A Handy Guide to Preventing Renewable Energy Developments

 The art to making sure that you never have to look at a solar panel or wind turbine

Use our tips to never have to see anything like this near you. Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

Inspired by Mattie Brignal’s wonderful article in the Telegraph on how to be a great NIMBY, to which he kindly invited us to contribute but which we only saw too late, we’re sharing the lessons we’ve learned whilst fighting on the side of climate change against the proposed Botley West solar farm. 

As you’ll know, Botley West threatens to damage our views and make our hearts sad, and all it will do is form part of the renewable energy mix we need to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible. That's just not good enough for our liking, so we've put our heads together over a bottle of Dubonnet so that other campaign groups like us can get a headstart!

So here’s twelve lessons we’ve learned, all ready for you to bring them to bear whenever someone near you decides that they want to sully your lovely views.

Whether you’re fighting to stop a large solar farm or eighteen wind turbines on your favourite hills, don’t forget the useful phrase “it’s just too big”. The actual size of the project doesn’t matter - what really matters is the vibes.

It doesn’t matter if something is 2,500 acres, 1,144 acres or 30 acres, anything can be “too big” for your local area if you just say it loudly enough.

If, god forbid, someone like those tree-huggers at the UN point out that a realistic response to the urgency of the climate emergency means that we need to urgently decarbonise the energy system as quickly as we can, then suggest all of the other methods we can use to do that. Let other people bear the brunt of the infrastructure needed to minimise the worst impacts of climate change: the problem might be huge, but the solutions you’re willing to bear are small!

As you bumble along setting up your facebook groups and calling all your contacts at whatever passes for a local newspaper near you, you may get some ridiculous stick-in-the-muds pointing out things like ‘evidence’ and ‘research’ suggesting that as a species we only have a very limited time to reduce carbon emissions, and that we don’t have time to wait for whatever alternative you’re willing to accept (ideally a long way away). You have three options here:

This simple word is going to become your best new friend: it’s a hugely useful tool when it comes to sidestepping awkward questions or bringing otherwise-uncertain people onside. Practise these phrases before you talk to journalists or fence-sitters: 

It doesn’t even matter what you say after the but: friendly listeners will think you’re being reasonable, even though you’re actually refusing to engage with difficult topics. It’s like a magic trick!

People will believe basically anything if you repeat it often enough. Misinformation is not just fun, it's easy to spread! For a great example of this in practice, have a look at this BBC News article, in which the CPRE says of the proposed Botley West solar power plant: “It’s not actually worth doing, the construction and transportation alone will leave such a high carbon footprint that it may never pay back”. 

Is this true? No! All of the evidence shows that solar panels pay back the carbon cost of their manufacture and installation within a few years! But because people like us and the CPRE have said it repeatedly for months, it sounds like it might be true, and that’s much more important to campaigns like ours than reality.

If the casual observer suspects that all your group does is obstruct (even if that may technically be true, if you’re looking at it from a reality-based outcome-focused approach, like some kind of postmodernist woke millennial), they may not be so keen to support your project. So if you can offer an alternative option, you’ll come out looking reasonable!

Our friends at the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England are great at this. When everyone and their dog started saying that large-scale solar farms would have to be built as part of the UK’s mix of renewable energy infrastructure, they jumped right into action with a plan of their own: focus on putting solar on roofs and object to anything else until that’s finished. 

It doesn’t matter that only putting solar on roofs rather than also building ground-mounted installations slows down the transition from fossil fuels - that’s a problem for the future! All that’s important is today - whatever happens tomorrow is for other people to handle. So feel free to ignore the little voice in your head which suggests that it might be unethical to mislead people about the available responses to the climate emergency.

And it doesn’t matter that relying on rooftop solar alone is like trying to put out a house fire by getting a bunch of villagers to bring buckets from the river instead of using a fire engine - catchy slogans do more than reducing emissions ever can!

Some of your opponents are going to ask awkward questions if it turns out that some of your Facts and Evidence are inaccurate, misunderstandings, or just straight-up nonsense. They might even take the time to fact check you, and then ask questions at public meetings. Don’t worry about this!

Your real supporters, the ones who’ll challenge their friends at social events about whether they support “that awful thing which will ruin our fields”, won’t care about that. They’re not looking for evidence: they’re looking for an outlet for their constructed self-image as a Defender of Nature. After all, they’re not selfishly protecting their local views, they’re protecting the local rural environment from destruction! Is it their fault that it’s indistinguishable from what they’d do if they were solely motivated by self-interest?

Dinner parties are an excellent opportunity to ensure your friends know the latest misinformation. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash 

Even though most of your supporters will be Telegraph readers or have a longstanding subscription to the Daily Mail, sometimes it’s a better tactical decision to keep a veil of plausible deniability over certain opinions: some of your supporters will have an affinity for the Independent or even, god forbid, The Guardian and you don’t want them to be scared if someone gets a little bit open about their views about That Net Zero Thing.

This means that you need to never let the mask slip in a written form. Remember: you support renewable energy in the right place! (A long way away from you). If you do write things down, people might do something horrible like accurately quote you, or take screenshots of what you’ve written, and that’s basically libel. It’s much better to use the power of ‘but’ to make sure that people who claim to care about the environment think you’re on their side, while your more swivel-eyed supporters can know that you’re perfectly happy to delay action which might prevent climate catastrophe until long after they’re dead.

