What Is the Role of Effective Communication in a Successful Energy Transition?

Maxim Behar answers this question in the podcast of the Association "Solar Academy Bulgaria."The Association is building a sustainable strategy for developing the energy sector in Bulgaria and supporting education to meet the new needs of the labor market.


Host: Welcome to the channel of the Solar Academy Bulgaria! Today, we have a unique and exciting episode ahead of us. We will meet one of the most successful people in PR and communications. Our special guest will be Mr. Maxim Behar. He is the founder and CEO of M3 Communications Group. It was with Mr. Behar and M3 Communications Group that we organized the events "Recharge Your Career" and the international forum "Be Renewable" last year. Mr. Maxim Behar will share with us what to expect from the new editions of these events this year and how important effective communication is in ensuring a successful energy transition. Welcome to our podcast!

Maxim: Hello!

Host: Please introduce yourself briefly to our viewers.

Maxim: My name is Maxim, and I have been involved in public communications and media for the past 30 years. I am happy with what I do. I manage a relatively large team and have been a big fan of solar energy and the Solar Academy for several years. I communicate with my colleagues and friends involved in this because I feel that if we don't address these issues now, we may lose at least two laps.

Host: Exactly. We mentioned that the second edition of the events "Recharge Your Career" and the forum "Be Renewable" are coming up. Please tell us your impressions of the first editions and what we can expect this year.

Maxim: We started very timidly. I would say I am slightly unsure. However, when I start projects, I always consider this project at least 5 to 8 years ahead. I can see what will happen and predict a promising future for both projects. One aims to explain to young people how important it is to prepare and have the relevant education to enter this business after finishing high school or university. I prefer to speak and communicate with young people from high school because they have already planned their careers by the time they reach university. The other project, "Be Renewable," is also very important because the more I delve into the topic, the more convinced I am that even the best non-governmental organizations and NGOs, like the Solar Academy, are paramount in this business. Without the state's participation, it would be tough for things to happen, as well as the experience in neighboring countries, Greece, Turkey, and Israel, with which I am familiar. The experience in the USA shows that this cannot be achieved only with commercial focus. There needs to be a very aggressive and rapid intervention by the state for things to happen. That's why in "Be Renewable," we started this fantastic project last year together with the Solar Academy, and I expect this year in 2024 for state institutions to get involved not only with beautiful words and PowerPoint presentations but with Beemars showing graphs or figures, but to get involved with concrete solutions.

Host: Yes, it's essential not to be late after all. Alright, as an expert in the communications field, tell us how crucial effective communication is to such an important issue and process as energy transformation and energy in general.

Maxim: Communication is not essential only in energy. In this case, we are talking about solar energy and how about 6-7 million Bulgarians, as many as are left in Bulgaria, can understand the exceptional importance of being able to orient themselves towards the use of solar energy, whether they will drive electric cars, which are not so expensive. I drive a small electric Smart car for two people. It cost 10,000 euros second-hand, and I feel perfect with this little car. It costs me about 2 levs to charge it. I provide specific facts and figures so as not to scare our viewers, listeners, friends, and fans. There is a possibility, of course, for each of the people in Bulgaria, 5-7 million, as many as are here, to orient themselves towards solar energy. We are no longer talking about powering homes or houses, which they have. There are specific conditions that everyone must consider. If you live in a small apartment, you have nowhere to put the panels; you must look for ways to collaborate with neighbors and fellow citizens to mount the panels upwards. There are all sorts of options. However, the most important thing is to understand that with solar energy, we all win, the country succeeds, and our families win. And ultimately, we become better citizens. We become different people when we use another type of energy. We start saving, we start looking at how much we spend, we start looking at how many light bulbs we have installed, but how many watts are they?

Host: Much more aware.

Maxim: This changes human life. Not to mention, I'll repeat it. This is the future. And this future is already in our homes, among us, in our hearts, in our minds.

Host: That's right, yes. What are the key challenges when communicating these benefits to reach the maximum number of people?

Maxim: A large part of people don’t understand that this is something beneficial and enjoyable. And it's not just about saving money, although that is important. And it's essential. Instead, we need to understand how pleasant and beautiful it is to live in a society where we depend on nothing else but sunny days and for the sun to shine so that we can use its energy. Clean, independent, for our homes and purposes, and even industrial ones. I know places in Bulgaria where there are substantial photovoltaic parks; entire industries are powered by electric energy, and on the one hand, this saves them a lot of money and makes their production cheaper.

On the other hand, however, it makes the lives of their employees, workers, businesses, and industries much more meaningful and pleasant, I would say, for society. It is essential to understand what it is about. This is not just a panel you turn on; it will make your energy cheaper, and you won't have to pay. No, this is a whole system of understanding in society that we are starting to live a completely different life.

Host: That's right, yes. Alright, tell us, as an expert, what are the common mistakes the media make when communicating what you are currently explaining in accessible language? Do they manage to convey it to people so that they understand?

Maxim: In this business, social media plays the most significant role and can be best utilized to have precisely this influence and to explain to our listeners, viewers, friends, and fans how important it is to use solar energy sources. I'm not sure that in traditional media - radio, newspapers, television, there are well-prepared people who can delve deeply into this matter, which is not at all complicated. However, you must understand and send your message with simple and human words to those interested. Even those who are not interested explain the benefits of solar energy to them and influence them to become interested in it. For this reason, there must be specialists like you from the Solar Academy, your colleagues, and people involved in this business. Probably people from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, probably people from business organizations, and that's why a comprehensive concept is necessary, a state one. I don't like the word "state" because, unfortunately, even though it's 2024, all that is state-owned still sounds disorganized or sounds...

Host: Without a clear plan.

