Telling the public the benefits of renewable energy

December 9th, 2016, Published in Articles: Energize


Global and local experts and leaders within the renewable energy industry say tangible action needs to be taken to drive general awareness and understanding about the benefits of renewable energy in South Africa as the country’s energy mix is currently being decided.


This was the message communicated at the recent Energy21 exchange hub, a workshop hosted by the US Embassy.

The event, which drew over 60 people working in the renewable energy sector, focused on tactics for telling the renewable energy story differently in South Africa.  Participants considered how to best reach, touch, inform new audiences, which is especially relevant following the publication of a draft of South Africa’s updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and the success of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).


Despite the success of the REIPPPP, many people outside of the energy sector are unaware of the benefits they are already receiving from the rollout of solar- and wind-powered electricity generation.


Delegates at the two-day event were addressed by communications, climate change and renewables experts from the US State Department, the World Bank, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), CityPower, FirstRand, GreenCape, Intellidex, and Microcare.

The delegates worked in groups designing communication tools and messages which could be used to educate those who are still unaware of the benefits of, and need for, renewable energy. The groups presented in various ways including song-and-dance, video, audio and other forms of media. Tactics for communicating the message that renewable energy is both sustainable, affordable and worthwhile ranged from strategies for creating compelling “sticky” content, reaching rural communities, designing communication campaigns to data visualisation.


Participants agreed that what is needed is not to simply repeat the REIPPPP story already told, but to find compelling, understandable, and relatable ways to tell the story so that is reaches broader audiences. Dr. Tobias Bischof-Niemz, addressing the delegates, said that while educating the public on renewables must be grounded in science, there is also the need to work together to create public awareness on renewable energy, to stimulate community interest – in both urban and rural areas – and develop meaningful engagement.


The organisers of the event say this is especially important at a time when the Department of Energy’s draft of an updated IRP has been released for public discussion.


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