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In the here and now: campaigning for clean energy change

The Clean Energy Council’s new national campaign is looking to tip the balance once and for all in favour of renewable energy, writes Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton.

Amidst all the uncertainty created by the covid-19 pandemic over the past two years, one thing has become increasingly clear – it is now indisputable that Australia’s energy future is renewable. The rapid advance of wind, solar and battery technology in recent years means that renewable energy already accounts for nearly 30% of Australia’s electricity generation, powering millions of homes and businesses. However, if you open a newspaper, turn on the TV or listen to some of our politicians, you could be forgiven for thinking that the jury is still out on renewable energy and its place in Australia’s energy landscape.

To correct this perception, the Clean Energy Council has launched the renewable energy industry’s first national campaign to shine a light on the shift taking place as Australia and the world move away from fossil fuels to generate electricity. Called Renewable Energy is Here Now, the campaign celebrates the work that the clean energy industry has already done, while promoting the enormous employment, emissions and cost benefits that will be created as more of Australia’s electricity comes from renewables.

Throwing caution to the wind

Over the past two decades, Australia’s powerful fossil fuel lobby and some opportunistic politicians have actively muddied the waters around climate change, sowing doubt in the minds of everyday Australians about the effects of the industry on the climate.

Through initiatives such as the Minerals Council of Australia’s infamous “Little Black Rock” campaign, and with the support of sympathetic media outlets, these efforts have gone largely unchallenged in Australia, which has resulted in a segment of the Australian public that are confused about the effects of climate change and the solutions.

With energy serving as one of the key battlegrounds in the climate wars that have afflicted Australian politics for much of the past 20 years, the scepticism of this cautious segment of society has been projected onto renewable energy. This has meant that negative perceptions of renewable energy involving issues such as reliability and cost have been grossly exaggerated, while cost savings, employment opportunities and climate benefits have been ignored.

The Renewable Energy is Here Now campaign is designed to correct this imbalance. Speaking directly to those who are cautious about renewable energy, the campaign is designed to inform them of the remarkable gains that the industry has already made and convince them that a future powered by 100% clean energy is not only possible, but that the transition is already underway and will benefit us all in day-to-day life as well as the planet.

Turning sceptics into believers

The campaign hinges on real case studies. In this spot, the chap on the right is airing his doubts about batteries until the local fireman sets him straight, quoting from the success of the Yackandandah microgrid.

Convincing people to change their minds about renewable energy following years of negative coverage is easier said than done, so the Clean Energy Council engaged author and social researcher Dr Rebecca Huntley and The Shannon Company, a communications company specialising in behavioural change, to conduct extensive market research with everyday Australians to work out just what it would take to shift their perspectives on renewable energy.

The research found that because many of the people that are cautious about renewable energy are more likely to be socially conservative, the most effective approach would be to focus on the issues that are most important to them. Therefore, topics such as the economy, jobs and job creation, health, and the cost of living are the primary focus points of the campaign.

The research also found that while a majority of Australians support renewable energy, they are uncertain about a future powered entirely by clean energy. This meant that the campaign needed to build a feeling of confidence, potential and inevitability in the clean energy transition by equipping people with facts about the industry and busting the myths that have thus far gone unchallenged.

If we are able to convince enough cautious Australians about the benefits of renewable energy, we will create a significant tipping point where more than 15 million people actively support the industry. This groundswell of popular support will empower our leaders to remove roadblocks and get serious about accelerating the transition.

Real change requires collective action

The Renewable Energy is Here Now campaign has already been rolled out on platforms such as Sky News Australia and catch-up television, resulting in more than 200,000 views by everyday Australians. Over the next few months, the campaign will continue to ramp up, with extensive coverage across online platforms and social media

However, while the early indicators are that the campaign is getting through to the right target demographics, it will need to be expanded further if it is to change enough people’s attitudes towards clean energy to have a real impact.

This is why the Clean Energy Council is calling on the entire Australian renewable energy industry to get behind the campaign to get it seen by enough Australians to once and for all tip the balance in favour of renewable energy.

With enough resources, the campaign will have a sustained multimedia presence spanning free-to-air TV, online video and outdoor advertising, giving it the best possible opportunity to convince Australians of our industry’s enormous benefits.

Renewable Energy is Here Now is an exciting new phase for the Australian renewable energy industry. For the first time, it will project our industry onto the lives of everyday Australians, allowing us to promote the remarkable gains already made by the industry and the unprecedented opportunities that lie ahead. By doing so, we can permanently shift the narrative surrounding Australia’s energy transition, enabling us to further accelerate towards a clean energy future.

Visit the Clean Energy Council’s website to watch the commercials and become a contributor to the campaign.

Kane Thornton is chief executive officer of the Clean Energy Council.

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