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Scaling Clean

Leading Clean Energy Thinker - Katie Mehnert

by Mike Casey on 7/3/24 10:42 AM2 min. read

My newest Scaling Clean guest is Katie Mehnert. She got her start in oil and gas, and she’s become a leading thinker and evangelist for growing the clean energy talent pool as CEO of Ally Energy, a global consultancy based in Texas. Katie’s journey through the incumbent parts of the energy sector has given her an enhanced perspective on being a clean economy CEO. 

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Building Strong Teams & Facing Challenges: Leadership Lessons from Scott Case

Overview

#Cleantechers - 

 

My recent Scaling Clean guest, Scott Case, is deeply experienced in starting successful ventures. He came to cleantech by way of Priceline, as that company’s founding Chief Technology Officer.

 

Among nearly 20 other different experiences, Scott now runs ZettaWatts, which has pioneered what it calls the “Additionality Rec Market” (AREC). It's offering fixed-price forward contracts to buy AREC from new projects under development. ZettaWatts is based in the National Capital Area, where I live and work, so it was good to have a neighbor on the show. 

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Clean Energy Leader - Stephen Lacey

by Mike Casey on 3/28/24 3:44 PM2 min. read

#Cleantechers –

My most recent Scaling Clean guest is someone I’ve known for 20 years, Stephen Lacey, who has a perspective on clean economy like no other. 

He’s covered our sector as an editor and early podcaster at Renewable Energy World, then editor-in-chief for Greentech Media, and now he's the founder of a new media and research company, Latitude Media. Stephen's not only covered our CEO audience, he's joined their ranks as a founder.

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On Scaling Clean, we have the pleasure of interviewing people with a variety of backgrounds. One less-represented experience on our podcast are PhD-ers turned CEOs.

That’s why I’m excited to talk to Mahesh Konduru, who is the former CEO and now board chair of ProSep, a global energy services company focused on water treatment and chemical efficiency.

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Following a string of successes over the last few years, the clean energy landscape looks extremely bright. Last December in Paris, 196 countries, working with major corporations, agreed to a historic deal to address the challenges of climate disruption by limiting carbon pollution to 2 degrees C or less.

Congress also recently passed a five-year extension of both the wind Production Tax Credit and the solar Investment Tax Credit, which will create a reliable and predictable market environment that encourages growth and investment.

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This article was updated in October 2023 to reflect the most recent industry developments.

We had the pleasure to go on the Growth Secrets Podcast with host Reade Milner. Reade runs an intriguing marketing consulting practice in Atlanta that helps a range of businesses market better.

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#Cleantechers —

In a tight labor market, how should clean economy companies acquire talent? I recently interviewed Paige Carratturo, the San Francisco-based co-founder of “talent venture” company Sea-Change. Paige’s firm provides broad talent acquisition services to investors, their portfolio companies, and several Fortune 500 companies.  

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Electric Power Industry Leader - Hala Ballouz

by Mike Casey on 9/13/23 12:48 PM2 min. read

#Cleantechers-

In our most recent Scaling Clean episode, we talk with Hala Ballouz, who has spent the last 15 years growing Electric Power Engineers – EPE, as it’s known among developers – from a consultancy of 10 staff to a national presence of over 200 grid connection experts.

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As promised, we have a Part II with the brilliant Tom Starrs. Tom’s interview was so rich in information on cleantech government affairs and communications that we split this episode into two parts. 

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#Cleantechers –

Ever started a book that was so interesting, you couldn't put it down? There are people like that, too. And a delightfully large number of them work in a clean economy.

Tom Starrs is one of those.

On Scaling Clean, we typically interview CEOs, investors, and external advisors to companies. Today we're interviewing somebody who has not only been a CEO, he’s also advised other CEOs on marketing and public affairs. This is something he continues to do at his present employer, EDP Renewables.

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Community Engagement Expert - Dahvi Wilson

by Mike Casey on 9/7/23 5:52 PM2 min. read

As we mark the one-year milestone of the Inflation Reduction Act, resistance to the clean energy shift is arising, significantly propelled by a gas industry uninterested in us taking its market share. 

Among the nine big barriers to the clean energy transition, many see permitting as a first among equals.

