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Increasing policy makers' awareness and the public acceptance - Athens, Greece, Workshop6
Increasing policy makers' awareness and the public acceptance - Athens, Greece, Workshop6
13-14 September 2007 Hotel Holiday Inn, Athens, Greece
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Fair-minded communication in good times pays-off in times of crisis – Experiences of the GFZ research project Gross Schoenebeck, Germany
The development of renewable energies is not only a technological process, but 
also highly politically and emotionally charged. Lack of information, distrust and 
ignorance of public fears can cause major problems up to complete failure of a 
project. Therefore an open-minded communication and information strategy 
based on longterm considerations is imperative to initiate public and private 
understanding and to build confidence in this complex process.

In Germany geothermal energy enjoys a positive image in general. Geothermal 
heat production took a successful development within the last years attracting 
broad public interest. But also EGS research projects focusing on the feasibility 
of geothermal power production receive active public and political support. The 
project at Gross-Schoenebeck Northeast of Berlin is one of the pioneering  EGS 
R&D projects in Germany, supported by public funding since 2000. 

The presentation shows experiences of the project, which started at a time 
when the potential and the chances of geothermal energy were not yet really 
obvious in this region. The location of the wells amid a UNESCO biosphere 
reserve in Germany, a favoured hunting ground and recreation area - how to 
convince people that geothermal research activities in such an area are worthy 
to be supported? Once the political will was established, the challenge was to 
involve and convince the people in charge of the biosphere reserve, local 
politicians and authorities, the local forestry administration and last not least 
the neighbouring community. All of these groups needed different arguments 
and approaches to not only tolerate but actually support the endeavour. 
Environmental and forestry concerns were dealt with by agreeing to plant new 
trees in another area close to the nature reserve. The local population is 
constantly informed about the progress. The importance of and international 
attention created by the project are communicated at public hearings in town 
halls, open days at the site and frequent meetings with town officials. A good 
basis for communication has been developed by establishing a personal 
dialogue on different levels, communicating the chances and risks of 
geothermal research and involving people via public events, on-site field-work 
presentations and media information. 

Problems arose when seismic tests were carried out that reached beyond the 
well-informed core community. The explosions frightened pepole, leading to 
critical news coverage in the local media. These incidents during the exploration 
experiment in the framework of the European I-GET project, carried out in 
January 2006 in the surroundings of Groß Schönebeck, caused a critical 
situation and highly emotional reactions in the region. An immediately installed 
telephone help-line, on-site personal contacts and an open information 
campaign helped to better understand the specific regional situation and to 
limit the damage. However, this problem showed how negligence in prior 
information can cause a sudden erosion of local support. Prior information not 
only through local newspapers but also at he town hall level, informing every 
mayor and police station in the region personally turned out to be 
indispensable measures that could have avoided the critical situation.          

In general, after 7 years of research activities, series of in situ testing and 
drilling operations, the project Groß Schönebeck enjoys today public credibility 
and a high degree of confidence.

The experiences outlined above showed that successful communication needs 
to clearly identify what is important to the target audience you are attempting 
to reach. To address their concerns, it is necessary to keep in mind the regional 
and social situation and to take people seriously in their specific environment. 
Demographics such as the local identity, education, economics, social and 
political affiliation will affect how people receive and perceive messages and 
how they will participate in the process. The public should be informed 
comprehensively about the project at each stage as actual as possible via
- online web presentations
- project brochures and newsletters
- local newspapers, tv and radio considering the site-specific media     
- scientists go public - open days, site presentations, public hearings	
- personal contacts and frequent meetings with town officials	
- by actively initiating talks with sceptic and critic groups.
Id: 15
Place: Hotel Holiday Inn, Athens, Greece
50 Michalacopoulou st, 11528, Athens
Room: Cosmos B, C
Starting date:
13-Sep-2007   12:40
Duration: 20'
Primary Authors: SPALEK, Angela (GFZ Potsdam)
Co-Authors: BRUHN, David (GFZ Potsdam)
MOECK, Inga (GFZ Potsdam)
HUENGES, Ernst (GFZ Potsdam)
Presenters: SPALEK, Angela
Material: slides Slides

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