Peabody Coal Campaign Uses Solar Supporter as Pitch Man

Huffington Post just rolled out an investigation, based on our research, revealing that the gentleman Peabody Coal and Burson Marsteller recruited as a spokesperson for their new Advanced Energy for Life campaign,  pitching coal, has a day job financing solar projects.

Rugigana Kavamahanga or “R.K” is depicted in a video called Africa Switched On as an “Energy Finance Consultant and Peace Corps Volunteer”, when he actually owns a company called Oaktown Group that works to finance big solar projects in California.  Oaktown Group’s motto is “Financing a Greener Future!”

Yet R.K. is (clearly reading a script) on camera for Peabody saying:

South Africa’s “…progress was fueled by coal power. Africa needs more energy, from all sources, but especially energy from coal to provide the kind of base load power that’s required to end energy poverty.”

Oaktown Group’s website says (said*):

The Oaktown Group was founded to assist contractors and school districts to obtain project financing for solar energy projects by connecting viable solar energy projects with financial sources.  The Oaktown Group focuses on projects above 500 kw (kilowatt). The OTG fills the critical gap between projects deemed too small or too difficult for large commercial banks to finance and smaller regional banks lack the expertise to execute.

* the Oaktown Group’s website was taken down shortly after Huffington Post called R.K. about this story, but their Facebook page is still up)

R.K. refused to comment on the Peabody video gig when asked by the reporter.  We remain curious just how he was recruited and by whom?  Was it Peabody? or Burson Marsteller or its subsidiary, Proof Integrated Communications?  And how was the video project characterized to him in the contract? Did he even know it was going to be used by Peabody Coal?  Are there more videos to come?  Is this meant to be a TV ad?

Posted by Kert Davies