Exclusive interview: 2022 predictions from The Sunion, cleantech’s answer to The Onion

Plus, an energy-nerd love story for the ages.

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Canary Media’s Friday Social column explores the intersection of energy, climate and social media. Canary thanks Silverline Communications for its support of the column.

If you work in the renewable energy industry and you appreciate the humor of The Onion, I’ve got a special treat for you. It’s called The Sunion.

I know, I know; I had the same initial groan-like reaction. But it’s good, I promise!

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The Sunion’s website describes itself as a collaborative side project of a few industry folks who require humor and laughter to tolerate this strange, frustrating, wonderful industry.” It goes on: This is done in the spirit of making fun of one’s self: Though some of the ideas may be spurred by observations of other industry folks’ silliness, the majority of the content is derived from our own past mistakes, absurd internal dialogue, or awful ideas quickly pivoted into satire.”

A few amusing headlines follow:

Guy Who Just Googled Reactive Power” Now Condescendingly Explaining It to You

Reclaimed Conference Table PV: Solution to the Supply Chain Crisis?

Endangered Shrike Willing to Work Things Out” for 6% of Project Equity

According to its website, The Sunion has no intention to monetize but instead is raising money for the Just Transition Fund, a nonprofit that is on a mission to create economic opportunity for the frontline communities and workers hardest hit by the transition away from coal.”

The creators choose to remain anonymous; however, we were able to get in touch with them over Twitter direct messages. I’m proud to say Canary has landed the world’s first exclusive interview with the founders of The Sunion. This Q&A has been condensed and lightly edited.

Mike Munsell: Congrats on your recent SPAC. If it doesn’t reveal too much information about your identities, can you tell me any more about the origin of The Sunion beyond what’s on the About page?

The Sunion: There was a discussion about how to weave charitable activities into our day jobs. About five minutes later, during a different agenda item, one of us said, That feels like it should be an Onion headline” (for the second time in a day) after observing something in our industry.

Some Are-you-thinking-what-I’m-thinking?” looks ensued, followed by a few phone calls to three or four of the more comedy-inclined folks in our network. By midnight, we had a growing list of about 40 headline/​article ideas. They mostly write themselves, of course.

There are few groups of humans in the world more susceptible to hubris — or at least to confusing luck for genius — than people in this industry. It’s attracted a lot of those personality types, Sunion contributors not at all excluded.

This is fertile soil for satire, as well as a motivation to produce the satire in and of itself. Laughing at ourselves can help keep us even-keeled as legislative and capital-market tailwinds have the effect of fomenting overconfidence and a certain brand of rather offputting swagger.

Munsell: What’s the most mockable climatetech sector or topic?

The Sunion:

1. The aforementioned hubris in the industry is the gift that keeps on giving. No matter how many companies Icarus themselves, we just keep making the same mistakes again and again. It’s oddly endearing. Human nature embodied at the industry level. 

2. People pretending they know things that they don’t. In an industry like this — very new, changing constantly, full of young people — the pervasiveness of fake-it-till-you-make-it is unique — and satire gold.

3. Tax attorneys.

Munsell: With this year quickly coming to a close, do you have any bold predictions for 2022?

The Sunion: We think it’s the year of the trifacial module. I mean, if two faces were good, three faces are better, right? Simple stuff. Don’t need an engineering degree to figure that one out. Make it happen, module industry. We also think maybe this is the year that we finally get a few drone-based imaging startups. Need more of those for sure. 

And surely 2022 is the year we finally have an opportunity to talk about blockchain’s place in the renewable energy industry. Does anyone who’s actually doing anything of substance in the industry give a shit about blockchain? No, of course not. But that’s not the point. The point is that it’s an awesome conference-panel topic, and that’s what really matters.

We predict about 3,675,000 climatetech startups with extremely worn-out ideas will get funded by VC funds that have no idea what they are doing and have never made any money in the sector. That’s always fun for people desperately trying to find cash to get actual renewable energy or storage installations on the grid. 

It’s probably the year that software improvements drive a breakout year” for grid-scale energy storage despite the supply-chain crisis, labor shortages, interconnection backlogs, steep tariffs, inflation concerns, permitting delays, revenue-contract uncertainty and a dearth of qualified engineering, procurement and construction contractors. A few algorithms should fix it. 

And yet, when all is said and done, we will all probably emerge from our pools of cynicism/​absurdity/​frustrations to find it’s been a banner year for the industry by virtually every measurement.

Munsell: What message do you have for Canary’s readers?

The Sunion: Nothing really, except a shameless plea to donate to The Sunion. We just send it right along to the Just Transition Fund.

And now for something completely different

We’re breaking a lot of new ground here today at Friday Social. A world’s-first exclusive interview. And now: a wedding engagement announcement.

Yes, you read that right.

Congratulations to Canary readers Austin Park and Leslie Nelson! This week, they reached out and shared their engagement photos taken at clean electricity facilities along with a short article they wrote about their engagement entitled Climate Lovin’.”

In it, they say, We took our engagement photos in front of clean electricity sources because: 1) We wanted to highlight the beauty and availability of clean energy; 2) We’re total energy nerds; and 3) So we could finally truly own the title power couple.”

From all of us at Canary, congratulations, energy-nerd lovebirds!

Canary readers Leslie Nelson and Austin Park celebrate their engagement. (Chris Park)

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Silverline Communications, the supporter of this column, is a climatetech and ESG communications firm with deep experience in all facets of the clean economy. Learn more about how Silverline connects clients with stakeholders on social channels and beyond.

Mike Munsell is director of growth at Canary Media.