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Scaling Clean

Fellow cleantechers – 

You’ve heard about our quarterly #Cleantech Editors & Reporters Roundtable series. Now Tigercomm is experimenting with the first #Cleantech Podcasters Roundtable. 

We convened the hosts of 8 major clean economy podcasts to discuss sector trends, changes in company leadership, information sources they use, and how best to approach them with topics & guests for their shows.

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Let’s get the news out of the way, so we can get to the opining … After 14 years of helping build Tigercomm into the top clean economy marcom and public affairs firm, our Executive Vice President Mark Sokolove is leaving for a can't-refuse job at Hanwha Q CELLS America as Marketing Director. Mark’s last day with us is Friday, July 2.

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Nearly every independent analyst is forecasting that during the next three decades cleantech sectors – and solar in particular – will experience double-digit growth. For those who work in or follow these sectors closely, that’s probably not news to them. But for me, it’s been an honor to compete in those arenas for the past two decades – playing a role in getting to this point by serving a host of Tigercomm’s clients across solar, wind, energy storage, EVs and other sustainability-focused industries.

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Stranger Than Fiction - A Compelling Story, Missed in Real Time

Our friends at Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) are really effective. With a shoe-string staff and budget, they combine investigative reporting and public watchdog work to make business as usual uncomfortable for entrenched lobbying interests. Those interests – often polluting ones – take great offense that a plucky watchdog blog would dare raise questions about ethically challenged organizations.

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Why Steer Into Rough Seas? Interviews With The Experts: Kris Ohleth

As part of our series of interviews with people leading community engagement for the U.S. offshore wind industry, we're delighted to have our friend, Kris Ohleth, join us.

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4th Quarterly Cleantech Editors Roundtable

On April 21, we had the honor of welcoming the editors who have formed our Cleantech Editors Roundtable. This fourth convening continued producing useful insights from people who see trends emerge from the thousands of pitches our companies collectively send them each month.

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As part of our interview series with Offshore Wind’s (OSW) community engagement leaders, we were thrilled to talk with Ashley McLeod. A former executive with the Virginia Maritime Association, a former school teacher and a past school board member. Ashley’s combination of experience has given her an unusually deep understanding of how a local community makes decisions. That’s serving her well in her current role as Director of Stakeholder Engagement for Avangrid Renewables’ Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind Project.

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The launch of Canary Media is terrific news for the cleantech industry. My hat is off to Eric Wesoff, David Roberts, GTM alumni, and the entire team they've assembled. We need good journalism now more than ever, especially climate-focused reporting. Eric and his team have delivered it for decades. It's reassuring to know that won't stop now.

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We have this recent piece in Renewable Energy Magazine speculating on what clean energy trade shows and conferences will look like as the country emerges from COVID. H/T to Editor Dan McCue.

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The solid reception to our talk at the 2019 Offshore Wind Conference inspired us to stay focused on the topic of best practices for offshore wind developers in their community engagement efforts. We followed the talk with the first analysis of current and recommended practices: “Why Steer Into Rough Seas? Helping Help Offshore Wind Avoid Community Acceptance Problems.”

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Nat Schub and I enjoyed talking with CleanTechnica’s podcast host, Mike Barnard, to discuss the importance of the micromobility (MM) industry and our analysis of its public affairs programs. A year in the making, the analysis was a pre-pandemic snapshot of an exciting sector that’s evolving and growing.

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What do these people have in common? Leading light Texas Governor Greg Abbot, Fox News windbag Tucker Carlson, Mensa member (and former DOE Sec.) Rick Perry, corrupt former BLM Director William Perry Pendley, and an anonymous propagandist at the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. 

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Last Friday, we were honored to have hosted six editors of leading cleantech news sites to join in an hour-long discussion: Recharge’s Darius Snieckus, CleanTechnica’s Zach Shahan, Renewable Energy World’s Jennifer Runyon, Utility Dive’s Catherine Morehouse, GreenBiz’s Heather Clancy and SolarWakeup’s Yann Brandt.