Remind your supporters that “we are not climate change deniers”: they’ll need it. If you don’t, they might say things like “I still truy [sic] wish we could have a meeting to debate the question 'how bad is climate change?' -- and I would be willing to put my argument that we are being fed nothing but cobblers”, or “Enjoy life while you can, none of us will be alive in 100 years time so why worry”, or refuse to consider how your campaign to delay the development of renewable energy sources might make climate change worse for everyone.

Your opponents may not be aware that almost all of these renewable energy developments are funded and organised by the private sector, rather than in the way in which a civilisation which recognised the scale of a global-level problem would respond, by mounting a national-level programme of building renewable energy installations.

You should remind them of this!

The developer’s profit motive should sicken and appal you. These investors aren’t developing renewable energy installations simply to prevent a disaster which you’re personally downplaying and ignoring the consequences of, they’re doing it to make money! Rather than treating this as the obvious consequence of a capitalist system, you should retire to your fainting couch and demand that the solutions to the climate crisis be perfectly morally pure.

Of course, it’s just a happy coincidence that the consequence of this is that your views get to remain pure and unsullied. We’re sure that the system change you demand before you’re happy for large projects to go ahead will happen soon.

A tried and true strategy is to delay things until the developers give up and go home. This is what our friends at Stop Botley West are trying to do - they proudly said at a meeting in June 2023 that they were hoping to raise money to get lawyers to challenge everything they possibly could. Oddly enough, they haven’t found the time to write down this totally good-faith plan on their website.

Every delay helps, and they all add up to buy you more time to emit more lovely emissions. Consultation over Christmas? Well, everyone will be at parties! Summer? On holiday in Bournemouth! Spring or autumn? Can’t do it then - it’s Karen’s niece’s brother-in-law’s third dog’s birthday, how can anyone focus on opposing something with that going on?

Delaying is a great strategy, especially if you disagree with the climate scientists who say that we need action now rather than at some undefined point in the future! If you can collect enough anonymous donations, you too might be able to pay lawyers to submit complaints about just about anything! Is the consultation too short? Complain! Those dastardly developers must have missed something. Consultation too long? Complain! How can they expect anyone to read it all? 

Some people might say that delaying renewable energy developments is a surefire way to ensure that the GHG emissions from power generation continue to remain high for longer than necessary, but they’re not donating to your campaign anyway. So don’t feel any need to discuss that trade-off - your supporters don’t care!

Whether your group is trying to stop renewable energy or the infrastructure which will allow us to make the most of it, it’s very likely that most of your campaign members are those who either won’t live long enough to be much impacted by the worst of climate change, or who aren’t among the world’s poor, who are already being hit by its impacts. Sure, research suggests that 250,000 people might die unnecessarily each year from heat stress, drought, or disease, but they’ll do that somewhere far away and out of sight, unlike those blasted wind turbines or solar panels which will just stare at you constantly.

This is totally fine, and you shouldn’t worry about it. After all, older people are much more likely to vote and therefore more likely to be listened to by politicians. This makes them worth more to a campaign!

If you do decide to get some youths onside, try to make sure they’re not too old - ideally in perambulators or primary school. Any older and they have a tendency to ask awkward questions, like “aren’t the overwhelming majority of scientists screaming out loud that we need to be cutting emissions as quickly as we possibly can to avoid apocalyptic climate scenarios, granny”, or “why do you think I should have to pay 60% of my salary to live in a mouldy ground floor HMO, grandad”. Better to stick to the little cutiepies, who you can tell to look sad about losing the nice fields they’ll never walk in anyway because you’ve made sure that they’ll have to move away in twenty years because they won’t be able to afford a house.

Remember, you’re the good guys here: you’re trying to protect the environment, even if it’s only for a couple of years before the climate changes too much and then you have to quickly turn your accountant-shaped physique into a honed killing machine for the Water Wars.

You’re basically a hero! One day, if you stop enough development, someone might even put up a statue of you! Of course, they’d try and then someone like you would block it, but it’s the thought that counts.

But your opponents? Well, the only reason anyone might disagree with you, the cleverest member of your golf club, is that they’re being paid to do it: it might look like they live locally, but they’re probably some kind of elite snake fancily slithering in from That London, sneakily influencing people by suggesting that emissions aren’t super. 

So if someone starts saying something like “hey, we should build as much renewable energy as quickly as possible so we don’t fuck up the planet”, that’s evidence that they’re in the pocket of Big Renewable. 

This is such a big one, and so many anti-development groups slip up on it. Being called a NIMBY may feel like a slur, but it carries no weight if you follow one simple rule: have no shame.

If you simply stop pretending that your only interest isn’t stopping any development near you, your opponents have no power over you! What are they going to do, move into your local area and vote for a non-NIMBY candidate? You and your friends have stopped as much new housing as you can for years! They can’t buy a house if you don’t let any get built! They probably live in some grotty HMO in some urban town - why should they get any input on the things which affect their future? 

For an excellent example of openly admitting NIMBYism and it not mattering, see this Oxford Mail article, where one of Stop Botley West’s excellent supporters is quoted as saying: ““I’m not a Nimby at all. Well, in fact yes, actually I am. We don’t really want a solar farm in our location. We know we need renewable energy but this is just beyond…”

The big point

As you can see, objecting to any and all renewable energy development is easy! Of course be totally willing to accept the right proposal, in the right place. Is it your fault that these dastardly developers aren’t able to reach the goalposts which definitely, honestly exist?

Whatever you do, don’t worry about the consequences of campaigns like yours. Don’t worry about how every delay increases the amount of carbon we’re pumping out into the atmosphere, which as a consequence will cause increased disease, famine, and death. After all, the project which you’re opposing wouldn’t have stopped climate change on its own: why worry about the cumulative effect of all the campaigns like yours around the world?