Maxim: "non-profitable" or unprofitable, and when someone says "state," isn't that some residue from...

Host: ... From before.

Maxim: ... from those times when state-owned meant unmanaged. But there must be a bright, clear, and precise concept. Perhaps from business organizations together with the Ministry of Energy. Together with the government. Communicating the need for solar energy and how the state helps is the most important here! How does the state allow households to install solar energy sources? First, to save money, of course, and secondly, to prevent air pollution and to feel like entirely different people.

Host: That's right! Alright. You travel a lot around the world. Tell us what Bulgaria’s image is when it comes to energy globally. How do we stand on the world map?

Maxim: We're not standing at all if we're talking about the global map. Not just in terms of energy, tourism, or anything else. Of course, Bulgaria behind the ocean is an unknown country, and very often, we use - "north of Turkey" or "north of Greece," and then especially America, Canada, and Latin America say, "Ah, now we understand." For us, it's essential to the perception of Europe towards Bulgaria. I'm not sure that the topic of energy even appears in the receptors of the business, except for those explicitly dealing with energy. Bulgaria is somewhat known for having cheap resorts, not to mention cheap alcohol and many other cheap things. Sunny Beach and these resorts are okay because many other countries are known for that, and that's something that attracts tourists, but it seems to me that I'm returning to state policy and support. Suppose something interesting related to the use of solar energy is done.

In that case, we can easily promote it abroad or within the European Union so that many people say, "Ah, look at what these people in Bulgaria are doing, while others in Belgium or Sweden or elsewhere are not doing it." And therefore, for example, what would I do if I were the Prime Minister of Bulgaria? I will never be and don't want to be. Still, I would propose to the Council of Ministers to vote on a decision according to which anyone wishing to install a solar system in their home or apartment would be granted some funds, like an interest-free loan. Let's say 50 thousand euros, welcome 50 thousand euros, make your solar system, use it, and if afterward, the commission assesses that this system is indeed very efficient. You no longer use electricity from the respective supplier; for example, half can be forgiven, and the other half you will repay without interest. But these are such simple things; the country has a lot of money and will take it from European funds if there is no money. The World Bank and the International Fund loans will be accepted if none are from European funds.

Still, for something like this, for transforming conventional energy into solar energy, money will always be found. And for such a program, 5-6 people are needed, representatives of business, especially in the solar industry. Representatives of the state administration must sit down and develop such a program. Then, we can promote something similar within the European Union: "Look at what Bulgaria is doing." I was recently in Greece, and some people in a hotel boasted that the entire hotel was powered by solar energy. I said to them: "Alright, does it pay off? This is a big investment." They said, "The state covered half of it. This cost 80 thousand euros, and the state covered 40 thousand euros. We are already repaying our 40. The state is reimbursing it's 40, but it's repaying them because they are on top. Because there will be no environmental pollution, there will be no companies, hotels, or industries that use this electrical energy, and here are simple things in which I strongly see the decisive role of the Solar Academy.

Host: We're working hard in this direction. Alright, you mentioned photovoltaic installations for personal use. You have one yourself. Share how you decided on this step and your impressions so far.

Maxim: It took me about 12 seconds to decide. I didn't think so at all because even though I didn't have enough information at that time, two years ago. I started to read; thankfully, we have no boundaries for information now we have Google. I began to read, compare different offers, and compare other technologies and suppliers, and I was sure that I had to switch to solar energy as quickly as possible. I made rough calculations that I would pay off the investment in 5 to 7 years. Then, everything was installed, and I added more batteries. It turned out that I could pay off the investment within ten years, which is okay because ten years is a very reasonable period for repaying the investment.

On the other hand, during these ten years, you feel like a completely different person, a completely different citizen. Let me tell you, immediately after installing the solar system in my house, I started paying attention to which bulb consumes, how much wattage, and how much current. I changed absolutely all the bulbs in the house, in the garden. They were about 25 watts; I put 3 watts instead. And suddenly, it turned out that I had significantly reduced consumption because now you care. It's not the same as before. Whether I'll pay 20 leva or 30 leva, anyway, it will shine. The solar installation and entering this game, this system, completely changes the thinking of every person, and that's something extraordinary and cheerful. I would recommend it to everyone, if possible, even if they don't have the opportunity to take a loan because this loan will pay off multiple times.

Host: And my last question, what advice would you give to people wondering whether to install such a system for their needs?

Maxim: I would advise them not to wonder at all, but to start digging on the internet, to see the advantages, to compare the prices, to see if, if they pay a little more, it won't turn out cheaper. Whether they invest a little more in batteries, they won't have greater security than if the power stops or if the price of electricity rises... My point of view is that electricity will never get cheaper and will always become more and more expensive. You may have heard that for the first time in 2023, Bulgaria, which traditionally is a massive exporter of electricity, started to import electricity. At some point, you say to yourself: "Wait! If Bulgaria imports electricity, there is no way or option for it to get cheaper. It will become more and more expensive." When it becomes more expensive, your solar installation gives you cheaper electricity or even 0 sometimes, if you calculate it well. First, it pays off. Secondly, you enter a future from which there is no turning back. I don't see an option that in the future all of us will use electricity from nuclear, thermal, power plants or coal or gas or whatever; sooner or later, we will all have to use solar energy, and the more educated people there are in this regard, the better. And so don't hesitate at all, find the best supplier. Find the best installation now, because electricity will become more expensive. However, solar installations and components will not become cheaper.

Host: That's right! Thank you very much for this conversation. I believe it has been valuable and exciting for our viewers.

Maxim: Thank you, too! I wish success to both the Solar Academy and everyone who will be inspired by what I call the "solar fever" and will install systems at home. And even if you don't do it now, at least you'll have this information for the future.


You can find the entire interview here.



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