They discussed:

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3rd Cleantech Editors & Reporters Roundtable

by Mike Casey on 1/15/21 11:09 AM1 min. read

May we live in interesting times.

Since our previous Cleantech Editors & Reporters Roundtable, we have witnessed a chaotic election cycle, a riot at the capitol, and an ongoing global pandemic. Still, our guests came prepared to share their wisdom on the newest developments in the clean economy.

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Nancy Sopko doesn’t currently drive community engagement at an offshore wind company. But we had to include her in this series for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because as the head of the University of Delaware’s Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, Nancy (who is the successor to the legendary Stephanie McClellan) has achieved a unique, sector-wide perspective on how offshore wind development is scaling in this market. Also, Nancy and Stephanie are both veterans of the offshore wind sector and were part of a small group of early players who cleared barriers to aid in the successful launch of U.S. offshore wind development.

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Thanks for a fun conversation with Marie Brugquist, Ryan Suchsland and Conner Allen of GRNE Solar. Hat’s off to this regional solar installation company that’s leaning into providing insightful content to its prospects.

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Thanks to Bill Nussey of The Freeing Energy Project's podcast. We’re fans of the work Bill’s doing, and he fingered us as advocates for "strategic brevity" and how it can help #cleanenergy scaling through better #marcom. Highlights:

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We had a fun talking with Benoy Thanjan of the Solar Maverick Podcast. We covered a huge range of topics, but the highlights of the conversation that clean economy sectors might find useful were:

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Offshore wind communicators, community engagement leads and supporters: Have you had a question to ask offshore wind editors? Now’s your chance

Tune in Wednesday, November 18th as we host three editors of top publications covering the offshore wind sector. This is the first time such a panel has been convened, and Nancy Sopko of the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind and we are honored to moderate it.

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I’m fired up about being a speaker at Solar Power International, now part of North American Smart Energy Week. Our presentation was based on an analysis and set of interviews with industry leaders on what the industry can do about profit pressure from commoditization.

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The quarterly Cleantech Editors Roundtable is back! We recently hosted the second roundtable discussion with our guests: Catherine Morehouse of Industry Drive; Darius Snieckus of Recharge News; Heather Clancy of GreenBiz; Jennifer Runyon Clarion Events; Yann Brandt of Solar Wake Up; Zachary Shahan of Cleantechnica.

The panel discussed the future of renewable energy, fossil fuels, and how the pandemic is reshaping the industry.

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Note: this article was first published in 2020.

Offshore wind must effectively engage coastal communities. It can save money and avoid heartache through the lessons of other clean economy sectors.

"Solar and onshore/offshore wind developers. Download, read and take action.… You'll thank Mike Casey and me." – Susan Munroe, Director of Economic Development, Chambers for Innovation and Clean energy.


Offshore wind (OSW) is a disruptive new sector within the power industry. Like other clean economy sectors, its success will rely partly on effectively engaging local communities. In OSW’s case, it’s the communities where project infrastructure will make landfall that will have control over whether or not OSW farms are built.

The increased professionalization of professional NIMBY pushback (Not in My Back Yard) threatens that success. However, OSW can save time and avoid heartache by adapting the hard-won community engagement lessons from other clean economy sectors.

We’ve analyzed the community relations experiences of solar, onshore wind and the PACE sectors for portable lessons to other clean economy sectors, including OSW. We’ve identified a three-stage, “Clean Economy Mistake Path” that is expensive to enter and can end at project fatality.

This initiative stems from my presentation at last fall’s Offshore Wind Conference in Boston, hosted by the American Wind Energy Association. Shout out to Nate Mayo of Vineyard Wind and several other audience members who encouraged us to expand last fall’s presentation into a more in-depth format.

You can read more below, or download this as a PDF here.


Last fall, I spoke at AWEA’s Offshore WINDPOWER Conference. Preparing for that appearance prompted my firm to look at the experience of other disruptive, clean economy sectors that are locally regulated. For offshore wind (OSW), which is regulated at the federal, state and local levels, a valuable pattern emerged from the collective experience of rooftop solar, onshore wind, home sharing and PACE lending. While the new pandemic and recession make all that seem ages ago, we think the lessons provided by those other sectors are still worth presenting to the OSW sector. Each of these other clean economy sectors found costs and heartache by bumping into the realities of being locally regulated. 

