What Can Clean Growth Entrepreneurs Learn from the Story of Neoen?
Neoen is a French independent producer of renewable energy and one of the most dynamic players on the world stage. Its IPO in 2018 saw the company raise approximately €450 million and achieve a market capitalisation of around €1.4 billion.
Energy infrastructure commissioners are traditionally a risk-averse group, so how does the Neoen story create trust amongst this target audience?
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Neoen understands that energy infrastructure commissioners, not only want to to produce competitively-priced renewable energy on a large scale (through PV solar, onshore wind and storage). They need a trusted partner who can deliver value throughout the entire project life cycle.
Ultimately as large scale infrastructure is usually procured by governments, these decision-makers need to ensure the project is perceived as a success by voters.
In order to sell change to this risk-averse audience the Neoen story (and business model) is brilliantly engineered to create trust.
Neoen focus on energy infrastructure commissioners in OECD countries as there is more likely to have government set targets for renewable energy, in response to public pressure and market dynamics.
This targeting allows it to focus on the markets where it can most leverage its story and business model around trust.
Unlike many market disruptors, Neoen doesn’t directly point out the Villain in its story – but it does imply it.
Most of the positive elements of its story do imply reasons why competitors might be guilty of short-term thinking in the delivery of energy infrastructure:
- Fragmented delivery throughout a project’s lifecycle which misses opportunities to create value.
- Lack of ‘skin in the game’ prevents many partners from taking a long-term view.
Directly attacking competitors can work in some markets; but Neoen knows that it doesn’t create the impression of being ‘a safe pair of hands’, that their target audience is after.
Call To Adventure:
Neoen’s Call To Adventure is all about delivering projects on time and on budget but not at the expense of long-term regional economic and local community outcomes.
Again implying that competitors might not offer this same long-term view.
Crossing The Threshold:
Crossing The Threshold for energy infrastructure commissioners would be starting a procurement process. This moment is so key in their customer’s journey, that Neoen’s Mentor Gifts around development, design and finance focus on helping in the procurement process.
The three challenges for Neoen’s target audience are:
- Getting development and design right while raising finance.
- Construction that delivers not just on time and on budget – but long-term and local value.
- Optimising the management of the asset once it’s in place.
Neoen addresses these challenges by telling potential customers about the Gifts it can provide around Development, Design & Finance, Construction Project Management, and Operations.
Mentor & Gifts:
People want things more when they feel scarce. One way to make your company feel scarce is to have a unique viewpoint on the Hero’s problem that can move a market, change a category or challenge the status quo.
This is where Neoen really nails the reason to trust it over short-sighted competitors – it’s unique ‘develop to own’ business model. By telling commissioners it owns 89% of the plants it builds, operating them in its own name; they trust Neoen will guarantee quality and performance in the long-term.
The three gifts that a mentor offers have to align with the 3 challenges that customers will face.
Neoen does this by showing how it adds value throughout an asset’s life-cycle:
- Development, Design & Finance: Surveys of potential, soil and environmental and biodiversity impact and local party consultations to create designs according to the site. We finance the vast majority of our projects through a combination of our own investment capability, equity capital and long-term loans (usually with local financial institutions),
- Construction Project Management: Directly involved in construction work of plants we operate – ensuring a sustainable asset, with a life span of several decades. As far as possible, we use the services of local industry.
- Operations: Supervision and maintenance are undertaken on-site, in real-time.
To add credibility to its claims Neoen also points to a track record of landmark projects.
Allies & Gifts:
When they’re uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own. This is increased when the people who trust a company are credible to the target audience.
Neoen shows that it is trusted by other commissioners by pointing to the 3.5 GW it has in operation, under construction or awarded across 4 continents and 14 countries.
It also further demonstrates this trust through examples of landmark large-scale projects it has been commissioned to deliver:
- Cestas – largest solar park in Europe
- Hornsdale Power Reserve – largest lithium-ion battery worldwide
- El Llano – most competitive solar project in Mexico
Finally, to go on a journey of change the destination has to be worth the journey.
To paint a picture about how a company can improve a customer’s life, you have to focus on showing how it will help people ‘get ahead’, ‘get along’ and ‘get meaning’.
- Get ahead – advancing our status in our tribe(s}.
- Get along – advancing our connections within our tribe(s].
- Get meaning – advancing our purpose in life (or at least for this chapter in our life). This last one doesn’t have to be world-changing – depending on your personality your purpose can be equally rewarding whether it benefits one other person or the whole world.
Neoen paints an effective picture of the future for potential customers:
- Get ahead – Delivering large scale projects successfully.
- Get along – Large scale projects that are perceived as a good investment by voters.
- Get meaning – Leaving a sustainable infrastructure legacy for the future.
Again these reinforce that if you trust Neoen, you will get much more than ‘on time and on budget’ in return.
If you want customers to trust you, it’s important to show this Better World to them. You can’t just hope that they’ll figure out how you’ll make their lives better.