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Marketing Green Technologies
Written by Gautam Patil for Gaebler Ventures
Alternative energy may be a favorite of environmentalists, but its successful induction into business or daily life depends a lot on economics and perception. Innovative marketing strategies are required to increase the penetration of these earth friendly technologies and improve the prospects of entrepreneurs in this energy niche.
Alternative energy mainly constitutes renewable energy sources.
Mentioning alternative energy conveys varied images in people's minds.
On one extreme is the image of an environmentally benign energy source and on the other end is one of a highly unreliable, uneconomical and nascent technology.
Consumers and businesses, thankfully, usually have only economic motivations and do not rely very heavily on their perceptions of these technologies.
In promoting green technologies, the role of marketing is thus to carry out an unambiguous information campaign to allay their customer's fears and also make them aware of the economic and environmental benefits of these technologies.
While being environmentally friendly is a noble goal to pursue for a business or a household, not many will really appreciate the logic of investing so much capital simply to reduce their miniscule carbon foot print.
Without a doubt, savings will provide a much better incentive than just carbon foot print reduction.
Many technologies like wind and biomass can yield power at a cost on par with that provided by utilities. In addition, these technologies also have impressive payback periods ranging from 2 to 5 years.
Some industries, like food processing for instance, are in fact highly suitable candidates for biomass energy, and they could use it to subsidize their energy bills and probably generate additional income as well. Also, most economic considerations only involve the 'current' cost of non-renewable sources while it is the 'expected' costs which must be taken into consideration.
Appropriate choice of technology
There's no point marketing solar thermal geysers in Finland and micro hydro power in the Sahara!
It is important to ensure a match between the customer's requirements, the technology and the natural resources available.
For this purpose, a prospective customer needs to be aware of the value of the natural resources that he is surrounded with. Very few people know the value in dollars of the power that can be generated from the mini stream near their house or the coastal winds at their beach house.
Developing metrics which can be easily used to produce estimates of the dollar value will motivate customers to come forward by themselves and seek out such technologies. For instance, areas enjoying 'good sunshine' for over 300 days an year can use solar thermal heaters for water heating purposes and save more than 20% on their energy bills.
Awareness of subsidies and regulations
It is important that the vendor undertakes conscious efforts to spread awareness about the availability of tax credits or direct government subsidies as these make alternate energy even more attractive.
New regulations like net metering - which make it possible for a consumer to pay only for the net energy consumed, e.g. consumers can even sell electricity to the utility company - make it possible to reduce bills. Furthermore, in some countries like Germany, it is mandatory for utility companies to buy electricity produced from renewable sources at a slightly higher rate - fixed by the government - thereby making them more attractive. Carbon credits are also being actively traded and can be pointed out as an incentive for investment in green technologies.
Gautam Patil is a recent MBA graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. In addition to serving as a contributing writer for Gaebler.com, he will join the consulting firm Oliver Wyman at their London office.
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