The Common Sense Colloquy: Q&A with Miranda Ballentine of Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance
It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to engage with a business leader who also happens to be a former Obama Administration appointee and energy executive. Lucky us that today is one such day as we share our Common Sense Colloquy Q&A with Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) Chief Executive Officer Miranda Ballentine. We asked Miranda about REBA’s work as well as lessons she’s learned in her career. We love her succinct answer to our standard questions on best common sense communications advice!
Miranda joined REBA as founding Chief Executive Officer in 2018. REBA is an alliance of large clean energy buyers, developers and service providers who work with NGO partners to open the marketplace “for all non-residential energy buyers to lead a rapid transition to a cleaner, prosperous, zero-carbon energy future.”
Before joining REBA, Miranda was CEO of Constant Power, Inc., a distributed energy resources company in Toronto. Earlier, she was Managing Director of the Business Renewables Center at Rocky Mountain Institute. Miranda was appointed by President Obama to serve as the 4th Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy. In this role, she was responsible for a $9 billion annual energy budget as well as environmental programs covering 9 million acres of land, 200 miles of coastline, 600,000 acres of forestland and 270,000 acres of wetlands. And if that weren’t enough, prior to that service, she was Director of Sustainability for Global Renewable Energy at Walmart Stores, Inc. Whew!
Miranda is incredibly accomplished and we’re fortunate to know her. We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to share a bit of her perspective and wisdom with you and so appreciative of her willingness to make the time to participate in this series.
Our BIG thanks to Miranda for sharing her time and insight with us – and you.
Q: You lead a new national organization dedicated to helping make it easier for companies and organizations to buy renewable energy. Why is that necessary? What help do you provide and how do you enable the growth of renewable energy?
A: Business energy users are the #1 source of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, last year, their renewable energy projects accounted for about two-thirds of all new renewables in the U.S. They want to do more but are slowed down by systemic market and regulatory barriers, not to mention internal business barriers to buying clean energy.
REBA’s priority is accelerating the ability of buyers to transact in the clean energy market. We lift the floor by ensuring that new buyers have access to REBA’s educational resources, like primers, step-by-step guides, and technical case studies. We also push the ceiling by identifying and solving the toughest barriers to clean energy deployment. REBA brings together its members through interactive, in-person events to encourage peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, success story showcases, and discussion of emerging market insights.
REBA’s journey began in 2013 when a dozen large energy buyers came together for mutual support in pursuit of clean energy goals, but discovered that they did not have a singular organization to meet their needs. Flash forward a few years and the group had grown to 200 large energy buyers and REBA formalized as the organization that would focus on the demand-side of the energy equation.
Q: Renewable energy has seemingly come a long way in terms of public acceptance, understanding and interest. What work does the industry still need to do? What role will communications play in that work?
A: Renewable energy has made progress and is more mainstream now than ever; however, large energy buyers continue to face intractable market barriers, and similarly there are persistent misunderstandings about the benefits and challenges of clean energy.
We need to:
Educate the next generation of clean energy buyers to accelerate the number of transactions in the market;
Innovate in market structures, regulatory design, and technology deployment to break down the toughest barriers to clean energy markets working;
Activate a community of clean energy buyers and sellers—and all of their partners—to do more together through trusting relationships;
Communicate the benefits of clean energy.
On this last point, the collective voice and actions of large energy buyers are powerful in story-telling the benefits of zero-carbon energy. Businesses that everyday Americans know and love—like Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, and Google—are seen as trusted spokespeople on behalf of their customers and employees. Appropriately communicating the impact of clean energy development and procurement through messaging that touches on priorities of constituents – like job creation, local economic growth, and community impact – in discussions with legislative, regulatory, and policy stakeholders will reinforce the need for solutions and the proliferation of renewable energy.
Q: In your career, you have been a presidential appointee, a corporate executive and CEO, senior business consultant and now a trade association leader. What communications lessons have you learned in your career? How do you apply them to your work at REBA today?
A: Simplify. Listen to folks. Use plain language. Speak so your grandmother could understand…or the over-worked parent in the checkout line at Walmart…or the spouse of a deployed military member. You must be able to explain to these types of folks why clean energy matters to them—to their pocket book, to their family’s security, and to our nation’s success.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you’ve received?
A: Use periods, not commas. Drop the jargon.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you've given to others?