In May 2012, the Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES) held its annual “CREC” (Colorado Renewable Energy Conference) in conjunction with the World Renewable Energy Forum at the Colorado Convention Center. The CRES team assembled a Colorado track, placing our state’s renewable energy innovation in the international spotlight. A spectacular showcase for CRES, the Forum allowed our members to exchange ideas with renewable energy thought leaders from around the state, the nation and the globe. Yet, the event naturally lacked intimacy and warmth. It was a huge conference, in a huge venue, with a huge agenda.
By contrast, on September 6, 2013 at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Ricketson Law Building the feel was quite different. This was CREC back to an intimate space emphasizing local policy and innovation. And, it was wonderful.
Jeff Ackermann, Director of the Colorado Energy Office outlined Colorado’s history of renewable energy advocacy and its path forward in his keynote address. His message was clear: Colorado has been a renewable leader but there is still more work to do. He noted that we have only begun to address some topics such as thermal energy use, unhealthy forests, and water. Mr. Ackermann gave us a challenge, as CRES members and supporters: what outcomes do we want to achieve through our advocacy?
Attendees called the two session tracks—one organized by CRES and the other by conference partner Colorado Green Building Guild—productive and valuable. Sessions on policy, financing, new technologies, and building topics such as energy retrofits prompted extensive conversations in the sessions and in the halls. Plus, the majority of sessions were certified for either AIA, LEED or CLE credits, adding to the value of this year’s conference.
The list of ways that conference goers were leveraging their time and money invested in CREC seemed endless: catching up with colleagues they hadn’t seen in months; learning something new that would benefit their work; making new contacts; better understanding the work that others are undertaking.
I experienced very clear and even unexpected benefits:
- Learned about work by others in which I am interested in getting involved.
- Was educated about efforts that inform my work.
- Engaged in a conversation that resulted in an immediate change to draft policy language.
- Renewed a contact that will inform a project my firm is currently engaged in for a state agency.
- Made new contacts with individuals and firms that will allow me to expand my firm’s offerings.
- Had conversations that may lead to new projects for my firm.
- Raised the brand recognition of my firm (as judged by the number of folks stopping me in the halls to say, “You’re with Energy Intersections, aren’t you?”).
I attend and speak at many conferences. The 2013 CREC was one of the top 5 most enjoyable and productive professional events I have ever attended. Colorado energy professionals who want to grow the EE/RE sides of their businesses, who want to see more EE and RE deployed in our state, and who want to see a robust, strategic energy policy in Colorado need to attend these events and support CRES.
The 2013 CREC was put on by CRES’s tenacious and tireless executive director and membership director, relentlessly dedicated board, and outstanding volunteers. This is hard work. At the same time, this same band of renewable energy advocates was:
- Applying for a grant to fund strategic energy planning and smart rebuilding workshops for Colorado’s hardest hit communities.
- Planning CRES’s Tour of Solar and Green Built Homes held with partner Golden Earth Days Friday October 4th and Saturday October 5th.
- Supporting planning for NCRES’s Eco Cruise (now a Lunch & Learn due to flooding) on this Saturday September 28th.
- Conducting workshops for rebuilding in fire struck communities through our SECRES chapter.
- Intervening in Xcel Energy’s Demand Side Management Strategic Issues Docket at the Public Utilities Commission on behalf of our members and communities.
- Engaging with state legislators and other decision makers on policies that will promote the implementation of EE and RE technologies.
- Producing CRES News to keep members informed.
- Conducting member, sponsor and donor outreach.
What this organization accomplishes amazes me. Focused on its mission of educating consumers, businesses and policy makers on the opportunities that lie withing energy efficiency and renewable energy, CRES is a powerhouse of effective advocacy. Which makes me ask: what can I do to advocate for our clean energy future? How can I work with CRES? Here are my answers:
- Show up: as often as possible, I can show up and pay the price of admission. I will learn something, meet people, gain recognition for myself and my firm as dedicated thought leaders and help CRES fill the seats.
- Spread the word: I have social networks touching a few hundred people. If I share CRES’s even once or twice a month, I exponentially expand CRES’s reach.
- Join: I get wonderful news, discounts and contacts as a CRES member that I don’t get by staying on the margins. And, my membership fee helps CRES all of the activities above that, in the long term, benefit me and my community.
- Sponsor: sponsoring just one CRES event has increased the visibility of my firm within the renewables community. How much can it benefit your business?
- Volunteer: there are endless opportunities to help CRES fulfill its mission and extend its reach. I can: Write an article. Staff a table at a fund raising event, meeting, tour or conference. Reach out to prospective volunteers and sponsors. Attendee a policy meeting. Design a workshop. Coordinate volunteers. Submit a grant. We can each contribute something—large or small, on-going or one-time—to make CRES that much more successful.
Mr. Ackermann challenged us to become strategic about our advocacy efforts. For many of us, renewable energy advocacy can be as simple as taking one of the actions above to support and engage with CRES. That’s a good strategy for our advocacy. CRES is a great organization, but it needs all of us to engage for it to continue to thrive. How will you leverage your advocacy on behalf of CRES’s advocacy for you?