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Business leaders and everyday worker advocates are needed for renewable energy economy shift

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Business leaders and everyday worker advocates are needed for renewable energy economy shift
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A debate about the future energy supply in the U.S. is underway, and how this debate gets resolved will have great consequences for the health and well-being of people everywhere.

Renewable energy is by far the cleanest, and is quickly becoming the most affordable, energy choice. However, these facts are often not adequately communicated to decision makers and the public. Who can cut through the noise and provide objective information and a compelling story? The Wind Energy Foundation (WEF) is finding that the most effective voices are renewable energy business leaders who create jobs and investment, and the everyday workers delivering goods and services.

That’s why WEF has launched an advocacy training program for renewable energy company employees and other community influentials, through our A Renewable America campaign. Renewable energy is increasingly becoming an economic engine in many communities, and so it is critical to enlist representatives of these companies to tell their inspiring stories. Because few people within these companies other than the CEO feel prepared to tell their story to the public or otherwise participate in policy advocacy, WEF offers them a five-hour, in-depth training course to increase their comfort level and their preparedness.

During the past two years, our program has trained over 230 business leaders and workers at 10 events in eight key states. Using a combination of national and local experts, we provide our trainees with basic skills for interacting with decision makers, broadcast and print media, and social media.  With just a short time investment, these community leaders have become better advocates when interacting with state and federal decision makers, and when engaging the press and online in social media. Additional trainings are planned in the coming weeks in Philadelphia, Houston and Minneapolis.

We have learned that the wind and solar industries, and those who supply them and buy energy from them, have great economic stories to tell in local communities all across the U.S. Employment in the wind industry grew by nearly 20 percent last year, and the solar industry has grown by over 20 percent in each of the last three years. Both sectors are also delivering billions in private investment into U.S. communities, and each have managed to drive down costs by about two-thirds in the last seven years.

The urgency of renewable energy business people and other community leaders sharing local economic success stories cannot be overstated. Incumbent energy companies and their allies are waging a large-scale disinformation campaign against renewable energy in the U.S., so traditional education and communications strategies that may work for other causes will not carry the day for renewables. Given the well-financed effort designed to mislead decision makers and the public into believing that renewable energy is unaffordable and unreliable, broadly disseminating talking points and market data about the realities on the ground simply will not carry the day. That’s why we taken this much more targeted and focused approach.

For business leaders and workers not able to attend in-person trainings, we’ve also created an online platform that allows users to easily share the latest local industry news on social media through their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn networks. We award prizes to our most active social media users on a monthly basis, and make sure that key decision makers get plenty of positive feedback from local renewable employees when they support the renewable industries on their social accounts. We also offer webinar trainings on social media advocacy; the next one is scheduled for Tuesday, November 8th from 3:30-4:30 PM ET.

By developing a growing network of well-trained advocates from the renewable energy business community, WEF is helping to ensure that key decision makers and the public are hearing about the exciting opportunities available to any U.S. community that embraces the shift to renewables.

If you are employed in the renewable energy industry or work for a private-sector company that is purchasing renewable power and would like to help disseminate pro-renewables messages as part of our Renewable America Champions social media contest, please sign up on our website.

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John Kostyack is the executive director of the Wind Energy Foundation. He held senior roles at the nexus of climate change, energy, and wildlife for the past 20 years at the National Wildlife Federation, and served on the American Wind Wildlife Institute board of directors for the past 3 years.

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