With hindsight, many in those sectors acknowledge they should have solved for those predictable challenges in their respective business plans — right from the start. 


What is the NIMBY Effect?

Too many companies in those sectors had to compensate for their early underinvestment in public affairs by having to build programs while dealing with expensive problems with NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) opponents. 

NIMBY campaigns are professionalizing. They are getting more sophisticated and effective, they are being supported by professional organizers, they have secured funding by incumbent sectors, and they connect through online resources. As Bloomberg News has reported, the costs of underinvestment in public affairs are adding up for companies in clean economy sectors, a trend that’s expected to escalate. 

The onshore wind industry is now seeing half-billion-dollar power plants killed because 50 people shout at officials in a county commission meeting. Airbnb had to struggle to fend off attacks from the hotel lobby on their ability to operate in New York City and other major cities. Despite its huge popularity and tiny viewshed, even solar energy is getting hurt by professional NIMBYism. Many laughed when Woodland, North Carolina rejected a solar farm in December 2015, because some residents worried the solar plant “would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland.

The costs of underinvestment in public affairs are adding up for companies in clean economy sectors, a trend that’s expected to escalate.

No one’s laughing now.

Last fall, sPower almost lost its permit to build a utility-scale solar farm in Spotsylvania County, Virginia—70 miles south of where I write this. Earlier this year, Bay W.A. Renewables lost its permit for a solar farm on 1,600 acres in nearby Culpepper, Virginia. After beating Bay W.A., leading opponent Susan Ralston said she… 

“...plans to turn her [local] 501(c)(4), Citizens for Responsible Solar, formed this spring, into a vehicle to help other citizens groups fight solar projects all over the country. ‘You see this story played over and over again,’ [Ralston] said. ‘The states have just been overrun with solar. The land is cheap, and these developers come in. They come in and the citizens don’t know this is happening, and when they find out, it’s too late’.

Even those sectors, such as scooter companies, that aren’t disrupting powerful incumbents have run into problems. As of this writing, time and street limits on scooters in Atlanta have led to the state of Georgia to consider a complete ban on all shared electric scooter companies statewide. Lyft has seen the writing on the walls and pulled its scooters out of Atlanta. The results are increased costs for many, project death for some and a few companies now completely out of business. The big message from the combined experience of these other sectors is that securing community acceptance is a business-critical task. 

Social Acceptance of Offshore Wind Power Projects in the US

OSW can take a different path. Even with only five operating turbines to date in the US, the sector is not a collection of startups. Far earlier than in other sectors, OSW is being driven by experienced, deep-pocketed players, drawn to the tremendous growth potential in the $70B addressable U.S. OSW market. The current range of large companies pursuing OSW have no excuse for bootstrapping community acceptance by skimping on budgets, staff and scale.

Why are so many clean economy companies late in scaling their public affairs? One reason is that many companies see themselves as part of a new industry, when they are actually a new sector within an industry dominated by incumbents with the ability to respond to new, disruptive players.

At the dawn of the internet age, Google and Facebook were creating a new industry. Yes, both companies proved tremendously disruptive over time, but they had a lot of run room before the disrupted could see the threat and respond. Ride hailing and medical cannabis are just a bit off the “New Industry'' side of the scale. Ride hailing is pushing back against a taxicab industry that’s usually quite weak, unless you’re in London. Medical cannabis will displace some types of pharmaceuticals, but most people in that sector tell me they expect the drug and tobacco companies to buy up leading cannabis players. In other words, they will join — not fight — the dope industry. But like solar, PACE, onshore wind, and home sharing, OSW is not a new industry. It’s a new sector out to take market share from incumbents who aren’t going to act like doormats for the new guys. 