I saw this as an ideal moment to talk to a long-time ally and fellow traveler, Dahvi Wilson.

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#Cleantechers working in community engagement for projects – If you’d like to see how big-budget, mature corporations run their local public affairs, please check out our conversation with someone who’s spent over a decade running grasstops campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. We think there are portable lessons to learn, despite the significant differences in budget levels. 

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If you want a boring guest, you should skip this episode. My guest has worked in over 10 countries on three continents – in the private sector, non-profits and in government across multiple cleantech sectors. After all of that, you might expect David Arfin would be picked to star in the next round of Dos Equis commercials as “The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

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By Melissa Baldwin and Mike Casey

Most clean economy businesses need to build profiles for both their company and individual members of their executive teams. Their reasons vary, often by where the company is in the business life cycle. We find a lot of our clients’ profile building needs clusters at these points: 

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Over the last 17 years, Nick Cohen has held leadership positions in five companies, with four of them in clean energy. He's now the president and CEO of Doral Renewables USA, which is developing the appropriately named Mammoth solar project at 1.3 gigawatts. It will be America's largest utility scale solar farm. I've wanted Nick on the show since I first talked with him last year.

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3rd CTLR Cleantech Investors Roundtable

by Mike Casey on 6/16/23 12:59 PM1 min. read

We recently completed our third investors roundtable working with our friends at CTLR (@Cleantech Leaders Roundtable). We had a great roster that included:

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South America's Largest Solar Project

Quite the contrast this week.

While Yahoo News reported, "The head of the International Energy Agency issued a stark warning to long-term investors, arguing against investing in international oil and gas companies because of mounting reputational risks and concerns that fossil fuel investments will soon become stranded assets"...

Two Tigercomm clients opened the biggest #solar project on the South American continent.

We're glad to be part of the rising tide, driven by the likes of Daniel Shugar of Nextracker Inc. and Carlos (Ucho) Barrera and Atlas Renewable Energy.

Muito bom!

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9th Cleantech Journalist Roundtable

by Mike Casey on 6/9/23 9:48 AM1 min. read

#Cleantechers, we hosted our 9th Quarterly Cleantech Editors and Reporters Roundtable in April. It’s hard to believe we’ve run these for over two years, but they continue to be the one of the highlights in Tigercomm's quarterly content stream.

These convenings are a rare opportunity to hear how our sectors show up to the people who cover us, and to ask THEM questions. With our accelerating progress, these insights are more and more important for cleantech communicators to have and utilize.

We had the honor to moderate a discussion with:
- Jennifer Dlouhy of Bloomberg News
- John Engel of Renewable Energy World
- Nichola Groom of Thomson Reuters
- Zachary Shahan of CleanTechnica

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Episode 19: Unveiling Leadership Wisdom from Jeff Wolfe’s Cleantech Journey

Jeff Wolfe is an "OC" – an “original cleantecher.” This entrepreneur has three companies under his leadership belt, including two that he founded. Jeff’s work has spanned solar installation, EV fast charging and investment considerations for Shell New Ventures. His current company is Veloce Energy, which offers easy-to-install EV fast charging infrastructure that's designed to speed the electrification of America's vehicle fleet.

Strap in for some well-earned wisdom on building and running successful companies. 

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Episode 18: Cleantech Economy Investments and Leadership with Jennifer Von Bismarck

Most of our guests to date have led companies that develop renewable energy plants, sell cleantech equipment, or provide energy services. But today our guest is a pure play. She's a career-long investor who served in leadership positions at sequential investment funds, and she now serves as the co-founder and CEO of the DC-based Galway Sustainable Capital. Jennifer Von Bismarck's shop invests in companies, projects and assets that drive environmental and social resilience at the local level. I wanted to learn from Jennifer how a career in investment shaped her views on running a successful company.

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You might have seen this Washington Post story, “The Underbelly of Electric Vehicles,” which takes a critical view of EV production’s impact on people and the planet. It’s worth unpacking because it reflects several under-appreciated realities of generating attention from national media outlets.

At Tigercomm, we’re often approached by people seeking PR help, wanting us to pitch national stories. Effective corporate communications blends traditional news story generation with content marketing – a combination of both “owned” content and “earned” media.

