and will be less reliant on imported supply chains sources. This will require changes to operating processes and the way in which our energy system works. Stakeholders will need to be informed, educated and brought along on the journey of why, and how developments will operate in the future. Communications will need to resonate with relevant and impacted stakeholders but also bring positivity and realism following the sustained period of negativity. This will ensure support and understanding throughout the asset’s life and minimises the chances of opposition through misunderstanding.

In our lockdown routines, the UK is taking the opportunity to have a lie in and as a result are seeing a fifth less electricity being used at 07.30 each workday. But when we can return to work, we will see a raft of stimulus packages to boost recovery across the globe.

In previous recessions we have seen the stimulating role of oil and gas in a rapid economic recovery. Research from the LSE found that only 16% of stimulus plans in 2008 focused on low carbon technologies. However, a recent report from the University of Oxford found that investment in ‘green projects’ – ones that reduce emissions – are the most cost-effective way to boost economies hit by COVID-19.

This report noted that COVID-19 has given us the chance to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to integrate long-term, climate-focused criteria into national recovery plans. To take this opportunity energy developments and investment programmes will need to hardwire a strong and compelling narrative into their communications to communities, stakeholders and influencers to ensure they are positioned as relevant, responsible and sustainable in our recovery as we enter a global economic recession. Communications will need to be impactful and fundamentally interesting.

This is echoed by the International Monetary Fund calling governments for a harmonised approach to fiscal pandemic recovery measures with the imperative to ‘combat’ climate change and ensure an environmentally sustainable recovery. A contributing factor to this is that energy technologies have also moved on. Many vital components for building a clean energy future are more mature and ready to scale up when compared to a decade ago.

As we emerge from the lockdown, industries will be clamouring for support from investors as well as state-aid from governments. Industries will try to reconnect with customers. Amongst this noisy landscape of propositions competing for attention, clear communications that are authentic will cut through this noise and connect with the stakeholders that matter.

However, currently, the gap between promises and implementation is huge in the Paris Accord commitments. Before the pandemic we saw early adopters in the energy sector commit to Net Zero carbon pledges but can COVID-19 be the paradigm shift that is needed to set us on a track to meet the Paris accord limits? The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised the UK Government for climate action to be placed at the heart of an economic rebuild following COVID-19.

The postponement of COP26 in the UK should be the wake-up call for governments to offer financial lifelines to carbon-intensive companies with strings attached. These strings should include strong commitments to reduce carbon emissions and to commit to low carbon recoveries. Organisations will need to make their corporate voices and narrative authentic and responsible to ensure they engage with the right stakeholders and can progress on their recovery post-COVID.

Madano advises clients in the energy and infrastructure sectors adapting to the impacts of COVID-19 and transitioning to lower carbon operating models – if you’re interested in learning more please drop me or the team a line. You can also follow Madano on Twitter.

Blog written by Andrew Turner, Senior Account Director, Madano (Energy & Environment).

The ‘Ripple Effect’ of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical trials

The ‘Ripple Effect’ of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical trials

Clinical trials are the engine room that powers our ability to deliver new treatment options to patients. The rigorous testing and resulting data that help us understand how new treatments work are what propels our industry forward.

But the engine room has flipped a switch. Governments have brought in various measures to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections and to help health systems cope with related pressures. The impact of these measures, compounded by pressures on supply chains, coupled with new recommendations from regulators on managing clinical trials, as well as companies’ own internal reprioritisations, have created a perfect storm in R&D. Hundreds of trials have been affected—including delays and disruptions to ongoing trials and cancellations or revisions to planned ones—and more changes are expected.

Furthermore, many healthcare providers have been pulled in to support critical care needs or at-risk patients, leaving less time and resources for clinical trials. This leaves patients with other conditions at risk of being left behind. With many patients unable—or unwilling—to visit clinics, uptake of telemedicine is flourishing, which is a positive step forward, but also creates its own set of challenges in data collection. Nonetheless, increased adoption of telemedicine, real-world evidence practices, and different types of outcomes could help recalibrate perceptions of acceptable—and approvable—trial results.

But in the meantime, delays to data availability—combined with medical conferences postponing and/or moving to virtual formats—is requiring many companies to rewrite their congress and publication strategies. We need to take new approaches in determining how, when and where to share data with target audiences, whilst ensuring timely and transparent communications. In addition to changing the playbook of how we communicate with those approving, prescribing or taking medications, we also need to keep advocacy groups, investors and internal colleagues informed of changing plans, particularly as launch timings may be delayed.

It is apparent the pandemic will have a far-reaching impact on clinical trials, which will ripple out to all areas of our industry.

Our immediate focus should be on protecting the integrity of ongoing trials and ensuring study participants know about changes to trials and how we are protecting their safety. In the medium term, we will have new opportunities to spark greater creativity in communicating results, and hopefully new best practices in trial design and regulatory requirements. In the longer-term, there will be an R&D pipeline that looks quite different from today’s. Amidst all this change, adaptability will be key.

Madano is part of AVENIR GLOBAL, a powerhouse firm of specialist healthcare communications agencies. We have combined our deep experience and expertise to craft a curated selection of resources on the impact of COVID-19 on the clinical trial space, from a multidisciplinary perspective. With our new Ripple Effect website, we hope to enable you to make informed decisions across different functions and within your companies as the situation develops. Content on the site will constantly evolve to stay ahead of the ever-changing environment, so please do check back regularly. Click here to explore the Ripple Effect site.

For further information the impact of COVID-19 on clinical trials and what this means for your organisation, please contact Katy Compton-Bishop, Head of Healthcare, or Reghu Venkatesan, Head of Global Healthcare.

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