OSW has already had an early taste test of community pushback and its costs. The first attempted project, Cape Wind, was killed by attacks from wealthy neighbors who included one of the Koch brothers, the Kennedys and retired CBS anchor Walter Cronkite. The burgeoning OSW sector has now had the federal “pause” button pushed mainly as a result of advocacy from commercial fishermen. Fishermen are admirable people, risking their lives to put seafood on our kitchen and restaurant tables. But they also are part of an industry that sees OSW as a disruptive threat. The different sectors of the fishing industry — scallops, squid, etc. — have banded together to use local voices to affect OSW’s fortunes at the federal level. The OSW sector is still working out how to counter the fishing industry’s tactics by promoting the local job creation and climate mitigation benefits OSW provides. 

The bottom line? There’s a big difference in how public communications should be scaled from the start if you’re a new sector vs. a new industry.

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Offshore Wind Communications Challenges and Mistakes

Advocacy Valley of Death 

OSW would benefit by understanding that it’s entering into the Advocacy Valley of Death: Big enough to be a disruptive threat, but not ready to respond to the reaction of the disrupted. Look no further than the seemingly obscure, 2010-16 Coast Guard “study” prompted by pressure from Maersk, the leading global shipper with significant interests in the oil and gas industry. The Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study was riddled with lobbyist influence, and it resulted in a call for OSW turbine setbacks from shipping lanes that are 5x those required in Europe. While more recent studies have countered its recommendation, ACPARS was essentially a trial run for lobbyists looking to stop OSW’s growth.

OSW would benefit by understanding that it’s entering into the Advocacy Valley of Death: Big enough to be a disruptive threat, but not ready to respond to the reaction of the disrupted.

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Clean Economy Mistake Path 

Overlay the experiences of the four other clean economy sectors, and the resulting pattern forms what we call the “Clean Economy Mistake Path,” which takes place in three phases. First is the Green Zone, or “go” stage. New companies rush to establish a commercial presence and claim market share, working under the demands of cash burn from limited funds. Because they’re doing something new, mistakes are inevitable. In the Yellow Zone, disrupted incumbent sectors convert early mistakes into a problem for people in communities considering whether or not to host the new sectors’ projects.

Onshore wind is in this zone now, featuring the professionalization of NIMBY organizers, strong online connections between the NIMBY groups and quiet funding by incumbent sectors. As far back as 2012, the anti-wind energy marketing of fossil fuel operative John Droz and the American Tradition Institute were exposed. Anadarko Petroleum was caught trying to manufacture the perception that there was a wind turbine fire “crisis” throughout the American West. In the Yellow Zone, the goal of incumbents is to convert a one-community problem into a highly publicized, multi-community issue. We’ve recently finished a series of interviews with the onshore wind developers. Almost to a person, its leading communicators acknowledge how easily complaints about wind farms go viral across state lines.

Stay out of the Red Zone. It’s expensive, high stakes and agonizing — even when you survive it.

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This also happened to the residential PACE industry (R-PACE), and it effectively cost R-PACE the entire anchor market of California. It’s then just a few steps into the Red Zone. There, a new sector’s issues are flagged to analysts tracking valuations of that sector’s companies. The result is a string of pronouncements that the sector’s companies are “troubled,” and “facing significant challenges.” A lead steer on the board begins to panic, and fear spreads throughout the board, resulting in demands that the leadership team fix the problem. The result is an expensive, all-hands diversion from the business plan to desperately bailing out public affairs water from the company boat.

At best, the company pays firms like mine crisis communication-level fees to right the ship. At worst, the company dies, like SolarCity effectively did after the  Christmas Eve bait-and-switch in Nevada — engineered on behalf of NV Energy by an ethically challenged public utility commissioner. Trust me, you want to stay out of the Red Zone. It’s expensive, high stakes and agonizing — even when you survive it.

4 Steps Towards the Mistake Path 

We’ve identified four factors that drive companies in disruptive sectors to get on the Mistake Path.

