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Cleantech Government Affairs and Communications Leader - Tom Starrs Part I

on • 3 min. read

#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.

And Tom Starrs is our precedent-setting guest for a reason: He’s spent the better part of 30 years trying to use public policy to accelerate climate solutions technologies. Talking with him, you quickly understand that this isn’t someone who’s just marked time in the latter part of his career. No, Tom Starrs has spent three decades actively seeking new ideas, techniques and approaches.

But unless you’ve worked for Tom or sat in an association board meeting with him, you don’t have access to his institutional knowledge and peripheral vision. With this conversation, I want to change that.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of the biggest climate policy the U.S. has ever enacted – the Inflation Reduction Act. This $370B natural gas displacement plan is triggering the inevitable pushback from the incumbent fossil fuel lobby (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/sep/05/texas-fracking-billionaire-brothers-prageru-daily-wire).

If you think that policy still matters to clean economy's business environment, then it’s worth listening to Tom’s perspective. It’s the right time to hear from the longest tenured cleantech government affairs and communications lead in America.

Here are our B3Ps (Big 3 Points) from our conversation with Tom. This is just for Part I, so keep an eye out for a Part II:

5:54 - The biggest change in clean energy has been the reduction in manufacturing costs, allowing solar manufacturing plants to be several gigawatts in size. This was made possible by creating incentives and policies to support the deployment of solar technology. 

12:45 - Net metering had many economic benefits, but that wasn’t enough to make the technology widely adopted due to other barriers such as utilities disliking the idea. They had concerns about the safety and performance of the new tech, but it ended up being more reliable than they initially thought.

14:17 - Regulatory barriers, not related to the economic viability of solar, can create obstacles for customers who want to generate clean energy. It’s important to address these obstacles in advance, so that when cleantech becomes economically competitive, we can deploy it without facing these hurdles later on.

Thank you Tom for sharing your insight with us.