Top Ten Accomplishments in 2016
You can also view a timeline of our accomplishments since 1984.
1. Emphasized the overwhelming support Americans continue to show for clean energy and climate action.
An overwhelming number of Americans, from across the political spectrum, support clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. A large majority of Americans (75 percent) support regulating carbon dioxide emissions, including 88 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans. EESI held a Congressional briefing and published a fact sheet to highlight these important survey results for federal policymakers. The briefing featured Professor Edward Maibach, Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, which collaborates closely with Yale University on regular climate polling. Prof. Maibach noted that an increasing number of conservative Republicans acknowledge that climate change is occurring. EESI's fact sheet on polling included 16 national surveys and 4 international surveys.
2. Promoted domestic understanding of international climate actions by amplifying global climate agreements and international cooperation.
EESI’s focus on international climate action covered joint climate mitigation efforts between the United States and China, the entry into force of the Paris Climate Agreement, an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and an agreement to institute a carbon emissions cap on the international airline industry. EESI highlighted the Paris Climate Agreement, with multiple press releases and a well-attended Congressional briefing that examined the lead-up to the U.N. climate negotiation in Paris, its outcome, and next steps. EESI paid special attention to China, by hosting a briefing on its ongoing efforts to implement environmental reforms and combat climate change, thereby demonstrating that climate action in the United States does not put our country at an economic disadvantage but indeed positions it for new economic partnerships and opportunities.
3. Helped launch four on-bill financing programs for energy efficiency upgrades to homes, and published a technical assistance manual for utilities.
EESI is working with utilities to help families reduce their energy usage with on-bill financing: households receive loans to pay for home energy upgrades, which are repaid through a monthly charge on their utility bill. In 2016, EESI supported four community-owned utilities to launch programs in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, and North Carolina. EESI also released a "how-to" guide on launching an on-bill financing program, with step-by-step instructions for utilities and nonprofits. The guide includes a program development checklist and a directory of additional resources. This work is continuing in 2017!
4. Promoted a new, no-interest federal loan program for energy efficiency projects in rural areas.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP), which made available $52 million in zero-interest loans to rural utilities to capitalize on-bill financing programs. This was a huge win, as RESP had been one of EESI’s legislative priorities since 2010. EESI engaged with staff from the White House, USDA, the Office of Management and Budget, and Congressional offices to help push out the program and ensure it had a utility-friendly application process. EESI helped several utilities successfully apply for funding through the program (including $26 million for South Carolina electric cooperatives and $2 million for Bloomfield, Iowa). EESI is now working to engage with Congress on this program’s continued operation in the new budget year.
5. Called attention to the plight of coal communities, showcased ways to help them adapt, and mustered support for the RECLAIM Act.
To help coal-dependent communities adapt to the decrease in coal usage, EESI has joined a coalition of environmental and social organizations with a shared focus on transitioning historically coal-centric Appalachian communities toward clean energy economies and rehabilitating the landscape after decades of large-scale mining activities. The coalition's efforts have coalesced around the passage of the RECLAIM Act, sponsored by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY). As part of this effort, EESI co-hosted a screening of the documentary After Coal, which was followed by a panel discussion on revitalizing coal communities.
6. Informed policymakers about the many benefits of sustainable buildings.
In two March briefings (Sustainable Affordable Housing: Saving Energy, Saving Lives and Solar Power and Resilient Design for Schools and Shelters), EESI examined energy-efficient, affordable housing and how it is improving health and safety in distressed communities while providing economic and environmental benefits to states. EESI also showcased how sustainable public buildings can provide safe havens, as well as collectively reduce emissions and clear the air, especially in disadvantaged communities where energy utilities are often sited.
7. Drew attention to the potential of bioenergy and bio-based products in the United States—a cleaner alternative to petroleum-based products.
EESI held a briefing looking at the ability of the United States to sustainably produce 1 billion tons of renewable non-food biomass every year, which could potentially displace more than 30 percent of the country's petroleum consumption. The well-attended briefing, which was based on the findings of the Department of Energy's Billion-Ton Report, included bipartisan attendees from 40 Congressional offices in its audience.
8. Advocated for ambitious rail investments in the Northeast Corridor.
The federal government is considering investment scenarios for the Northeast Corridor, the busiest passenger rail line in the United States. EESI participated in a public hearing convened by the Administration (EESI's Paul Haven was quoted by the Washington Post) and called for an ambitious high-speed rail investment program, to allow passenger and freight rail to reach their full potential. Rail can be a particularly cost-effective and low-emission form of transportation. In addition to providing feedback to the Administration, EESI held meetings about rail infrastructure with Hill staffers, Amtrak, and OnTrackNorthAmerica, and gave a presentation to the Maryland American Planning Association.
9. Set the stage for action on toxic gasoline aromatics, which have been linked to a wide range of adverse health impacts.
After an EESI briefing in 2015, Protecting Public Health Through Cleaner Fuels and Lower Emissions, EESI continued to call attention to the dangers of gasoline aromatics with its 2016 fact sheet, A Brief History of Octane in Gasoline: From Lead to Ethanol. Health studies have found that aromatics (petroleum derivatives), which are added to gasoline to increase octane levels, may contribute to negative developmental, reproductive and immunological responses, as well as adverse cardio-pulmonary effects. Renewable octane boosters are a cleaner and healthier alternative to petroleum-derived aromatics.
10. Examined how ride-sharing can strengthen public transportation.
Working with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), EESI highlighted its partner's research findings on the interaction between ride-sharing and public transportation. Ride-sharing platforms like Lyft and Uber do not reduce public transportation ridership. Instead, they can complement each other, with ride-sharing making it easier to reach mass transit stations.