Personal touch persuades farmers to back renewables, says survey

Farmers are more likely to install renewable energy projects on their land if they have face-to-face meetings with industry experts, according to a survey published yesterday.

Agricultural land makes up 70% of the UK, comprising more than 248,000 farms. However, research published earlier this year revealed that despite 95% of farmers believing renewable energy plays a vital role in the UK’s farming future, 42% were holding back from making an investment due to confusion over there options.

In response London-based PR agency CCgroup spoke to 130 farmers and landowners about the information they needed to make decisions on investing in renewables, and how they best liked to receive this information.

CCgroup broke down the respondents to its survey, the results of which were published yesterday in the report “How to speak so farmers and landowners listen”, into three groups: “Converts” – those who have already invested in renewables and accounted for 47% of respondents; “Believers” - those considering making an investment (39%); and “Latecomers” – those that have yet to consider investing in renewables (14%).

The PR firm’s research found that the top preference among Converts and Latecomers for how they receive their information was through a personal discussion with an expert. For Believers, i.e. those who are close to making an investment decision for the first time, statistics, facts and figures along with income and energy calculators were vital to helping them take the plunge.

Lack of understanding around the finances involved with renewables – specifically the idea that financial returns don’t justify the investment – was also given as the top reason among Latecomers as to why they haven’t considered investing in renewables so far.

Engagement with trade organisations like farming unions and industry magazines was also revealed as vital for renewables developers, as these were among the most trusted sources of information for respondents.

“As it stands, the information needed to answer fundamental questions for farmers and landowners is quite simply lacking,” said CCgroup head of Clean Technology Charlotte Webster.

“Renewable energy companies are not making it simple to invest. Overcoming this barrier holds huge potential for farmers, landowners, renewable energy businesses and the wider green economy. But to realise this potential businesses must get their communications right.”