24.03.2023 | Interview on the BRIDGE Stakeholder Characterization survey with Andreas Corusa from Platone consortium partner B.A.U.M.

Stakeholder engagement is essential to ensure that all parties involved are aligned and work together towards achieving a sustainable and secure energy system. To improve stakeholder engagement and develop future strategies, a large-scaled survey is paving the path for a process developing a coherent and coordinated definition of stakeholder types, investigating their possible roles and parameters for engagement. To learn more about the idea of the survey, the coordinator of the survey, Andreas Corusa from Platone consortium partner B.A.U.M. Consult, will share insights with us:
Andreas Corusa, how was the idea born to create such a survey?
We have been working for many years on the question of how stakeholders can be meaningfully and constructively involved in the design of the energy system. In this context, we are also active in the working group on Customer Engagement in the European Commission´s BRIDGE initiative which unites Horizon 2020 Smart Grid and Energy Storage Projects. Since 2022 B.A.U.M. leads the Topic Group 2 "Stakeholder characterization” which is closely connected with Topic Group 1 "Effective strategies for engagement” to secure development, adaption, and alignment. B.A.U.M. has initiated the development of a stakeholder characterisation survey to provide a detailed description of all types of stakeholders in the energy system, irrespective of organizational type or individual identity. By creating a comprehensive stakeholder map, we can gain a better understanding of their needs and ultimately identify stakeholder clusters.
What are typical hurdles on stakeholder engagement, do you have examples from associated projects?

E.g., let´s look at the barriers hindering the widespread establishment of local flexibility markets in terms of customer engagement: Four obstacles to customer engagement in local flexibility markets were identified during one of our discussions: impact on lifestyle, change in costs and potential revenues as well as regulatory barriers. The traditionally low involvement in the electricity industry has become more interactive and visible, requiring a shift in involvement strategies. Four target areas for policy action and engagement strategies were identified: education and communication action plans, incentives for hard-to-reach groups, conflict of interest management, and application of behavioural research.
Stakeholder engagement is a broad approach. Could you explain with some examples which stakeholders are addressed in cases of engagement and how this engagement would look like?

Sure! Stakeholder engagement is the process of involving and collaborating with individuals or groups who may be affected by or have an interest in a particular project, policy, or decision. I’ll give you two examples where the needs of stakeholders might seem similar, but the approach can be very different:
Two stakeholders that might seem similar at first glance are environmental NGOs and renewable energy companies. Both stakeholders have an interest in promoting clean and renewable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions. However, the engagement strategies for these two groups can be very different. For environmental NGOs, the engagement strategy might involve consultation and collaboration throughout a co-creational decision-making process. They may be consulted on proposed projects, given access to data and information, and invited to participate in stakeholder face-to-face meetings. The aim of this approach is to ensure that their concerns and interests are taken into account, and that the project aligns with the values and goals of the organization. On the other hand, the engagement strategy for renewable energy companies might involve more active partnership and involvement. These companies may be involved in the design, development, and implementation of energy projects. They may also be responsible for financing, constructing, and maintaining renewable energy facilities. The aim of this approach is to create a mutually beneficial partnership where the renewable energy companies can benefit financially while contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions and achieving their sustainability goals.
In conclusion, stakeholder engagement is a critical aspect of any project or decision-making process. It ensures that the concerns and interests of all stakeholders are taken into account, and that decisions are made with the support and involvement of key stakeholders. The engagement strategies for different stakeholders may vary depending on their needs and interests, and it's important to tailor the approach accordingly.

How many types of stakeholders have you identified for the survey?

It is evident that developing effective strategies for a diverse group of stakeholders is even more complex than addressing a single stakeholder. Taking this into consideration, we have identified over 200 stakeholder variations within the energy system, all of which are incorporated in our survey. To categorize the stakeholders, we refer to them as so called "personas". Personas are fictional characters created to represent different segments stakeholders in the energy system. In our research they are described by collecting and analysing data of different experiences when engaging with them. Personas are an effective way to ensure that we look at the people behind organizations which will help in understanding them and their needs better.

What happens in the survey with the identified personas?

After selecting their personas, participants proceed to recount their experiences with them, detailing various aspects of engagement such as current and future activities and tasks, barriers, and drivers for engagement, as well as the best means of communication. The data collected is condensed into a profile for each persona, consolidating all experiences into the most statistically relevant points to provide a concise summary.

How many characterisations have been created so far?

Thus far, we have accumulated more than 370 characterizations of personas. While this may appear to be a substantial number, it is important to note that there are over 200 unique persona variations. Consequently, we will need to gather significantly more data to describe personas as accurately as possible.

How will the results be published?

The results are expected to be published on a freely accessible database and should help the development of future strategies of engagement with a high variety of stakeholders involved in the future flexible energy system. Our vision is to create an interactive database where individuals can select which stakeholders they want to engage with, and filter the results based on combined persona attributes.
Additionally, we are exploring the prospect of collaborating with another BRIDGE working group to develop the first step of applying the learnings into engagement strategies.

What will happen with the results – how are they valuable for further work? How could this work look like?

As previously stated, the open database will guarantee the utilization of acquired knowledge not only during but also after the project duration. I believe this could become the primary tool for engaging with specific stakeholders in the energy system, regardless of their membership in a consortium or target group. The level of detail in persona profiling has not been achieved to this extent before. By implementing this knowledge, it will aid in the effective development of stakeholder engagement strategies, as it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of all involved stakeholders. This will ensure that all parties are in agreement and working towards accomplishing shared objectives. We have taken the next appropriate measures by integrating this knowledge into the strategy engagements that have already been developed within BRIDGE. Stay tuned!

Last but not least: The survey (and the database) lives through your input. Please help us learn more about stakeholders in the energy system with you participation. Feel free to distribute the link within your networks!

Developing sustainable stakeholder engagement strategies

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