1. Excessive belief in the meritocracy of policy debate, regulatory institutions and the motivations of elected officials

Hedge fund-controlled Gatehouse Media has bought up dozens of struggling local newspapers across the country, converting them into the Dollar Store of journalism. The company produces the equivalent of cheap trinkets by cutting news journalism corners at every turn. Its 2017 hatchet job, written by a summer intern, painted a sensational picture of a wind turbine health “crisis” among rural neighbors of wind farms. A month after the Gatehouse hit job ran, Berkeley National Lab came out with the definitive study of attitudes among those living within five to a half mile of wind farms. The study found that over 50% of people who live within a half mile of a wind farm had a positive or very positive experience with the nearby turbines. But the Gatehouse series was a shot heard much farther than the fact-based study by Berkeley National Labs.

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2. Seeing divisions instead of shared interests

We’ve noticed that the younger a clean economy sector is, the more likely its members will see their differences before their shared interests. That makes forming effective coalitions and associations more difficult, as various consultants and executives compete to form the industry coalition they can control to their benefit. The result is turf battles that fetter common-good advocacy. This was sadly true when we worked for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) during its greatest existential threat, the 2009-10 phony Solyndra “scandal.” This ruse was pushed by the fossil fuel lobby. It featured an FBI raid, dozens of Congressional hearings and an estimated $800M in SuperPAC ads spent attacking President Obama’s “green energy” program. At the time, there were at least four ad hoc splinter groups competing with SEIA for dollars and attention. Their differences were trivial compared to the size of the threats the sector faced, but the divisions still had to be navigated by then-SEIA President Rhone Resch. The result was a significant drag on response times and effectiveness, despite SEIA’s best efforts.

3. Poor Hiring 

Often when private sector startups run into government affairs problems, they ramp up hiring. That hiring sometimes takes one of two unhelpful forms: 1.) “Friend and family hiring” of people who lack experience but are familiar and trusted. 2.) Star chasing a “big name” who once held down a high-profile government job. Neither approach accounts for the amount of relevant experience the new hires have had in getting politicians to treat companies fairly.

4. Magical thinking about budgets

I heard once that there’s a Zen Buddhist saying: “You can stand in the circle of what is, or you can stand in the circle of what should be while shouting at the circle of what is.” Said another way, disagreeing with reality doesn’t change it. Politics and policy are a full-contact sport. If your company is out to take market share from active incumbents in an industry with significant regulatory exposure, you will be fought, not ignored. And captured regulators will be part of the toolset used by incumbent sectors. The messiness and slow pace of policy decisions isn’t a reason your company can sit out those decisions. Hiring the right people to execute well-designed, effective programs costs real money that’s guaranteed to be more than you want to spend. But spend you must.

Offshore Wind Best Practices to Improve Public Acceptance

With just one pilot project in the water, OSW has the luxury of choosing between either investing at scale to influence public acceptance of offshore wind power projects in the US, or rolling the dice at the craps table. If OSW wants to avoid the public affairs heartache of other clean economy sectors, there are five practices it should consider.

1. Invest in the online conversation

Local communities are increasingly making early-stage decisions online. This is particularly true in small communities, which make up the lion’s share of the 1,300 towns that are now “news deserts” — communities with no local news media serving them.

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Into that void has stepped Facebook, which has become “the new town square.” (H/T to Paul Copleman of Avangrid). In fact, in its groundbreaking survey of small-town news consumption habits, Apex Clean Energy found that Facebook was a top news source in rural communities, including those considering whether or not to host a wind farm. We conducted the first-ever analysis comparing the online pushback from NIMBYs with the online responses from the top onshore wind developers. Only one out of 10 had anything resembling a proactive digital program. The consensus is that NIMBYs now organize online, then show up in the room. You underinvest in Facebook and other digital platforms at your company’s peril.

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2. Win the race to define

Any large-scale clean energy project is the equivalent of an issue or political campaign, and every campaign is a race to define. He or she who frames first creates an advantage that’s difficult to overcome. We still find that among clean energy developers, the legacy mentality of quietly working regulators is the norm. It’s also a de facto guarantee that you will start the race with your shoes tied together. Being quiet is a losing strategy in an age of increasingly professionalized NIMBY opposition.

