Case Study:

NextEra Energy

NextEra Energy (NEER) is a Florida-based energy company that, by market capitalization, is the largest electric utility holding company in the U.S. With its affiliates, NEER is the world’s largest generator of wind and solar energy.

The situation

As part of the company’s ongoing effort to expand its renewable energy capacity, NEER was seeking to locate large-scale, utility-grade solar energy installations in Southeast Michigan. To accomplish this objective, it was necessary for the company to secure the passage of ordinances and land use permits by local governing authorities. But first, it was imperative to earn the confidence and trust of residents, community leaders, and decision makers in the proposed project area.

In early 2022, GPS Influence  was retained by NEER to launch an awareness and education campaign, focusing on those leaders and decision makers who could further drive the narrative on the benefits of solar energy, and what these projects bring to the community. Simultaneously, it was necessary to counter efforts by a small anti-renewable energy faction seeking to derail the project through covert means and a dubious disinformation campaign.

Our approach

GPS Influence immediately deployed a team member with deep relationships in the project area who is knowledgeable about the inner workings of government at the township level. Through existing personal contacts and conversations with community leaders at the grasstops level, GPS developed profiles of the key decision makers and proceeded to organize meetings with NEER representatives. These positive relationships were further leveraged to arrange presentations by NEER to key community and civic organizations. GPS also provided the NEER team with the necessary background and intelligence reports profiling local attitudes and perceptions of solar energy, as well as the key disinformation disseminated by the opposition – along with the facts and a strategy to refute those allegations.

GPS has also attended meetings of governmental bodies pertinent to the approval of solar energy projects, providing information when warranted while maintaining a profile appropriate for the venue and status of the project. GPS continues to monitor local media on a daily basis, with materials prepared in advance to immediately respond to errors, misstatements, or disinformation.

The results

After just a few months GPS, working closely with the NEER team, has logged dozens of one-on-one meetings with a variety of community thought leaders representing local government, education, business, agriculture, education, and the faith community, to name a few. Laying this groundwork has assisted in conversations with decision makers at the planning and governing levels, and as the enabling ordinances have worked their way through the process, a plurality of voting members have already indicated support.

Community proponents of renewable energy have taken the initiative and submitted opinion pieces and letters to the editor in support of solar projects in the region, with minimal opposition. GPS remains ready to respond to any negative activism with letters of support, letters to the editor, opinion columns, and fact sheets, along with an enthusiastic group of supporters willing to deploy them at a moment’s notice.