Hawthorn Power Monitor | February 2015

Hawthorn Power Monitor | 0 comments | by The Hawthorn Group

Social media is driving net metering, distributed generation conversation … peaking at nearly 600% more mentions than traditional news

We know from previous analysis that pro-renewable, environmentalist content on Twitter is the biggest driver of social media discussion around energy issues, where it trends highly positive for solar and other renewables … with utilities getting hit as big monopolies trying to kill solar and energy “choice”—attitudes that our opinion polling in the states tells us crosses demographic and political party lines. As social media’s prominence in local net metering and distributed generation issues expands, utilities should harness a megaphone of their own or risk having their voice drowned out.

Our latest example comes during the period of November 2014 through January 2015. As the source of 85 percent of the total online mentions concerning the key issues of net metering and distributed generation, social media rose to a volume high of just over 3,300 mentions per week while traditional online news media and blogs discussions were relatively stable at around 500 mentions. Of note is how some statements helped drive this online activity and once again demonstrated how important social media interaction is when major renewable energy announcements or activities take place.

Net Metering/Distributed Generation Mentions By Week
September 2014 – January 2015


Engaging stakeholders locally

While monitoring social media for “upticks” in activity is important, knowing where the conversations are originating is equally critical in helping determine what is driving the discussion. In this edition of The Hawthorn Power Monitor, we’re introducing a new way of geographically looking at conversations. By doing so, we’re able to do a better job of determining what is driving the discussion in order to identify more opportunities for community outreach, engagement, and persuasion at the local level

For example, on December 12, SCANA, Duke Energy, South Carolina electric cooperatives, solar activists, environmental groups and other organizations reached a settlement agreement on the implementation of net metering in South Carolina. As noted in the graph above, there is a clear spike in social media conversations about net metering during that time. However, data also shows that during the monitoring period a large portion – in fact the largest geographical concentration – of the discussions about net metering and distributed generation were centered in the Charlotte, NC and, Greenville and Charleston, SC areas. It’s clear that the settlement agreement drove much discussion about solar during this period in the region where the activity was taking place. This demonstrates that stakeholders had an opportunity to participate in a significantly increased level of social media interaction and promote their position to target audiences in the regions where they are located.

Net Metering/Distributed Generation Mentions By City
November 2014 – January 2015


Here are some other examples:

In early December, NextEra Energy and HECO announced their merger. This created a lot of discussion in the traditional media concerning net metering and distributed generation in Hawaii. That drove discussion geographically in Florida as noted in the above map.

Also in early December, discussions in Austin, TX centered on a commitment by the city of Austin to raise its solar power goal from 200 MW by 2020 to 950 MW. The map is clear on that action creating social media discussions geographically around Austin.

In January, Floridians for Solar Choice kicked off a ballot initiative in the state that would change the state’s constitution to allow third-party solar sales without PSC oversight among other items. This also had impact on the social media discussions in Florida in addition to having an impact on total social media mentions overall.


This latest information concerning online discussions about solar energy continues to demonstrate the importance of both monitoring and using social media to help drive company or organization messages. While traditional media and blogs were relatively stable, it is clear from the above data that social media interaction significantly grows during key events or announcements. And, it can be used on a very localized or regional level to drive messages and opinions.

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