Green hydrogen projects are likely to raise high expectations and hopes for clean energy, money, and jobs in host countries. It is critical that project developers start engaging local communities early and deeply. Communities should be consulted from the outset and need to know that they are heard, understood and valued throughout the project to obtain a social license to operate.
To engage more broadly with citizens in the entire country in which a project is located, transparency of key project information is an effective route of building country-wide support for specific projects and for the industry as a whole. In the oil, gas and mining sectors, transparency of project information has included making the main agreement between the host state and the project sponsor publicly available, as well as payments made under those contracts and all major environmental and social impact assessment documentation.
One mechanism that projects have used is in other industries is having a contract directly with impacted communities. These are often referred to as Community Development Agreements or Local Benefit Agreements. This involves the project sponsor directly negotiating and agreeing on rights, roles, responsibilities and dispute resolution mechanisms directly with impacted communities. Such agreements can be helpful to a project as the community then has firm commitments about what it will receive and how to address grievances in a way that they themselves have agreed to.
The guidance on community consultation and transparency presents international standards, guidelines and good practices for governments and project developers that can be applied to green hydrogen projects. It proposes model clauses relating to compliance with environmental and social standards, social impact assessment and plans, anti-corruption, local development agreements and transparency.