Revisiting the key operatives: Alternative vs. Renewable

I have asked the following of all the attendees of conferences (Energy Ocean 2007, AWEA Wind Resource and Project Energy Assessment Workshop, 2009 Ocean Renewable Energy Conference IV, and others…) I have attended over the past few years–receiving favorable responses from everyone who approached me after I asserted my agency on the following.

I would like to challenge anyone in the RE establishment to cease using the operative ‘alternative’ in your articles/posts/dialogues and start using ‘renewable’ prominently. In using ‘alternative’ therein lies an implication that the masses have a choice. I think all scientists, engineers, politicians and journalists need to send a clear, collective message that renewable energy is the LONG TERM solution. The sooner the operative renewable is planted as the collective operative in the ‘cranial libraries’, the sooner it will resonate with those who are solicitous about making the transition, garnering more support from populous so the MASSIVE transition can ensue. I mean, it’s inevitable, at some date in the future, where the operative renewable energy will be commonplace and the norm–so why not make the transition now?

To my surprise, even Oregon State Senator Betsy Johnson embraced this line of thought when I bent her ear at the 2009 Ocean Renewable Energy Conference IV. Way-best!

Aside: From a marketing standpoint, I understand some folks have invested in the operative ‘alternative.’ To them I say, it only makes sense to reinvest branding in the operative ‘renewable.’ Time is money. And time is not something this industry has a great deal of time left, if it expects to be able to compete strongly with the CONG (coal, oil, nooklar, natural gas) conglomerates within the next 5-10 years. Momentum will be lost the longer we delay… There is no Planet B.

When is the RE industry going to start marketing like the petrol-pharma companies?

We live in a day and age where so many are bent on consumerism. And although I am not in agreement with this notion, I think as scientists and engineers, we cannot continue approach appealing to the masses in a business as usual (BAU) manner to get our message across. The message that I/you/we/he/she/everyone wants (really needs) renewable energy incorporated into our lifestyles on a MASSIVE scale as a story.

Disclaimer: I don’t have a TV and I don’t have much time for entertainment, so I’m not sure what else is out there that I’ve missed over the past two years.

Go have a look at how Pfizer conveys their latest ‘Time to Quit‘ message to smokers.

You wanted…
Your plan…
You wanted…

However, I do give California’s PG&E utility campaign last year kudos for it’s ‘inter-generational disaster in the making’ ad campaign to the masses kudos.
Energy Efficiency Spot 2
Energy Efficiency Spot 3
Energy Efficiency Spot 4

I also rather dug the light-hearted MC Lar’s ‘I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas‘ last year.
And of course I can’t forget story telling maven Annie Leonard with her ‘Story of Stuff‘ and more recently her ‘Story of Cap and Trade‘ movies.

I also think the hubris of the humanities is holding matters up. It happened before in societies that collapsed. I think it’s going to happen again. I speak of the Hohokam in AZ in 3BC who, in spite of not raising domesticated animals and only used wood modestly, a life ‘apparently’ based sustainability, with the increase in population food became scarce, environmental changes, imposition of irrigation strategies/over-farming and social responses, er ‘ceremonial activities’ weakened their system’s resilience and made their system vulnerable to the climate extremes. And the Norse society in Greenland in the 1720s sticking to established patterns, elaborating on its churches and ‘ideological conditioning’ of the population instead of its hunting skills. And so it goes today…

Look, I think future barrage of messages about REs are going to need to be sexy and appeal to what people want. Sexy sells right now, ja? For example, pink BiPVs for all the soccer moms in the USA! Get it?

Branding oneself

I don’t profess to be a marketing maven. I do, however, understand that hiring managers must be getting deluged and inundated with electronic resumes these days. So, how does one stand out from the crowd? Break the ice? Get someone’s attention? Just a thought, perhaps one should try branding oneself?

