Originally published on CleanTechnica
by Zachary Shahan
What do you think of people who just keep talking about the same thing o v e r and o v e r and o v e r again? Annoying as hell, right?
Politicians who repeat the same crap lines repeatedly. CEOs who you hear deliver the same fluff PR talking point for the 100th time. Annoying cleantech bloggers who keep telling you about … oh, wait, I’m not going to go there. ?
Honestly, though, you know the story — if you want to influence people’s opinions and decisions, you basically have to repeat like crazy. People who pay attention have a hard time not getting annoyed by it (especially if it really is a crappy, fluffy talking point), but if you understand marketing and human psychology, you might be fine overlooking it (especially if it is a useful thing for people to learn).
Of course, if you’re excited by a particular talking point, it can continuously get you excited when presented in a different way. There are several things we here at CleanTechnica certainly try to hammer home. But I hope our regulars understand that it’s not because we think you’re as dumb as a bag of bricks. Additionally, I hope you can see we are trying to do so in order to further connect with people, to connect with more people, to get shared and seen by people who have never heard that solar’s cheaper than deadly coal, that an electric car is so much more awesome than a rumbling pile of garbage, and that societal suicide is just, sort of, stupid.
Anyhow, my point with this long intro is to highlight what has become the obvious #1 talking point of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) … and thank goodness!
Thank goodness that the slick punks there understand how to get a point across, understand what the most important message to convey is, and sure as hell understand how to work the room better than I do.
Thank goodness renewable energy is at the stage where IRENA’s people can stand up proudly, push their chests out, raise their voices*, and tell the oil & gas giants, the oil-friendly ministers and talking heads, the utility execs, and everyone else within shouting distance — clean energy is cost-competitive, cheaper even!
Thank goodness IRENA now has ears coming to its table, ears of very powerful people. (IRENA’s growth over its short lifespan is pretty amazing— it’s a story for another day. Actually, it’s probably even a whole series in waiting.)
At IRENA’s 7th General Assembly this past weekend, you’d have to be completely in your own reality (no, a certain president-elect wasn’t in the house) in order to miss the point. It probably got annoying to some degree. But that’s a good sign — a sign that it’ll be carried out to more policymakers, more business leaders, and more members of the mass media.
I would like to see a survey conducted in the US and other countries examining what people think of solar energy costs and wind energy costs (compared to fossil and nuclear energy costs). I assume the vast majority would be far off the mark and wouldn’t know that solar and wind are cost-competitive — and even cheaper, on average, especially if you take full social, health, and/or climate costs into account.
That may not matter a great deal when it comes to Joe Schmo, but there are many businesspeople and policymakers who are still misinformed. Lack of knowledge in this space delays the installation of solar and wind power plants and leads to much more pollution, health damage, and climate risk … as well as higher energy bills.
The International Renewable Energy Agency and the good people running the show there are well aware of this problem, and its insightful communications leaders are hammering home the cost benefits like a woodpecker drills into a tree trunk.
During the IRENA General Assembly, IRENA personnel emphasized this point in possibly every presentation and every panel discussion. In my interviews with some of IRENA’s most expert staff, I started by getting this point out of the way myself and delving deeper (our audience is well aware of this point and I’m sure wants more than a generic statement about low renewable energy prices). I kept asking why, if renewables are already cheaper, fossil fuels and nuclear are being installed at all — in the UK, in the Netherlands, in the USA, in India, in China, etc. Related, I asked how people, cities, states/provinces, and countries could now hasten renewable energy adoption.
Not surprisingly, most of the responses lined up precisely with our views and aims here on CleanTechnica. Awareness, awareness, awareness was one of them — well, the lack of awareness about low renewable energy costs and the need to get this core message across, something that has to be done over and over in different regions and when talking to different audiences. More people — especially in top business and political roles — need to understand that renewables are cheaper. Hence the repetition, repetition, repetition throughout the assembly and in probably all new IRENA documents. It may get annoying to people who already learned the lesson, but this repetition (from all of us) is what’s needed to bring this point to people beyond our cleantech-enthusiast community, which is still a tiny minority of the population.
We have to spin the story in new ways. We have to highlight more exciting stats when they come out. We have to share the heck out of these pieces. Because the vast majority still doesn’t get it, anti-renewable policies around the world still block progress, and investors are still lost in 19th or 20th century technology (a coming story). We’re creating a massive carbon bubble by not communicating to the less informed the reality of the industry, and we’re threatening the future of the human species in the process (not to mention other species …).
There are other things that need to be done for governments to “get out of the way” and enable quicker clean energy growth. Hence the 5th chapter of the recent IRENA report for South East Europe. I’ll write more articles on these nitty gritty points — hopefully in ways that help them to get shared with the target audience, the movers and shakers who can disable cleantech obstructions and enable cleantech explosions in more cities, states, and countries. We need the detailed solutions to.
But the first thing people need to understand is that renewable energy is cost-competitive, and often even cheaper than risky and polluting energy. Here are a few of my favorite stories on these points:
*To be honest, most of the IRENA people tend to be quite soft spoken.