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This article was originally published on Agility PR's Bulldog Reporter blog.

Request for Proposals (RFPs) are a long-standing tradition among companies and organizations seeking creative professional services. But it’s a tradition that we’re leaving for reasons that might be useful to both buyers and sellers of these services.

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As a lot of you know, we convene quarterly roundtables for podcasters, journalists, and investors in the cleantech space. Today, I get the privilege of talking to Tim Montague, who has achieved some serious milestones in his cleantech coverage.

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This article was originally published on CleanTechnica.

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#Cleantechers, Scaling Clean listeners know that we seek out clean economy CEOs for their lessons on building teams and running companies. All our guests to date have developed their leadership abilities by ascending a career ladder, and they’ve done that across several companies.

Today’s guest has instead learned his leadership lessons on the job, so to speak. Jesse Grossman founded Soltage LLC 17 years ago, and he’s led since then as Chairman and CEO. Soltage is a New Jersey-based utility-scale solar IPP company that was founded on the belief that capital cost shouldn’t stop the spread of solar.

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A Tribute to Doug Kendall

I try to keep my content stream outward focused. There’s so much egocentric, “look at me” content online that I don’t see the point of making more. 

We’ve been interviewing clean economy CEOs, investors and advisors on our “Scaling Clean” series. I’ve learned a lot from these guests on sound leadership and management practices. Based on audience feedback, others have as well. 

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Miranda Ballentine, head of Clean Energy Buyers Association

In Miranda Ballentine, we have a CEO with “.com,” “.org” and “.gov” experience. Most know her as the head of the Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA). But Miranda’s experience runs a gamut that includes stints as a sustainability director of Walmart, a consultant through David Gardner Associates, and as Air Force Assistant Secretary managing energy budgets for 170 military installations. She also was CEO of Toronto-based Constant Power that develops distributed energy projects.

You can listen to the full interview on Cleantech Leaders Roundtable's website or on AnchorSpotifyApple Podcasts and iHeart Radio.

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How to Run a Renewable Energy Public Relations (PR) Campaign

In mid-2022, almost 60% of Fortune 500 CEOs said their company had a plan to reach net-zero by 2050. Renewable energy companies can expect to see a significant surge in demand from corporations looking to decarbonize. Because of this, renewable energy companies are also going to face a lot of competition. A strategic renewable energy public relations campaign is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s a must. In this blog post, we will explore key strategies and best practices to put you at the front of the crowd. 

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Episode 15: Servant Leadership with Lightsource bp CEO Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith, CEO of Lightsource bp, is one of the few people in cleantech who's led two major solar companies. Kevin’s a great interview in part because of the depth of his background: fossil fuels and renewables, Europe and the US, and experience in two different types of solar. Throughout it all, he's proven to be an impressive company builder who draws consistent praise from the people that work for him.

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How recent news is tightening the screen on who rural Americans will listen to.

#Cleantechers, if you run point on community engagement for a renewable energy developer or EPC, you already know your work is harder than it was even a few years ago.

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2nd CTLR Investors Roundtable

by Mike Casey on 4/17/23 10:06 AM2 min. read

#Cleantechers, Tigercomm hosts/moderates three quarterly convenings of cleantech players. These groups of journalists, podcasters and investors bring fascinating perspectives that help us stay current on trends within clean energy. This series was inspired by Tigercomm's 16 quarterly convenings of cleantech editors, reporters, and podcasters, including from the main stage at last year's RE+ trade show in Anaheim. 
 
We like to say that our editors give us a breadth of view, while our podcasters give us a depth of view. But the investors you’ll hear from have perhaps the deepest expertise of any group we assemble. They see our sectors through the lens of our financial aspirations, expressed through the hundreds of pitches they hear and evaluate.
 
A special thanks to my friend, Andrea Luecke, the Executive Director of the Cleantech Leaders Roundtable – or “CTLR,” for short. CTLR is the official sponsor of this convening, and as the “First Member” of CTLR, it’s a particular honor for her to ask me to moderate this series. I know co-founders Jigar Shah and Jacob Susman are proud of this milestone as well.

These folks are very smart and worth the time to hear. Thanks to our panelists Amy Francetic, Matt Cheney, Nancy Floyd and Dave Kirkpatrick. It was fun to talk with you.

