The Sustainable Energy Association – why the name change?
E2B hears from Dave Sowden, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA), about his organisation’s rebranding from the Micropower Council, the reasons behind it and the policy areas it will be focusing on in 2014.
E2B: So what sparked the decision to rebrand from the Micropower Council to the Sustainable Energy Association?
DS: We began as the Micropower Council 10 years’ ago to create the political narrative that micro-generation (sustainable energy production from buildings) is a good thing. However, over the past 3-4 years, the market is increasingly about integrating energy efficiency solutions with low carbon energy production. Figures like Greg Barker want a whole building approach and having an advocacy organisation focused on a fairly narrow range of six or so technologies was becoming increasingly artificial. In fact, for the past three years or so, we’ve been doing as much work on energy efficiency as we have on energy production, but the name that we had didn’t lend itself to an easy description of that. People just didn’t get it and also the word ‘micro’ had connotations of being quite niche.
So, after much considered thought our Executive Committee decided to change the name, rebrand and become the Sustainable Energy Association. We announced that in December at the Christmas Reception. The formal launch is going to be on the 24th of March this year on the House of Commons’ terrace.
E2B: How would you describe the SEA’s main offering to its members?
DS: We provide a service which delivers policy change to help the companies that are involved commercialise their products and services which are focused on the energy efficiency and low carbon energy production from buildings. We’re a business funded organisation, an advocacy group if you like. We’re not a conventional trade association, because we don’t develop technical standards or codes of practice for our members.
While there is some overlap with other trade associations, no-one else is doing the integration piece – the whole range of local carbon solutions coupled with energy efficiency.
We’re about creating the policy framework that allows that integrated approach to work better than it does currently. Policies are disjointed – energy efficiency policy stops and then low carbon energy production policy starts – they’re not cleverly integrated in DECC or at the community or local government level.
E2B: So how do you go about achieving policy change for your members?
DS: We focus on evidence-based policy development as our principal means of influencing policy. Other organisations focus more on PR and media. Both have a place and the media opportunity created by others often opens up a policy influence space for us to move into. We do things like thought leadership pieces and so on, that are always underpinned by substantive analysis. We have analysts who shadow the Government’s economic assessments for new policy proposals. We run impact assessments in the same way that the Government would run them before we submit a proposal, so we’re going in knowing what the numbers look like and understanding how they’ll be interpreted by the Government’s own economists. We’ve got a fairly rich stakeholder engagement programme as well.
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