Ross Shafer delivered the keynote speech at AESP’s 2016 National Conference in Phoenix a few weeks ago. Mr. Shafer is a former late night talk-show host/comedian, game show host, author, and speaker. His message for AESP was excellent. He was engaging and funny, but most importantly, he presented sound, valuable advice for business; specifically customer satisfaction and experience. I cannot recall a single thing of substance he said that I disagree with. In fact, I passed along much of his advice to our team at Michaels via The Daily, our employee-only blog.
One area of advice from Mr. Shafer was: be bold. Try things. Take calculated risks and don’t be afraid of failure. Put it out there and listen to the herd – the herd being customers and potential customers, of course. The herd includes all potential customers, whatever the market may be.
A Queasy Proposition
As I sat through sessions at the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference last week, the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s (MEEA) annual conference, sensations of queasiness bubbled up at times because there was such strong emphasis on damn-the-torpedoes decarbonizing our energy supply along with high, and sometimes naïve, doses of Clean Power Plan (CPP) advocacy.
LISTEN to the herd!
Energy efficiency has, or at least had, wide and far bipartisan support. The CPP and climate change? Not so much.
Only died-in-wool Kool Aid drinkers adore everything about their favorite team, athlete, politician, political organization, movement, spouse, or family member. “Oh god, there he goes again…” It may be embarrassing or it may hurt the cause. Instead, the rational response is wishing they’d keep their eye on the ball and stop torqueing off half the herd you may be trying to influence and win over.
Ralph Cavanagh, top of the heap at the National Resources Defense Council, led off the MEEA conference with an inspiring story of energy efficiency success over his career, which began in the late 1970s. He said energy efficiency as a resource during the course of his career exceeded the added supply of all other supply-side sources, combined.
I don’t doubt it when I consider refrigerator energy use has dropped by 75% per unit. Light bulb efficacy has improved by 70%. Cooling efficiency has improved by at least 50%, and so on.
He also mentioned that energy efficiency has long had strong bipartisan support in government. He mentioned the first state energy efficiency standards and the first national energy efficiency standards were both introduced by conservative saint, Ronald Reagan.
Climate change is a 50/50, 5 issue. It is a 50/50 issue, or close to it, most likely split along political party lines. That is, according to Rasmussen Reports, roughly an equal percentage of Americans think global warming is primarily due to human activity versus natural causes. This has not changed substantially in almost 10 years. See the first graph on the left.
It is a 5 issue in that five percent of Americans in two separate polls consider it our biggest challenge, 70% fewer than the group which sees jobs as our biggest challenge. See the second and third graph on the left.
(I find it interesting to see that people think taxes and the economy/jobs are so vastly different when in reality they are inextricably connected at the hip.)
Gallup takes a broader view with more issues. Still, environment is far down the list of priorities, as shown below.
In a stunning reversal, The Onion found that global warming “remains among the most important either nonexistent or irreversible issues of the campaign”.
Know the Customer
Anyone in business better well know who their customers are and how they think. Simply put, it includes those who send us checks or wire money to us, or in some other way serve as the source of revenue. For just about everyone reading this post, the customers are the end users of energy – the folks represented by the polling data above.
Backdoor GHG Progress
For a great many things in life, we must take the scenic route to our destination. Being impatient, trying too hard, forcing things, and taking shortcuts can be detrimental to achieving the objectives we may seek. I have experienced this in my personal life (e.g., running, specifically marathoning), and I have experienced this in my professional life – more so, I have observed it.
We are already half way to the Clean Power Plan target, and it hasn’t even kicked in yet. This was achieved mostly by market forces on the supply side and cost-effective energy efficiency policy on the demand side. As an example of market forces, Greenbiz reports that the demise of coal is almost entirely due to cheap natural gas.
I suggest we stay the course. Certain states and regions may prefer to move faster. Cheery o. Let efficiency work. Convert to low/no carbon sources of energy through attrition of assets. Most people will be on board with this formula. The opposition won’t realize what happened.
Did I mention the CPP is projected to have a grand-total impact of 0.02 degrees Celsius (!) by the end of the century? I think some prudency review is in order.
After writing this post, I found this great article in Midwest Energy News for keeping efficiency and clean energy out of the political mud pit.
Elephant Picture Sources: Serene elephants: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/do-elephants-ever-forget/ Charging elephants: http://quotesgram.com/elephant-herd-quotes/