Earth Month 2012
Friday Power Story
1. Growth in the renewable sector will be largely consumer driven. Much to the surprise of the early policy drivers, legislative action is now struggling to keep up with private industry development and consumer demand. While state RPS have been fairly successful so far, national renewable energy standards and other market development face tough competition with other pressing issues like healthcare, economic reform, national security and midterm elections. However, consumers who are offered a choice to purchase affordable greener energy will almost always do so. As long as we continue to make these choices easy and attractive for consumers, this behavior will serve as a major catalyst for development and ultimately change the way we view our energy sources. Viridian’s products are tailor-made to match this nuanced market demand!
2. Being “green” isn’t just about feeling good about yourself. Many private sector executives stressed the benefits of process efficiency, tax incentives, and cost savings when a corporation implements “no waste” policies and innovative energy initiatives. While goodwill is often the most marketable benefit for a company’s public image and their internal staff relations, if you’re trying to sign up a small business make sure they realize the importance of long-term investment in their future and sustainability. Consumers at home and in business alike will save money from smart choices and improvements in energy efficiency.
3. Know what being “green” means. If you understand the basics of the renewable energy markets, your Viridian sales pitch will also improve. It can be tough to sell the concept of green energy to a skeptic, but if you know your facts you will be able to provide useful and convincing information. Check out Viridian’s green page to brush up, or show customers the green market pages in your starter kit.
4. Be truthful in your green claims. While the environmental marketing frenzy of the past few years has helped put “organic” deodorant and “all natural” laundry detergent on the shelves of your local mega-mart, renewable energy isn’t just a trend. With green knowledge (point #3) comes an obligation to tell the truth. Uninformed marketers or “greenwashers” may discredit genuine green marketers like yourself, but luckily you are armed with specific knowledge about how and why your product is doing something better for the environment.
Susan Herbert, an expert in the field of environmental standards development, devoted much of her presentation to the concept of “green-washing.” Her organization helps protect consumers against bogus or vague green claims by actually digging into the sources behind them. Her advice for marketers included relying on third party certification for your claims (Green-e for example) and keeping the big picture and social complexities in mind: for example driving a car is always bad for the environment, but a car with better gas mileage is less bad.
Other highlights today included Al Forte, the Global Environment Director for ABinBev (aka Anheiser Busch). He echoed much of Sierra Nevada’s sentiment from Day 2 that companies stand to benefit beyond just a “warm and fuzzy” feeling from using better energy sources. The company has come up with innovative ways to use energy output for energy input in other processes, ultimately cutting costs.
The day started out with a basic session on Renewable Energy Markets. Speakers touched upon the current state of purchasing renewable energy in the market place, highlighting that the largest hurdle remaining for residential customers is simply awareness and price (assuming the cost is higher than the local utility). NREL estimates that 1.4 million residential customers are purchasing green energy plans and highlighted Connecticut (Viridian’s home state!) as a leader.
The keynote speaker, Elizabeth Craig of the EPA, motivated the room to make renewable energy standard practice in every home and business. She concluded the call to arms by announcing that Portland has officially been recognized as a Green Power Community. Community leaders accepted the award and discussed what will be necessary to maintain and improve beyond these early strides in renewable development.
Kathy Loftus of Whole Foods Market discuss the importance of on-site energy development, describing Whole Foods’ ambitious goals to begin using waste cooking oil to generate the store’s own energy, effectively moving “off the grid.” Other business leaders stressed that policymakers struggle to keep up with business practice, which struggles to keep up with public sentiment, which is the most powerful way to change behavior. Cheri Chastain, the impressive sustainability chairwoman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, talked about the company’s competitions between different departments to reduce electricity use. Even letting the janitors in early so that the lights are switched off an hour early saves thousands of dollars in energy costs in just a few months. In fact, their zero waste policy is tied into employees’ year-end bonuses!
Panelists from the science community, utilities, and public utility commissions discussed the future federal and state renewable energy standards. All are hopeful that ambitious renewable energy goals will continue to be met. Concerns for the long-term revolved around transmission lines keeping up with the development of wind and solar. If development continues in the wind and solar sectors, the power lines need to be built to transfer all that power into the grid.
Again the message here was all about “messaging,” as presenters posed the question, How do you bring these ideas into homes so that consumers drive the change? In the desert Southwest, energy marketing groups have partnered with the local utilities to create comic book characters called the “Renewables” who fight off villains, such as “Watt Waster.” The goal is to make kids aware of changes that need to made and have their excitement work its way up to the parents. The group has also launched a neighborhood “solar ambassador” program where Arizonians learn about the huge incentives that are available for adding solar panels onto their roof that will then provide clean power back into the grid. The ambassador helps the consumer take the leap from being interested in the program to actually installing the panels. Again driving home the message that while consumers are the ones who will lead the movement towards more renewable energy, responsible organizations like ours have to make it easy for them!
By: Emily Bjorklund
By: Emily Bjorklund