Wind Power Pioneer Interview: Rudd Mayer, Land and Water Fund of the Rockies
Wind Power Pioneer Interview: Rudd Mayer, Land and Water Fund of the Rockies
Location: Boulder, CO
"Rudd Mayer helped pioneer the field of wind energy marketing. Her commitment, passion, and joy for her work inspired utilities, regulators, businesses, nonprofits, and ordinary citizens to share her vision and to embrace wind energy. Her wind energy marketing and other related work led to 250 MW of new wind energy facilities coming online to meet Colorado's energy demands—an investment of a quarter of a billion dollars. Because of Rudd and a few other like her, Colorado is now on a path toward a cleaner energy future. Rudd was an extraordinary person who touched virtually everyone she came in contact with, often in deeply personal ways. On August 13, 2002, Rudd's great heart failed. She is missed greatly." — Eric Blank, Community Energy, Inc.
Susan Innis, Western Resource Advocates, remembers Rudd Mayer.
Tell us a little about Rudd's background and her coming to the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies (LAW Fund).
A. After raising four great kids, Rudd began her working life editing ad copy in the Chicago area. She moved west to pursue her dream of living in this beautiful place where she had spent many vacations. In 1992, she joined the LAW Fund (now called Western Resource Advocates) as an assistant with the energy project and quickly evolved into a leading advocate for wind power.
Q. How/why did she get interested in wind energy?
A. When Rudd joined the LAW Fund, she had a voracious appetite for information, and she read everything she could get her hands on. She quickly became interested in new developments in renewable energy and the launch of the first wind farms in the region.
As the LAW Fund's Green Marketing Program Director, Rudd developed the Grassroots Campaign for Wind Power. Tell us about its origin, implementation, challenges, and evolution.
A. When Public Service Company of Colorado agreed to offer Windsource, a program in which consumers could purchase wind power at a slight premium, Rudd developed a unique grassroots, community-based marketing campaign to build support for the new program. She wanted to prove to the utility that its customers would support wind power and were willing to put their money behind it. Rudd's Grassroots Campaign for Wind Power worked with cities, schools, small and large businesses, and the general public. Her vision was to develop a community-wide clean energy ethic—similar to recycling—by gaining broad participation in the Windsource program. In doing so, Rudd developed a model for environmental groups to work in partnership with utilities and influential members of the community to increase awareness about wind power, educate people about its benefits, and support new wind farms. Over the past 6 years, this program has been expanded to support new utility programs in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. In addition, Rudd's model has been implemented by dozens of environmental groups across the country.
One of the more innovative efforts in the Grassroots Campaign for Wind Power was the CU initiative. Tell us about this project.
A. Large commercial customers were one of the key targets of Rudd's outreach. The University of Colorado has a huge influence on the local community in Boulder and has a long track record of positive environmental initiatives like recycling and alternative transportation. This made CU an ideal candidate for a wind power purchase. Rudd met with campus administrators several times to discuss wind purchases, but budget constraints prevented them from participating in Windsource. Will Toor, the director of the campus CU Environmental Center (and mayor of Boulder), became interested in energy issues and Rudd worked with him, his staff, and students to develop a student-led campaign to increase student fees to purchase the output of one wind turbine from the Windsource program.
In 2000, the students ran a high visibility campaign. They built a "mock wind farm" out of pinwheels on campus, handed out flyers and pinwheels, and successfully encouraged students to support the referendum to raise student fees by $1 per semester to support wind power. CU is now one of the largest Windsource customers and was the first college in the country in which students voted to support renewable energy. Several other colleges have followed in CU's footsteps, and clean energy is a hot topic on campuses across the country.
Q. Another innovative element of the Grassroots Campaign for Wind Power was getting businesses to sign up. What approach was used and what lessons were learned from that effort?
A. One of the most successful aspects of the Grassroots Campaign for Wind Power was outreach to small businesses. In developing a marketing partnership for the Windsource program, Rudd learned that utilities are very effective at communicating with residential customers and large commercial customers. There was a gap in communication with small businesses about the new wind power option. Rudd developed a "street team" approach in which several LAW Fund staff members would literally walk door to door to canvas businesses in busy shopping areas in Boulder.
Small business owners were very receptive to one-on-one communication, and we found that we could answer questions more effectively in person than through a mailing or phone conversation. We learned that businesses liked to show their support for wind by advertising with a poster or sticker in their window—this allowed for positive secondary marketing to residential customers. We also learned how to talk to businesses in a business tone and developed messages about how signing up for wind power would help a company appeal to consumers in Boulder by giving them positive PR. The result of this effort was that more than 500 businesses signed up for wind power, with about half of those signed up through the street team.
Tell us a few fun stories about Rudd and her work.
A. One of the greatest things about Rudd was that she always had fun, no matter how hard she worked. In the summer time she'd often take an afternoon off to rollerblade along the creek path through town. Although she was certainly professional when it was called for, most of her colleagues remember her for their personal connection with her. Rudd would be the one at the conference asking folks what rock concert they had been to recently, how their kids were doing, or the latest gossip about their love life. She had an uncanny ability to connect with a wide range of people.
One of the great stories about Rudd concerns the time she was in the same room as Mikhail Gorbachev. No one knew what to say to him, but Rudd walked right up and talked with him about how her friends often called her "Ruddski" and she'd always felt part Russian. Like most folks who met Rudd, Gorbachev lit up, and several people came over to join in the fun conversation.
Q. What would Rudd say is the key to moving renewables and conservation into the mainstream of energy planning and deployment?
A. Rudd's grassroots approach to build consumer demand for wind was hugely successful in getting the region's first wind projects off the ground. She truly believed in the power of consumer demand in making a difference. Rudd also recognized that top-down approaches (things like renewable portfolio standards) are needed, and her work helped open the door for broader acceptance of wind power by policymakers and utility planners.
The LAW Fund established a fund in Rudd's memory. Tell us about it and how to participate.
A. The Rudd Mayer Memorial Wind Energy Fund was set up by the Mayer family and the LAW Fund (now Western Resource Advocates) to help continue Rudd's innovative work. Tax-deductible donations can be made to: Western Resource Advocates, Attn: Rudd Mayer Memorial Wind, 2260 Baseline Road, Suite 200, Boulder, CO 80302. More information about Western Resource Advocates is available at: http://www.westernresources.org/ or by calling (303) 444-1188 ext. 221.
Q. What is Rudd's legacy?
A. Rudd proved that a petite woman with a big heart and bold vision could really stir things up. She really helped pave the way for wind development in the Interior West, and each turbine installed in Colorado is a testament to her efforts.
Q. What would Rudd say to young people interested in wind energy?
A. Rudd loved kids. She would probably talk to them about how cool wind turbines are. Two of her grandkids have already appeared on a TV news segment about wind power in California, and they're not even 2 years old yet!
Rudd would convey the idea that individuals of any age have the power to make a difference, and she would encourage them to spread the word about the benefits of wind power.
This information was last updated on August 02, 2011