A marketing strategy should be applied for every wind farm, treating it as a product that must be narrated. Use compelling, plain-language framing that’s anchored to a core need in the community. And, that definition has to be driven home through visual storytelling (read, video), narrated by people whom locals find relatable. Narratives from people trump facts and figures — always. But the good news is that the OSW industry has a robust potential supply chain and employee base to utilize. They are the people who should start the conversation for your company. It’s crucial to form a supporters group for your project immediately, and then constantly build it through potential vendors and potential employees. If your company can show growth online, it for opponents to argue against community momentum for your project — rather than allowing the opposition to grow its moment and force you to catch up.

3. Use digital to engage, not distribute

Too many companies in the clean energy sectors treat digital platforms as new and cheaper forms of distribution. Basically, another version of the traditional news release. The “post and forget it” approach is leaving communications power on the table, and it stands in stark contrast to the online NIMBY conversations. It’s critical to fully integrate the use of digital tools with your in-person community acceptance efforts. If your company has to present at the local library to a community group, why not use your project Facebook page to share favorable participant comments with those who didn’t attend? If you use your digital platforms to parallel the back-and-forth of in-person conversations, locals are much more likely to feel heard. In fact, online critics are usually an asset. Their arguments on your project’s Facebook pages show in real-time changes in opposition arguments. Your response to them — polite, clear and consistent — will be watched by supporters, who will be emboldened by your proactive response. Note that the effective use of digital tools requires dedicated staff capacity to constantly engage local citizens in the online conversation.

4. When hiring, don’t equate expertise with just having opinions

We’ve met a lot of public affairs leads, line staff and vendors for clean economy companies over the last 15 years. The vast majority are very committed to transforming the U.S. economy to a more sustainable footing. But many are the product of the two misguided hiring approaches we listed earlier. You wouldn’t hire someone like me to be your lawyer or your accountant. Don’t hire people with no successful experience driving public affairs outcomes. Whether it’s employees or vendors, hire people who have successfully done for others what you need them to do for your company.

That experience should include:

  • Putting people into office or escorting them out of office by working on political campaigns.
  • Serving elected officials while they are in office — particularly at the level of government at which your company is focused. A stint in a Presidential or Governor’s Administration as a policy wonk provides no guarantee that a job candidate or consultant knows anything about the rough and tumble of electoral politics.
  • Pressuring elected officials or regulators to take the right action through successful public affairs campaigns.

5. Invest real money in controlling your fate

When it comes to offshore wind challenges, this in particular is a big one. I spent a fair amount of time in 2017-18 working with the public affairs heads of the early OSW players. Together, we hammered out a compelling strategy to handle the grave concerns about how Trump’s past business hostility to OSW would play out in his Administration. It was a reasonable concern, and the group crafted a sound plan over several months. However, when it came time to pass the hat for funding its own public affairs success, each company thought and played small-budget ball. That is beginning to change with the addition of more and bigger companies. But the lesson stands — if your company’s fortune rests on public affairs outcomes, don’t engage in magical thinking about what things cost. There is no green philanthropy riding to the rescue of a for-profit industry populated by large global companies. You must fund your own public affairs fate at a level that matches its criticality to your company. When it comes to public affairs, nothing’s free. It’s not even discounted. It’s only effective or not. And given the importance of our emerging sectors, we should insist on doing what works.

When it comes to public affairs, nothing’s free. It’s not even discounted.

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SunCast Appearance

by Tigercomm Team on 5/26/20 10:09 PM1 min. read

Nickalus "Nico" Johnson and I had a great conversation about the state of #solar and #cleantech #marcom. His SunCast Podcast is a rising platform in the industry, and I was honored to be on with Nico again.

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We’re proud to have hosted the editors of six leading clean economy news sites last month. It was the first time they’d convened to discuss trends in the sectors they cover. In our most recent post, we summarized trends the editors followed pre-pandemic and their predictions for how clean economy companies emerge post-pandemic.

However, the panel also focused on the emerging business model for utilities. That topic has received attention from Vox’s David Roberts (here and here), former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and Stanford’s Mark Jacobson, to name a few.

