The Earning Local Support Academy

Enabling commercial renewable energy projects to co-exist with community well-being

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In today's increasingly complex and low trust world, securing broad community insights, permission and support for projects with potential impacts on their host community is not just beneficial - it is essential for success. This is one of the fast-growing needs within project development, and indeed, to secure the Just Transition / Transformation.

 

This growing imperative within project development demands a proactive approach, earning community buy-in, or revisions, before the design phase advances beyond concept.

 

The Earning Local Support Academy (ELSA) helps both developers and the host communities to mobilise the required leadership, frameworks and skill-sets to make this happen.

 

The need for ELSA: enabling meaningful engagement

Achieving a Just Transition requires a delicate balance: on one side, the imperative of renewable energy generation; on the other, the support of community cohesion and local sustainable development. This is not resolved by developers simply presenting their projects for 'consultation'. Today, many communities feel sidelined, bearing the brunt of renewable projects without a voice in the discussion, pushing them towards opposition as a means to be heard.

If we want to ensure that renewable energy's future is as bright and inclusive as its Just Transition promises to be, we need to set this balance right. This is a core element of ELSA’s focus.

The need for ELSA: enabling meaningful engagement

"We lack the expertise in community dialogue; our strength as an industry lies in engineering, business, PR and public affairs."

(Project Developer)

ELSA: A catalyst for collaborative renewable energy projects

ELSA: A catalyst for collaborative renewable energy projects

ELSA stands as a beacon for transforming the landscape of renewable energy development. Our mission is to foster a paradigm shift towards inclusive, collaborative project design, ensuring that both national energy objectives and community sustainability goals are harmoniously met.

We recognise the gaps that often exist between developers and communities. To bridge these, ELSA delivers targeted capacity-building programs, equipping stakeholders with the mindset, processes and skills necessary for successful co-design. This approach not only addresses everyone's concerns, but also paves the way for projects where all parties emerge as winners, fostering an environment devoid of opposition and rich in cooperation.

 

ELSA's priority: sustainable wins for all

  • Win for the country: The important national targets are met.
  • Win for neighbours: The wellbeing of residents and their local environment is protected and enhanced.
  • Win for developers: Projects are optimised to be locally supported in a way that significantly minimises financial risks and project delays.
  • Inclusivity and Respect: All stakeholders feel genuinely heard, respected and valued, and thereby become vocal advocates for the Just Transition.
ELSA's priority: sustainable wins for all

“If wind projects are about energy security, and attracting investors - then let’s openly say that, rather than say we need to accept them - good, bad, or ugly - because we need them to save the planet. Then let’s ensure that the host communities and environments are also properly protected, and that irresponsible projects are stopped early."

(Host community member)

A beacon of trust in the renewable energy landscape

ELSA is built on:

  • Expertise and Best Practices: Powered by AstonECO's two decades of leadership in community partnership and project development, ELSA embodies international best practices and an evidence-based approach, setting a gold standard in the sector.
  • Academic and Institutional Support: Our initiatives are rigorously peer-reviewed by the University of Galway and supported by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), reinforcing our dedication to credibility and excellence.
  • Strategic Partnerships for Broader Impact: Aligned with national strategies like 'Our Rural Future' and European programs such as LEADER, ELSA collaborates with a diverse network of local communities, development companies, and forward-thinking developers across Ireland and beyond. These partnerships are at the heart of our strategy to drive sustainable development and community empowerment.

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ELSA Blog

Renewable energy is quickly becoming part of our lives and the landscape we live in. This means many lives are directly being impacted by renewable energy developments and more and more will be in the future. In a growing number of cases these developments get rejected by the host communities, by the people who will have to live with the development. The reason for this is often miscommunication and a lack of proper engagement. ELSA will provide the tools and support to build a bridge between the developer and the members of the host community.
ELSA is the Earning Local Support Academy, a project by AstonECO Management. The transition towards renewable energy is a pressing agenda globally and nationally, and Ireland stands at a pivotal juncture in its journey towards energy security and decarbonization. Despite the positive strides, communities at the grassroots level often find themselves at odds with developers, feeling that their concerns and aspirations are being sidelined. The ELSA project is working to address this.
At the core of the Earning Local Support Academy (ELSA) is a new mindset, a powerful set of skills and the opportunity to create a successful, inclusive and sustainable future for everybody. ELSA does that through a process called Smart Engagement which delivers Smart Projects: projects that are financially successful, technically sound, environmentally compatible and socially supported. Projects that are wanted by all stakeholders.
Many developers see early community engagement as a risk mitigation tool to prevent opposition later, so as to protect their larger investment. However, the process required to earn local support, when conducted properly, offers much more than just ‘pain management’. It offers a range of benefits for both the community and the developer.
Developers and governments fear community empowerment in renewable energy co-design due to risks of lost control, higher costs, and project delays. Effective, transparent engagement strategies are essential to bridge these divides.
ELSA's Co-Design revolutionises renewable energy projects by enhancing community-developer relations, ensuring project acceptance through stakeholder collaboration and empathetic strategies.