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Energy Communication Trends in 2021: Separating Hype from Commercial Viability

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Eric Fischgrund's picture
CEO FischTank PR

Eric Fischgrund is the founder and CEO of FischTank PR, a leading cleantech and renewable energy PR firm providing services spanning media relations, corporate communications, content writing...

  • Member since 2021
  • 2 items added with 1,532 views
  • Feb 9, 2021 4:30 am GMT
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2021-01 - State of the Industry, click here for more

A Biden administration, Democrat-controlled Congress and favorable capital markets environment has the cleantech and renewable energy industry buzzing, and rightfully so. While I share in this excitement, I do caution my peers and prominent leaders in this sector to proceed deliberately with how they communicate objectives and capabilities.

You may ask yourself, “why is a cleantech PR firm CEO asking you to avoid hype?” The answer is simple – I want us all to learn from and avoid the first clean energy boom of over a decade ago, one that solicited billions in stimulus money that was largely squandered by companies that sold visions, not commercial viability. As you know or would guess - many of those companies today are bankrupt.

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From a more glass half full approach, consider this: we don’t need to sell cleantech, renewable energy and sustainability as hard. The majority of the public believes global warming and man-made climate change represent the most dangerous threats to the human race. Even political oppositive is fading, reflected in the presidential defeat of an anti-environment US President who placed a premium on the fossil fuel industry.  

But the biggest driver? The products themselves. Global energy storage capacity totaled 173.6 GW in 2020. Wood Mackenzie forecasts 43% annual growth in 2020 for the solar market, amid the pandemic! The deployment of wind power surged, and everywhere you look there are Teslas and new EV brands hitting the road.

It’s no coincidence that each of these sectors and other innovative renewable energy and cleantech developers and industry partners are also thriving from a financial/investment perspective. Companies are raising money at an astounding rate via a number of means – public securities, private equity and VCs, government funding, SPAC acquisitions, ESG funds and so many more. Investing in an emerging tech or energy-focused company is no longer as speculative or high-risk (yes, there are still risks!), but more seen as being part of a balanced portfolio.

Simply put – the industry is doing its own talking, and thus the communications lesson is clear for companies in the energy sector. If your technology, processes, people and business plan are effective – make that your focus.

What do I hope to see energy companies communicating in 2021?

  • New products and partnerships

  • Deployment of new projects and technologies, especially at the local/regional level. Do you know what’s one of the best ways to advance change? Public advocacy and community sentiment.

  • Job creation

  • New leadership, especially leadership whose team is ethnic, gender, racial and age diverse

  • Results. Case studies that detail the energy produced, energy stored, energy deployed, and energy consumed, along with the impact made in the community.

  • Responsibility. As mentioned earlier, the energy sector was reckless in the story it told over a decade ago, too often touting game-changing, life-altering technologies that ultimately never saw the light of day. Let’s keep that emotion, and our egos in check.

Seems easy, right? By this point, I think most of us understand the damage misinformation and overly promotional business tactics can have on a company, industry, economy and society. In 2021, energy executives and communications professionals are well advised to outline their Company’s business strategy, detail the various milestones and components as they are executed, and demonstrate commercial viability and the path forward.

Eric Fischgrund's picture
Thank Eric for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 9, 2021

Results. Case studies that detail the energy produced, energy stored, energy deployed, and energy consumed, along with the impact made in the community.

100% this-- like you said it's important to break out from hype. Not what a tech could do or might be able to achieve, but show me the pilots, show me how it worked in practice, and show me the roadmap for how I can get involved in such a success!

Eric Fischgrund's picture
Eric Fischgrund on Feb 9, 2021

Thanks Matt, it's definitely a problem and an example of when the industry gets in its own way. The marketing and PR hype for failed companies/technologies leads investors, customers and journalists to view everything, even legit companies/technologies, much more skeptically. 

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