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We recently brought together six editors of leading clean economy news sites for Tigercomm's first-ever Cleantech Editors Webinar. It was the first time the editors had convened to exchange views. The result was a fun, insightful conversation with nearly 100 people in the audience.

We covered a lot of ground in an hour, leaving several dozen listener questions unanswered. Our conversation focused around these topics: 

  • What were the 3 major sector trends you were following before the pandemic?
  • How is the global cleantech market growing so quickly, despite COVID-19? 
  • What new trends do you see in the wind and solar energy markets? 
  • What will the next generation of renewable energy technology look like?  
  • How do you see the global cleantech market emerging after the pandemic?
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Have questions you want to ask editors of the major cleantech news sites? While socially distancing, we’ve got a webinar for that.

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“We have to stop being afraid of using social media to communicate.”

We’ve known EDF Renewables’ Christine Karlovic for almost 10 years. When she agreed to about talk community acceptance with us, we jumped at the chance because she and her company have deep experience building community acceptance across North America. EDF Renewables has developed 16GW of renewable energy, with over 1,100 North American employees and bringing another 24GW of projects through their company’s pipeline.

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IPPs have “ceded the digital ground” to Nimbys, and communities are increasingly making decisions on wind farms on Facebook, writes Mike Casey

Originally published on Recharge News

There’s a growing concern within the wind industry that in communities considering hosting wind farms, the loud minority of opponents is increasingly trumping the silent majority of supporters who want the jobs and revenue that come with projects.

An analysis earlier this year validates those concerns. We tracked the online pushback faced by major wind developers from communities considering proposed wind farms. The findings showed that every developer is facing increasingly aggressive “Nimby” (not in my back yard) opposition, yet, few wind independent power producers (IPPs) are adopting the proactive digital strategies to meet or pre-empt local critics.

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Of all the people we’ve interviewed for the Not Just for NIMBY series, Enel Green Power’s Nick Coil has probably spent the most time in rural communities engaged in… well, community engagement. He shared other interviewees’ views on the increasing difficulty of community relations, the dominance of Facebook in rural communities and the criticality of using social media as part of a community relations program. But Nick had some sophisticated observations and tactical recommendations that made this interview particularly useful for other wind IPPs.

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Social “needs to connect to community values”

You could argue that E.ON’s Kevin Gresham has the broadest perspective on renewable energy public affairs in the U.S. Active for years on the boards of AWEA, SEIA and ACORE, he’s as likely to be walking the halls of Congress as he is working legislators in statehouses in any of the approximately 20 states in which E.ON operates. My colleague, Mark Sokolove, sat down with Kevin during the WINDPOWER trade show in Houston to talk about both the current and ideal roles for digital platforms in building community acceptance for wind projects. (E.ON is a client of Tigercomm.)

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Digital tools can de-risk projects, but, “we have ceded a lot of our thought leadership to folks who oppose us”

Adam Renz is one of a handful of people who have been an institutional communicator at two major wind IPPs – first EDP Renewables, then Pattern Energy. We were excited to tap the perspective of this wind industry veteran, and his thoughtful commentary didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was difficult narrowing our interview with Adam down to three big points.

Adam agreed with others we’ve interviewed on the dominance of Facebook in rural communities, the costs of neglecting social media tools and the ability of negative attention paid to one project affecting the fate of others. However, he had far more to say beyond what we recap below. So we encourage you to read the full transcript of Adams’ comments.

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Pine River Wind Park. Credit Mark Houston, DTE Energy.

One of the highlights of our WINDPOWER trade show experience was getting to talk with industry leaders working to secure support in communities with proposed wind farms. As part of our “Not Just for NIMBYs” interview series, we spoke with our first IOU leader, DTE Manager of Renewable Energy Development Matt Wagner. His company has gone from one of the most coal-intensive utilities to one that’s leading the way to a clean energy future. DTE has developed, owns and operates over one gigawatt of wind energy, and it recently committed to an 80% reduction in its corporate carbon footprint.

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“It was almost like companies were embarrassed to admit that they had any opponents. Those days are gone. Everybody has opponents.”

“Companies have not been investing enough in this very important area, because they haven’t been taking the risk as seriously as is appropriate.”

