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Following 2024’s annual conference for the Association of Energy Services Professionals, Senior Vice President Cindy Gage, shares thoughts on the implications for communications professionals relative to the clean energy transition. 

This February, more than 800 industry professionals came together at AESP’s 2024 annual conference to share ideas and insights on how to address one of the most pressing issues of our time: the transition to a clean energy future. 

Communications professionals have an important role here and will need to conceive and implement strategies to drive customer engagement toward energy efficient, clean electric technologies. There are many facets to address; from grid modernization to technology deployment; regulatory frameworks to rate structure; incentive programs and attribution to evaluation metrics; equitable access; and environmental justice. While these may not be easy concepts for the average consumer to grasp, the scale and scope of this transition requires participation from all sectors… and fast. 

This dynamic poses a tremendous communication challenge, but we can do it.   As AESP President and CEO Jen Szaro noted, “It’s inspiring to know that we have the power to change things. It won’t be easy, but we are built for this.”  To help us succeed, we should look to past successes to model the path for the clean energy future. 

Market Integration: Clean Energy Solutions 

When I started working in energy efficiency more than two decades ago, the focus was getting customers to convert to CFLs from incandescent lightbulbs. Higher costs, awkward bulb shapes, inconsistent product performance, and new language (how many lumens would you like with that light?) created a confusing buying experience, and often, an undesirable consumer experience.  The communications industry helped move consumers to action by crafting a simple and aspirational call to action, creating tools and experiences to inspire and enable action, and engaging partners in a collective effort to drive change. This is social marketing at its core. 

It sounds simple, but it wasn’t.  The lighting market transformation was decades in the making, and the result of the tireless, collective efforts from a wide variety of market actors. The U.S. Department of Energy set quality, performance, and efficiency standards for CFLs. Manufacturers innovated and improved product performance and labeling. Retailers helped close the sale with trained sales associates, displays, and signage to help simplify the shopping experience. Utilities and other energy efficiency program providers helped engage and educate their customers and provided incentives to lower product costs. NGO’s helped to spread the word. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR’s “Change a Light, Change the World” campaign united all of these stakeholders in a campaign that positioned change as achievable, engaging consumers to be part of the solution.   

Campaign Mastery: Reduced Carbon Emissions  

 In one year alone, U.S. CFL sales nearly doubled, and market share grew from under 4% to 20%, reducing carbon emissions and saving consumers millions in energy costs. The key ingredients for success are as relevant now as they were 20 years ago: 

  • A simple, aspirational call to action that married emotional resonance with practical action, issued through a multi-media communications plan. 
  • Social marketing tactics like the Change a Light pledge and a bio-diesel “Change a Light” bus tour galvanized a collective movement and provided opportunities for one-on-one consumer engagement and education.
  • Practical tools and guidance to help shift consumer behavior, including product buying guides, rebates and retail finders. 
  • A comprehensive partnership marketing model that united market actors to engage, educate and activate consumers, according to their own business models and goals, in the transition to energy efficient lighting.

Media Agencies Power Progress   

 Admittedly, electrification is clearly far more complex and costly than changing a lightbulb.  But we are also living in a far more aware, engaged and technologically advanced world. Climate change was not dinner table conversation at the turn of the century. Consumers were not engaged with smart technologies as they are today. The range of market actors is exponentially larger.  And as last week’s AESP experience demonstrated, our industry is full of highly collaborative and committed professionals who are working together to make clean energy a part of our future.  

 It is critically important that media agencies get it right by ensuring that we meet customers where they are, speak in their language, resist the impulse to overcomplicate, and bring them along on the journey. Together, clean energy professionals can shepherd in this transition helping to create jobs, build heathier, more resilient communities, and ensure equitable access to clean energy for all. 

If you were at AESP I would love to hear your thoughts. And if you want to discuss how we can drive action and need support- lets discuss how we can help you – email me at