Charging around Iceland in an Electric Vehicle

Electricity from renewable sources pours from the wall sockets of Icelandic homes. A vast majority of the country’s car fleet is, however, powered by fossil fuels. Electric vehicles are a viable option in Reykjavik, the nation’s capitals, where two-thirds of the population lives. But traveling around between the remote and spread out rural villages is a challenge no one has taken on.

One of the guests attending last year was Stuart McBain, an accountant from England who specializes in clients that have a sustainability focus. He was so thrilled with the conference that he stated: “I will be attending CHARGE for the rest of my life!”. Stuart has been an electric car owner for some years now and is quite passionate about the transformation from fossil fuels to electricity.

I will be attending CHARGE for the rest of my life!

His passion has literally driven him around the coastline of Britain in an electric car and he is planning to drive along the equator as well.

Stuart is a man of his words but wanted to give something back and deliver a presentation about his passion for renewable energy and sustainability. In a conversation with Dr. Fridrik Larsen, he kindly asked for a slot on the EV track. Since the demand for speaking slots is higher than supply, Fridrik thought that Stuart would have to earn his slot on stage: “Only if you put your money where your mouth is and drive around Iceland before the conference” (well… not really but it sounds kind of cool).

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Stuart will attempt to drive the ring-road around Iceland in an electric car accompanied by his 81-year-old mother and his friend Mark Gorecki. The ring road, or Highway 1, is only 1332 km long but there are many challenges for an electric vehicle. For one, there is no network or infrastructure of charge points and another is the number of mountains they will need to drive up along the way.

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One of the challenges is climbing the mountain roads of Highway 1.

 …there is no network or infrastructure of charge points

Stuart claims that he does not know the term Range Anxiety which is good since there are often more than 100 kilometers between villages along the way and a portion of the trip takes them through the deserted Martian landscape of the Icelandic highlands with an elevation of 600 meters above sea level and not a farm, village or survival shelter in sight for 170 kilometers. If the ring road is not too much of a challenge for them, they might go off the ring road to visit a village or two in a remote fjord.

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After driving around the country that was the inspiration for The Shire, they will attempt to drive along the volcanic desert landscape that was Tolkien’s inspiration for Mordor

If Stuart makes it back in time he will give a presentation at CHARGE and share his adventure as well as talk about his passion for sustainability and electric vehicles.

 

 

How sustainable is your Energy Branding?

Brands need to be sustainable — this is something that should be obvious to everyone. In times when renewable energy sources receive much of the buzz from marketing departments to engineers, from energy companies to the mainstream media — a different kind of sustainability is often forgotten.

[…] there does not seem to be a consensus on the true meaning of sustainability

Defining sustainability

In the energy space, sustainable sources or renewable sources of energy are often used about a wide area of energy sources and there does not seem to be a consensus on the true meaning of sustainability. There are of course official definitions and standards but most individuals do not keep those standards in mind, their definition is often determined by their (in)experience and their perception.

For some, sustainable energy means something that is not fossil fuels while some would include nuclear while others would dismiss hydro from the equation. Almost everyone has to some extent a valid point in the argument, their definition of sustainable energy is based on their value judgment.

The forgotten definition of sustainability

Another type of sustainability for energy is often forgotten — the sustainability of the brands. A brand is both the front and the inside mechanics of the energy company. A brand is of course more than a logo — it’s the perception of consumers and employees alike as everything the company stands for — the brand is affected by every touch point people have with the brand. If a company does is not actively defining the brand and keeping the brand in mind at all times — the brand will be actively defined by the employees and the customers that interact with the brand.

[…] a brand is an investment that should pay off in the short term and the long term

Some companies reluctantly agree that marketing and branding are something that has to be done and allocate X% of their budgets to the marketing department — some even look at it as a sunken cost. But this is not a sustainable attitude. Branding and marketing should not be money thrown away — spending money on a brand is an investment that should pay off in the short term and the long term. Sustainability should be about not wasting resources, the output from any activity should be the same or greater than the input.

Return on Investment

Investing in a sustainable image (this should not be confused with a sustainable-as-in-green image) by building a strong brand should be the priority of any business. Brands should not throw money away at marketing to make them look cool and current — brands should invest their resources in creating a coherent marketing message that is in line with their brand. Brands should not look at their image as something that can be easily fixed in a moment spending a lot at efforts that are the corporate-social-responsible-buzz-thing-to-do of the moment.

Investing in a sustainable image by building a strong brand should be the priority of any business

Saving puppies and suddenly becoming concerned about the well-being of something that has to do with children is not a sustainable way of branding. These things can be sustainable if it relates to the brand and the message of the brand and it can enhance the well-being of the brand. A book publisher is credible when it becomes concerned about children reading books — it is in the brand‘s self-interest, in the long run, to turn more children into bookworms — but it has multiple benefits for the society the publisher does business in.

The challenges of brand building in the energy sector

For a challenger brand entering a competitive energy market — brand building comes more naturally. Challengers often start out small, with a group of like-minded individuals set out to change the world. Their challenge is not to lose sight of what defines them as a brand and stay true to their brand as they expand and make sure that any addition on the team makes a fit with the brand. The incumbents, on the other hand, have a more challenging task ahead of defining their brands. The incumbents can be traced back to different times — times, before google had not entered the vocabulary of small children and IBM, was making tabulating machines under the name of CTR. The incumbent brands have often existed for generations and they have many tasks that are fundamentally different in nature. While the challenger brands are like teenagers, figuring out their identity and changing it slightly as they develop, the incumbents are grown adults that have their identities set but need to define them.

Sustainable investment

To create a sustainable brand, companies need to look at branding and the brand as a strategic matter and a human resource matter. Money spent on branding should be spent effectively and strategically and should be in line with what the company does today and what it will do tomorrow. While the debate on sustainable energy sources goes on, the definition of brand sustainability should be pretty clear.

At CHARGE 2017, we will have great presentations and examples of sustainable brands as well as brands that have increased their financial sustainability by leveraging their brand message with an eco-sustainable value proposition for their customers.

Energizing opportunities at IKEA

IKEA

Sustainability has been a part IKEA’s identity since it’s humble beginnings in Sweden decades ago. Guðný Camilla Aradóttir is the Sustainability Responsible at IKEA Iceland, taking care of sustainability issues. The goal of the brand is to eliminate waste at all time.

IKEA’s sustainability strategy, titled People & Planet Positive, set out some ambitious goals for the brand to head towards more sustainability. IKEA operates wind farms around the world and has installed solar panels on the rooftops of its store locations around the world, installed panels on office buildings and even sold solar panels for homes at some of its locations.

Sustainability as a brand asset

Eneco was one of the first of the established energy utilities in the world to become fully renewable and became the frontrunner in the Dutch energy industry in the production of electricity from sustainable sources. Regine Alewijnse, Brand Manager of Eneco presented the brand’s story and the challenges that are facing truly renewable companies when many companies in the energy value chain present themselves as renewable when in fact, a majority of them are renewable only as far as the marketing message goes.

To further the point, Regine explained how sustainability can become more than a hollow marketing message, by making sustainability a valuable brand asset.

Eneco’s approach has not only been to offer renewable energy and offer customers a choice but also to enable customers the possibility to monitor their energy usage and helping them to cut down usage without noticing it by offering software that monitors and detects usage.