The annual WINDPOWER trade show and conference starts today. We’re kicking the week off with the second in our series of interviews with wind industry leaders who drive their company’s engagement of communities that host wind farms. We started the series with an interesting discussion with Avangrid’s Paul Copleman. This week, we’re featuring our recent conversation with Apex Clean Energy’s Vice President for Public Affairs, Dahvi Wilson. 

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Today, we’re continuing our discussion series on the use of digital tools to build community acceptance by wind energy independent power producers (IPPs). We’re pleased to do that with our friend, Paul Copleman, Director of Communications with Avangrid Renewables. Paul’s company is one of the leading renewable energy IPPs with large asset bases both in the U.S. and across the globe.

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Across clean energy sectors, sales and marketing teams we talk to share a common challenge: It has gotten harder to get prospects to engage.

That’s because the ubiquitous use of digital platforms (think smartphones, tablets, Alexa) and abundance of published content has changed the way buyers are purchasing.

Consider your own buying behavior. The last time you went to purchase anything over $100, did you Google it first? Check the reviews or comps online?

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By Mike Casey and Noah Ginsberg

What were cleantech leaders thinking in 2017?

Earlier in the year, Tigercomm conducted a Cleantech Leaders Survey to shed light on the major trends that leading cleantech executives are seeing in the industry. All the participants were current CEOs, presidents, board members, or managing directors of leading cleantech companies. These views were gathered before passage of the major tax bill; nonetheless, we believe their insights remain relevant and illuminating, given the tax bill’s minimal impact on the companies these leaders run.

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Returning visitors to the Tigercomm blog will likely notice that something is different here: Tigercomm has rebranded our blog. Previously known as “ScalingGreen,” we are excited to bring you future content and insights from “ScalingClean.”

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It’s what matters most to marketing and sales teams in any industry: Measuring success.

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A recent article in the Financial Times yet again drives home the fact that dirty energy, particularly coal, "has no future."

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See below for video of Chris Brown of Vestas, keynoting the opening session on day two of WINDPOWER 2017, concluding today in Anaheim, CA. According to Brown, who is completing his tenure as Chair of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the next five years will be the "best five years of your life" for the wind power industry. Brown adds: "So along with the success that we've been having, if you've become afraid, then I say good! Welcome to life as an energy industry disruptor." And Brown notes that "critics criticize...but ask yourself, why do those critics pay attention to us? Because we're a threat, because we're winning." A few more quotes from Brown's excellent speech:

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The New Energy Equation

by Noah Ginsberg on 5/10/17 2:45 PM5 min. read

In energy markets across the country, from Texas to California to New Jersey and states like Iowa in between – electricity generated from renewables is rapidly becoming cheaper than fossil fuel generation. The increasing cost advantage of renewable energy has become a talking point for clean energy and climate change advocates. It’s also become a selling point for businesses looking to identify markets where its easiest and most beneficial to heavily invest in renewables.

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Chris Brown, chairman of the board of the American Wind Energy Association and president of Vestas-American Wind Technology, Vestas’ North American business unit, has a piece in the Austin American-Statesman that explains very well why wind power is winning in Texas and across America. A few key points worth highlighting include:

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We read with great interest cleantech industry leader Andrew Beebe's thought piece, The Revenge of the Long Tail: Small, distributed solar companies are retaking the industry. Here’s why.  The following excerpt captures what Beebe's main point is.

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When author and public speaker Brene’ Brown talked about “the power of vulnerability” at TEDx Houston in 2010, she was speaking as a researcher, a professor at the University of Houston and a #1 New York Times best-selling author. Brown’s credibility got her onstage, but credibility alone is not what got her to the top-10 most-viewed TED talks in the world. That accomplishment was likely the result of Brown taking her own advice.

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Over at The Guardian, Vestas' CEO Anders Runevad argues convincingly that "the future belongs to clean energy." Not surprisingly, given that that Vestas bills itself as "the global leader in wind energy," Runevad focuses on wind power, as opposed to other forms of clean energy. Among other things, Runevad argues that:

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