June 15, 2015 at 5:00 am ET
Renewable energy technologies are succeeding at increasingly lower prices, and are creating jobs and empowering communities in the process. Most of this has been made possible in just over a decade. That’s not just a success, it’s a triumph. And it’s time we told that story.
The economic case for more renewable power development is stronger than ever. The costs of wind and solar power have both fallen by about 50 percent in the past five years, according to the asset management firm Lazard. Studies from state governments and grid operators show that wind generation is undercutting more expensive new fossil fuel generation, saving consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.
And the renewable energy industries are adding thousands of new jobs each year in construction, installation, and operations. Well over 300,000 Americans are now employed in the renewable power sector.
But members of the renewable energy business community need to be more vocal about these achievements. We need to communicate in order to inspire. We should be telling this story to reporters, politicians, fellow business people, and our neighbors and friends – because most people really don’t know the facts. Now that renewables are becoming mainstream, we need to raise our voices and level the playing field with forward thinking, stable policy.
Industry involvement was a major theme at the American Wind Energy Association’s recent WINDPOWER 2015 conference in Orlando, Florida. In his address, incoming AWEA Board Chair Mike Garland challenged the wind industry to become more vocal and get the word out about wind energy.
Wharton School of Business professor Jonah Berger, author of “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” also spoke at the conference. Berger urged the industry to learn to advocate for its positions in unique ways. The most powerful advocacy is personal storytelling, Berger said, stressing that the wind industry needs to learn to tell its story.
A Renewable America (ARA), a project of the Wind Energy Foundation, is one initiative that is working to help train and empower the renewables industry with the tools needed to get this message out.
“You have to engage the public, [and] you have to engage decision-makers,” said John Kostyack, executive director of the Wind Energy Foundation.
“For those people who are not all that comfortable with public speaking, we want to work with you and increase your comfort level. We’re going to do some training events; we’re going to provide materials,” Kostyack said at the conference.
“We’re going to get you to the point where you‘re willing to go out and meet with your local chamber of commerce, meet with your governor, whatever level of decision-maker or media you’re ready to engage with, we’re ready to help you,” he added.
It’s also vital that the renewable energy industries band together. While wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, and waste-to-energy have differences in scale, cost, and policy need, we’re more alike than we are different.
Upcoming seminars that Wind on the Wires is helping plan in Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota will help businesses in these industries equip themselves with the tools they need.
Driving a message into the public consciousness takes diligent work. The renewable power sector has a great economic message, and experience has shown that businesses are the best messengers. To secure longterm policy stability for our industries, we will need to work together to deliver a consistent message over and over again until the opinions of policymakers and the public catch up with the reality that we see in our everyday work.
Kevin Borgia is a Public Policy Manager for Wind on the Wires, a wind power advocacy group working in nine Midwest states. He can be reached at email@example.com.