Being Mad As Hell For The Clean Energy Revolution

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Some movies, both iconic and impactful in their time, end up becoming lost to history. The 1976 drama “Network” is one of those. Rarely seen on television these days, its defining scene depicts an aging TV news anchor named Howard Beale, frustrated with the injustices, large and petty, visited upon the average person by an unseeing and uncaring authoritative bureaucracy –- and by a society that’s lost its way. Beale concludes an on-air rant by screaming the famous line, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Beale then exhorts all of his viewers to go to the window and do the same, and soon everyone in New York City is at the window screaming "I am as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

That's sort of what I feel like now when I think about our leadership and our society's failure to address the challenge of climate change, notwithstanding the dire warnings of the world's best scientists.

I wish I had the type of stroke displayed by the fictional Howard Beale. With his passionate frustration as a catalyst, he launched a movement.

And that is what we need now.

But this movement doesn't need to be manifested solely in people venting their frustration by screaming something pointless out the window. People can affect change by embracing clean energy solutions that will bring about a clean energy society. This will restore the planet to good health.

So if you do want to scream out your proverbial window: rail against a sclerotic and tangled regulatory system and statutorily mandated industrial framework that denies you choice in terms of your own energy destiny, frustrates your ability to get maximum value out of your own clean energy resources, and puts the interest of the energy production and transportation complex ahead of you, the end-use energy consumer.

Scream out the window, if you must, but if you really want to be heard, scream on our news site, Generation Change, is being launched by us in partnership with the Huffington Post (or to your Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr account).

But actions speak louder than words, so here are a few other ways for you to be heard:

  1. Start by thinking about your energy consumption. It has been said that the average American thinks about their energy consumption six minutes per year. Be different; do better! Think about how much energy you waste and how much money could be saved. Think about where your energy comes from, how it is produced and delivered to you. Think about how to protect yourself from future disruption in your supply of energy. We have not seen the last Superstorm Sandy.
  2. Look into replacing your existing electricity plan with one that provides power from renewable resources such as solar and wind. If your electric utility does not offer you that alternative, call them (or the public service commission in your state), and ask them, "why not?" While you wait for them to act, find an energy company that does offer a renewable alternative.
  3. Think about which retailers, restaurants, brands, and products you feel loyal towards. How much do you know about how their products were produced? Were they produced with a commitment to sustainability and using clean energy? If your favorite consumer brands do not disclose, ask them. If their answer impresses you, encourage them to do more. If their answer depresses you, shop around.
  4. At least consider installing solar panels on your roof. In many states, with relatively expensive electricity provided by the utilities, you will save money by doing so. Then, after you have done it, go next door and ask your neighbor whether they have considered distributed solar. If you don't have a roof of your own, there are other products and services that will allow you to take advantage of the unlimited and free power provided by the sun.
  5. If you are a part of one of the almost 70 million American households lucky enough to own more than one automobile, go electric with your second car. They are easy, inexpensive to operate and maintain and are very, very fun. And do you really need your second car to be able to drive across the country? Isn't that what your first car is for?

If you act to embrace this sustainability challenge, I guarantee that you will have corporate America standing with you. In the case of this social movement, at least -- perhaps for the first time in history -- corporations may be leading the charge. And given the streamlined decision-making (compared to government), immense financial resources, innate sense of business urgency and access to cutting edge technology of the major corporations, that is -- in my opinion -- a very positive thing.

You likely are skeptical. Surely, you say, the Koch Brothers with their very conservative right political agenda are emblematic of corporate America; you say oil companies funded the climate change denial industry for the last couple decades; you say American electric utilities seem more interested in protecting the status quo than in giving the American energy consumer clean or distributed energy solutions options to choose from.

And you would be right- on all accounts.

But look again. Look at what enlightened corporations like Virgin, GE, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Wal-Mart and Dow are doing on the sustainability/clean energy front. I think you will be impressed.

At NRG, we are trying to transform ourselves. We are running flat out to embrace the clean energy future, while at all times being mindful of our critical role in keeping the lights on in all of the markets we serve.

We’re committed to doing everything we can to drive us toward a clean energy future, but this global fist fight over climate change won't be won by any one company or consumer. We need to cooperate and act together -- another 'coalition of the willing.' Our hope is that through this dialogue, we will all learn, challenge, share, and act on what needs to be done today for a better tomorrow.

So get mad as hell. Get mad as hell that the status quo has remained unchallenged for so long. Get mad as hell that some energy companies aren’t giving you the freedom to know, understand and choose where and how you get your energy. And that is because they are betting on the fact that all of us will continue to be largely indifferent to who supplies our energy or how it is produced and transported.

Prove them wrong.

Click here to learn more about how NRG is driving the clean energy future.