The global energy transition towards renewable and sustainable resources has been nudged by institutions such as the UN setting universal standards for social and environmental welfare, and external shocks have questioned the current standards of operation. As they show a pressing necessity to (not only) address issues like climate change, several clusters of organizations, and institutions have started to come together to tackle this challenge.

By “transforming the environmental crisis from a problem into an opportunity” (Fabrizio Di Amato, CEO of Maire Tecnimont during a talk about Leadership at LUISS in Rome), various industries have developed promising solutions like the production of green hydrogen and more.
However, some of these technologies remain costly, and more solutions are needed at a faster pace. The EU has financed and granted several European initiatives like the introduction of hydrogen valleys. Recently, the Important Projects of Common European Interests (IPCEI) (a European Union framework that supports large-scale, transnational projects in strategic industries, like the energy infrastructure) has granted NextChem, an Italian leader in energy transition technologies, and a subsidiary of the Maire Group, 194 € million, as part of the “IPCEI Hy2USE” EU project, for the development of one of the first Waste to Hydrogen plant in the world. The goal of the project is to set up the first industrial-scale technology hub for the development of the entire national hydrogen supply chain.
Projects which include plants like these use specific technologies to transform waste into hydrogen and/or other industrial products and represent a promising solution to address both waste management and energy transition challenges. By converting waste into valuable products, different transformational processes can be applied, and all this, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing landfill use, and contributing to renewable energy production.

However, as with other infrastructure projects, like the infamous project of subway building in the Netherlands, they can often be met with community resistance. Concerns about potential impacts on health, the environment, property values, and aesthetics can lead to delays in project approvals, increased costs, and even project cancelations. Coined as the NIMBY syndrome (Not In My Back Yard), communities are often rooting for innovative solutions, as long as they are not close to them.

So, what can be done?

When planning the construction of a plant, the use of digital technologies can limit the environmental impact of the design and experimentation (for example through 3D mappings, like digital twins). But the actual construction of such projects needs strong incentives to attract stakeholders.

Even though this list is not extensive, there are several ways in which companies are adopting a proactive strategy to get various people and institutions on board:

  1. Engaging and including them early on in the decision-making process by maintaining open and transparent communication throughout the implementation and activity of the project.
  2. By collaborating with research institutions and other leaders in the field, projects can gain increasing legitimacy, for instance through grants and scientific outputs.
  3. Collaboration with local organizations and communities: while research centers and higher institutions advocate for the technology itself and the benefit it provides at a broader level, partnering with local organizations like NGOs and community leaders can help gain insights into community concerns and use their networks to facilitate communication.

While these are just general comments that I have been able to observe throughout my research, the energy sector remains a highly debated sector, undergoing major changes. Thus, there is a lot more to it than communication and engagement, and preparing the field to build an ecosystem infrastructure around a green transition can be very complex. With the most promising efforts, projects can still fail. Factual information may provide the technical arguments that speak for the plant, but effective stakeholder engagement fosters trust, cooperation, and shared value among different participants and could help create a supportive environment for problem-solving and innovation.


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