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What’s the recipe for a winning investment pitch? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not business fundamentals. 

As reported by Business Insider, academic research shows that things like founder team experience, market size, revenue potential, and exclusivity of the tech aren’t all that important…but performance is.  

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#Cleantechers, The New York Times’ David Wallace Wells is out with a fascinating piece, “Clean Energy Is Suddenly Less Polarizing Than You Think.” The headline writer should have swapped in “Surprisingly” for “Suddenly,” to better reflect the writer's views. But I quibble.

I think Mr. Wallace-Wells is correctly spotting the trend line, but I fear he sees it as longer than it really is. We're still a long way from pulling clean energy back from the culture wars into apolitical, mainstream business. Then again, 10 years of working on this frustrating problem might have infected me with too much skepticism. Only time will tell. 

Mixing both insights from the piece and some personal observations, here’s what seems certain in the home stretch of Q1 ’23: 

1.) The party-line vote on the landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was not heavily weaponized in the 2022 election cycle.

2.) Much of the IRA’s spending is in the form of tax credits, designed to resist unwinding by hostile, headline-seeking politicians carrying water for the fossil fuel lobby.

3.) Despite some early chest pounding by now-Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, House conservatives have not gone after the IRA via the DOE Loan Guarantee Program – at least not yet.

4.) #Renewableenergy factories and power plants are being largely built in politically conservative, “red” areas. People in those communities heavily associate clean energy with President Biden, whom they despise.

5.) Building #wind and #solar farms is increasingly difficult.

6.) A handful of anti-clean energy operatives are working to stoke local opposition. They're a significant but supplemental factor. Each has past and/or present ties to the fossil fuel lobby.

7.) Clean energy has spent the last 10 years under-investing in its public case making, particularly in rural communities.

There’s a growing recognition that we have to change that last point. Speed and scale will go a long way in determining our collective fate.

The good news is that more and more, it’s our hands on the steering wheel. Let’s drive forward, and fast.

https://lnkd.in/eD7ngWyV

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#Cleantechers, one of the best things about my job is getting a close look at technologies with world-changing potential. Rondo Energy's "Heat Battery" is one of them.

The Heat Battery is the brainchild of past and current client, John O'Donnell. For a decade, this brilliant inventor has patiently evangelized that the world can store #renewableenergy-generated heat much more cost effectively than electricity from wind and solar.

By using basic bricks to store heat, Rondo's opened a path to rapidly decarbonizing heavy industries that traditionally require lots of heat, steam and power – creating a massive carbon pollution footprint.

As John told David R. Baker of Bloomberg in this story: "If you want to get to scale fast, it had better be boring — you’d better not have material science to prove.... We’ve combined stuff the world knows how to make at scale.”

Let's roll.

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#Cleantechers - Few electrons in the universe will move differently because I'm named as a finalist with honorable mention for the Cleanies' "Trailblazer" award.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy I got that far. My mom will be thrilled. My kids might nod their heads (Ashlyn Casey). Maybe my wife will say "good job" this weekend before telling me to clean out the dog run.

But I think there's bigger significance here that's worth pointing out. I remember when clean economy was so nascent that an awards program would have been laughable.

We know times have changed because:
1.) This award program actually exists.
2.) There's enough momentum and growth in our sectors that companies and people apply/submit others for consideration. Lots of them.
3.) People actively compete to win.

It's super gratifying to see clean economy continue to expand. Bigger trade shows, increased association budgets and award programs are all leading indicators. That is what's worth celebrating.

Congrats to winners Marion Hill, Chris Perron, Michael Eckhart and co-honorable mention Janani Ramkumar.

Also, John Engel and Julia Pyper for winning their respective categories.

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Episode 1: The Journey from Garage to Nasdaq: A Discussion with Brad Mattson

 

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The phony Solyndra non-scandal of 2010-12 was catalyzed by a highly publicized FBI raid. It was then driven by an Iron Triangle of fossil fuel-funded front groups, fossil fuel-funded politicians running three congressional investigations, and conservative media echoing the resulting themes.  

