Before the Inflation Reduction Act, working and succeeding in clean energy came with considerable risk. Now, with the historic legislation in place, it may be time to honor those risk takers who laid the groundwork for a level of certainty not seen before in the industry.
Tom Weirich, who leads marketing efforts in North America for EDP Renewables, chronicles the stories of some of those clean energy visionaries in his forthcoming book "We Took the Risk."
Weirich joined Episode 18 of the Factor This! podcast from Renewable Energy World to share some highlights from the book before it's released on October 1st.
"We as an industry are moving so quickly that we haven't had the chance to really take a moment to pause, acknowledge how far we've gotten and really celebrate those individuals that got us there," Weirich said. "This was my way of contributing to that celebration."
Before joining EDP Renewables, Weirich spent time at Sun Tribe, where he oversaw business development, marketing, and public affairs efforts, as well as Rubicon Capital Advisors and CohnReznick Capital, where he led business development and marketing operations.
But it's Weirich's decade-plus stint at the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) where many in the clean energy industry first crossed paths with him.
Weirich said he was inspired to share the stories of clean energy visionaries in 2016 following the death of Bill Holmberg, the legendary co-founder of ACORE. Away on a business trip at the time, Weirich was unable to attend Holmberg's funeral.
"It really haunted me," Weirich said. "Bill deserved a lot more from me on that front."
Weirich decided to honor Holmberg by telling his story through op-eds placed in industry magazines.
As part of his research interviewing clean energy leaders who knew Holmberg, "all of these stories kept coming up that I didn't know about individuals who paved the way for many of our careers," Weirich said.
A vehicle to chronicle those stories was presented by Weirich's alma mater, Georgetown University. The Creator Institute works to publish first time authors, helping them throughout the publishing cycle.
Weirich said he reached out to around 150 clean energy executives and spent roughly 18 months finishing We Took the Risk.
What stood out during those conversations, Weirich said, was the power of community in clean energy.
Clean energy leaders held a variety of roles in the period covered in the book, which begins with the oil embargo in the 1970s. And all of them seemed to know--and respect--each other. Relationship-building, Weirich realized, was a common driver of their success.
"You talk about seven degrees of separation. I swear, it's less than one person, one degree of separation (in clean energy)," Weirich said.
He said that is an important lesson for newcomers to the industry. "You need to invest in those relationships because, at the end of the day, we're working together."
We Took the Risk details the Enron collapse, the first commercial power purchase agreements, and clean energy's entrance into public markets, among other significant milestones.
Weirich said he hopes the book can inspire the next generation of clean energy risk takers, especially those in historically underrepresented communities.
In order for someone to get into renewables or to be passionate about the industry, "they have to see themselves in that industry," and that takes seeing leaders that they want to emulate, Weirich said. "We all still have the power to make an impact."
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