In the phase of the project definition, the aspects of chapter 3 (Context Analysis) in deliverable D1.4 play an important role, since the context analysis is a task that runs parallel with the phase of project definition. All existing information regarding the energy supply, the already existing supply networks and the subsurface are usually collated in order to ascertain whether the possibility of a geothermal system actually exists.
Getting familiar with the legal situation as well as getting in touch with the responsible authorities such as the respective agencies, the mayor, the district councillors and ministries or local press representatives can be considered as a main task. Depending on the dimension of the project, other authorities may need to be involved.
The announcement of the project can be useful not only for the authorities, but also for the citizens. In particular, it could be beneficial to give first thoughts to public relations. A first goal for public relations work in this phase could be to convey the visions for the project and the instruments with which these are intended to achieve to those people who are participants of the project. It should not be forgotten to also mention the possible consequences of the project. Communication is a task that occurs permanently in all project phases, but especially in the definition phase, when it comes to shaping the project, the citizens should already receive information to have the possibility to think about the first plans, to develop an attitude and to make a contribution by giving their opinion which can be consulted and obtained by those directly involved in the project planning. Citizens should be given the opportunity to help shape the project in its very early stage.
It can be considered to look for professional support from the field of communication or mediation to reach a higher quality for public relations. The exchange with project managers from successfully established projects can also be helpful for structuring the own public participation.
What can also be important for the communication work in this phase is to make sure the provided information about the project is correct and factual. Access to information materials should by no means be laborious, but as easy as possible. Among other things, it is helpful to ensure diverse communication channels in order to reach as many citizens as possible since they all prioritize different channels. Possible examples of channels would be newspapers, websites or social media.
On the one hand, they should be informed about the benefits of the system, what advantages and opportunities it can bring so that it at best does not only convince those with no scepticism, on the other hand however, as already noted, the risks should not stay unmentioned. If one mentions risks, it is always advisable to also provide information about the technical side of the system so that the procedure becomes more understandable and the recipient can come to a subjectively more elaborate risk assessment (compare chapter 5 in D1.4, communication regarding risk and conflict prevention).
In addition to guaranteeing information, far-reaching transparency is also important for successful public participation, which is among other things achieved through a high degree of information dissemination, handling things that concern the project openly and the possibility to get into discussion.
What should also be considered in this phase is active citizen participation, for example through participation of the municipality in the project itself or through a connection to local heating networks so that citizens can be joint users of the energy generated.
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