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Just before the holidays, we hosted a year-end episode of the Cleantech Podcasters Roundtable. Our lineup changed a bit, with the happy addition of John Belizaire.

Here are our “B3Ps,” or Big 3 Points from that episode. You can read the full transcript below.
 
1. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: The Cleantech sector needs to invest more time and resources into messaging. Fossil fuel front groups are still working the mainstream media refs, spreading misinformation about the Inflation Reduction Act, painting ESG investing as “woke capitalism,” and the messaging that next-generation nuclear fission will be our climate savior. We have the tools to accelerate the energy transition, and our industry conversations should reflect that confidence I our public communications.

2. Expect grid resiliency, distributed energy resources, retrofitting, and workforce employment to be big topics for the new year — and more stories about people leaving “dirty” jobs for clean ones.
 
3. Let’s celebrate the people and organizations that helped prevent a pro-fossil fuel wave in the recent elections. Our participants gave laurels to: the Environmental Voter Project, Governor Kathy Hochul, Governor Gavin Newsom, and the California Public Utilities Commission.

Listen to the full episode on the SunCast Podcast:

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Hello #cleantechers! Listeners of Scaling Clean know our show is designed to bring you management and leadership wisdom from experienced company leaders in the clean technology industry. Today, we are bringing you perspective from Jing Tian, who co-founded her own company early in her career and also led the U.S. presence for three different international cleantech firms. And Jing Tian is also Dr. Tian, who earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Drexel University and served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Chemistry Department at Princeton University. 

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Episode 13: The Value of Role Models and Representation

Hello #cleantechers. On today’s Scaling Clean, a discussion with Silvia Ortin Rios. She has worked in the power sector her entire career. Silvia started as a contract trading analyst for TXU Energy in the late 1990s. Over a quarter century later, she is the CEO of RWE Renewables Onshore Wind and PV division. Silvia is the first woman to hold the position.

Our goal on Scaling Clean is to aggregate insights from CEOs, investors and advisors on building and running winning teams at clean economy companies. I am really excited to share this interview with our listeners because Silvia has experience as a key part of #cleantech teams in four countries on both sides of the Atlantic. She is a rich source of culturally-portable management lessons invaluable on the global stage.

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Episode 12: Realizing vs Maintaining Potential

Hello, #cleantechers. Ever heard the joke about the engineer who walked into a podcast interview and turned out to be a fountain of wisdom and soundbites? Well, our guest today is just that… except he’s no joke.   

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We closed our cleantech journalists panel at RE+ with a question we often like to ask our Scaling Clean podcast guests: Are you a climate optimist or pessimist – and why? Our panelists gave thoughtful answers, a mix of optimism and realism about the aggression of energy industry incumbents (read the fossil fuel lobby). We’d like to share their answers here.

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In the U.S., the field of companies developing renewable energy farms is quickly expanding. There are a large number of new additions coming from developing countries, where project development faces a very different set of problem. Some would argue they are much harder to solve. But the question is, does developing renewable energy in developing countries equip a company to succeed in a market like the U.S.

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In our podcast, Scaling Clean, we seek usable insights on building and running successful companies from the cleantech CEOs, investors and the people who advise them. Our RE+ interview with EDPR’s Tom Weirich didn’t fit our usual format (only 15 mins), but it sure was fun. Tom’s written what I’m confident is the first history of cleantech history. “We Took the Risk” profiles “OCs,” (“Original Cleantechers”), men and women who were real pioneers whose shoulders we’re all standing on in our work today. For us, though, the book’s subtitle is key: “The stories behind the early risk takers in the U.S. Renewable energy industry and the leadership traits that made them a success.” [Emphasis added]. 
 
Here are the qualities Tom noticed these OCs shared:
 
- Be the First
- Audacity
- Curiosity
- Connector
- Adventurous
- Foresight
- Adaptable
- Grit
- Enterprising
- Social entrepreneurship
- Servant leadership
- Innovation
- Persistence

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When we convened our cleantech journalists live from the stage at the RE+ trade show, among the questions we posed was how clean economy would address its half-dozen major challenges: Permitting, storage, transmission, grid stability, workforce development, and mineral processing. We also wanted to know who would address them. Check out our panel’s answers from Jon Powers, Julia Pyper and Scott Cooney

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