Some years ago during the dot-com, I tried to snatch the ‘kimberly’ userid on all the free email services. Needless to say, I was VERY late on the draw. What to do? What to do? I decided that the path of lesser resistance was to change the ‘b’ to a ‘g’ in my userid. And, Voila! I’m Kimgerly everywhere! (The ‘gerly’ is pronounced with a Caribbean flavour.) This handle has served me well with my music publishing avocation over the years. And, it also works as a nice ice-breaker when making new connections. Ja, ja, from time-to-time I do need to embellish that the ‘g’ is intentional. So…

I thought I’d try it again with my renewable energy engineer job description. I went out of my way to ensure that the meta tags on my personal web site pages, as well as any public sites I have registered my information featured the operatives ‘hybrid renewable energy engineer’ prominently. At last check, when inputting those operatives into Google, my online resume came up as the first hit on the page. Even before NREL’s HOMER software! And thanks to the Engineering Exchange, I come up number seven in the list on the first page of hits, even before the School for Renewable Energy Science in Iceland, too. Imagine that!

I’ll wait and see what kind of net return this yields. Stay tuned…

The Informational Interview

To my surprise, this tactic has proved the most successful for me over the past several years in securing short-term, contract work assignments. Yes, contractual work is my comfort-zone, which I am sure a great deal of employers have difficulty comprehending. During the dot-com, it was expected by an employer that an employee could demonstrate agility and adaptability to change, wear a number of different hats. Evolve. And mind you, evolve on-the-fly, because it was new territory we were traversing, and there were no reference books or rules–kind of like what’s currently transpiring in the RE industry at this juncture in time. Going through a number of mergers in a short span of a few years actually created this personality work mold of mine. That being said…

Being a dot-com ‘survivor’ with and long and lengthy list of skill sets in my arsenal doesn’t hurt, either. AND, very important, one needs to be honest about the type of worker they are and environments in which one thrives. Essential! I often find myself revisiting and retaking my Myers-Briggs (Personality) Test prior to going out on an Informational Interview.

According to my mentor, Sarah Murphy of WorkLink in San Francisco, CA, USA:

As the name implies, the Informational Interview is a fact-finding mission for the jobseeker. The jobseeker should never enter the Informational Interview with the impression that it will lead to a job. Occasionally, the Informational Interview can turn into a job interview.The Informational Interview is an opportunity for the jobseeker to ask questions about the role, industry, and company culture. It is also a key component of a jobseeker’s networking strategy.

Aside: I enjoy workplaces where there is appreciation of innovation and originality, and job content variety. I have a passion for coming up with new ideas, like change and dynamic environments, so I don’t mind ambiguity. I rather like being immersed in projects that are high-risk with high-reward opportunities. Working independently or as a team member is not a problem.

Indeed, I am more comfortable working with smaller, start-up companies that require the agility, adaptability, adept dynamics and creativity that have become part of my comfort zone. So, when I go on Informational Interviews, I am often able to suss out where my transferable skills fit-in, whilst also negotiating a way to find out where an opportunity or two may lie where I can get more applied skills in the RE industry.

I usually have 8-10 questions prepared, as well. And I always keep expectations lo-no on the job acquisition outcome, since this is NOT the intent of an informational interview. I additionally frame my interaction under the auspice of a conversation, not an interview–this usually minimizes the stress for all involved.

The outcome of my Information Interviews? I manage, at worst, to get a call back. And on most occasions, am usually offered a job.


Not enough can be said about this tactic. With the exception of the matrix, this is how I’ve obtained short-term contract gigs over the past 3+ years.

Go to every industry conference you can afford to attend. Be sure to target your conversations on a few key people–there won’t be time to speak to everyone. And be sure to have your 30 second introduction polished, and business card in-hand.

And if you don’t have a budget to attend too many conferences, offer to volunteer e.g. moderate and/or time speaker sessions, provide administrative assistance, etc.

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What is a Hybrid RE Engineer?

An engineering generalist with an understanding of sustainable development whose skills set are typically comprised of an amalgam of mechanical and electrical engineering. One who is able to design and assemble systems and components that are comprised of more than one renewable energy (RE) technology i.e. solar, wind, hydro-kinetic (ocean/wave/micro-hydro), biomass, hydrogen fuel cell, geothermal and storage (battery, fly wheel, pumped-hydro). The RE technologies selected depend on one's geographical predisposition, resource availability, the end-use need, practicing conservation (behavioral change) to name a few considerations...

Content © 2009-2017 by Kimberly King