Does Cleantech Need to Speak with a Single Voice?

The cleantech industry, and more specifically the clean energy sector — firms in renewable energy, smart grids, clean energy finance, biofuels, and depending on your definition, natural gas — has a lot on its plate. Not only do these businesses, many of which are in their nascency, need to focus on standard business development operations like R&D, market research, branding and sales, they also need to focus on supporting and advocating public policies at the state and national level that will help their products become market competitive with entrenched energy interests.

The question is whether these diverse industries — and their myriad policy needs — that make up the clean energy sector would be better served by speaking with a single voice.

Willie Brent, head of the cleantech practice at the public relations agency Weber Shandwick argues that the various associations that represent the different sectors of the clean energy industry need to band together and apply a unified communication strategy. Brent writes:

Three groups for solar. Four groups for biofuels. More than half a dozen groups for clean energy. At a time when the clean energy industry needs one powerful voice to drive policy and get federal and state lawmakers to actually do something visionary, what we are getting is a 100-part disharmony.”

Brent continues:

…there is a strong need for an all-encompassing umbrella organization that rises above the petty jealousies and turf wars that often make the trade association, non-profit world ineffectual and scattered.”

Facing an uncertain future of political support in Washington, is this a worthy proposition for the clean energy industry? Could it be effective at achieving the kind of public and government support clean energy needs to gain a foothold the U.S?

Could a single clean energy umbrella organization even be able to advocate for such varied interests? Or would such an effort be akin to herding cats?

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Article by Timothy B. Hurst, appearing courtesy Earth & Industry.

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