EESI History (2016-2020)
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- Emphasized the national security impacts of climate change and called for increased climate aid to developing countries. The rising sea levels and increased prevalence of extreme weather caused by climate change are already affecting America's national security, and things will only get worse. EESI called attention to these threats with our June briefing on the national security implications of climate change (we also published an accompanying issue brief, The National Security Impacts of Climate Change). It was our best attended briefing of the year, with more than 300 in-person and online attendees, and live C-SPAN coverage. At our briefing, former generals and top-level military officials on the Advisory Board of our briefing partner, the Center for Climate and Security, discussed the risk management and planning considerations facing the Department of Defense as it seeks to maintain force readiness and bolster infrastructure resilience. The panel also discussed the need to devote more resources to disaster assistance, to securing the Arctic as it becomes navigable, and to coping with the displacement of vulnerable populations due to climate change. Our efforts likely contributed to the enactment of a climate provision in the November 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual authorization bill that sets defense funding levels and policies. The provision makes it clear that climate change is a “direct threat” to national security and directs the Defense Department to prepare for its impacts on vulnerable bases. The provision was supported by 45 House Republicans and was signed into law by President Trump. Our October issue brief, Environmental Migrants: Considerations for the U.S. Government, provided policymakers with additional information on how climate migration could exacerbate humanitarian crises. Increased foreign aid for climate mitigation and adaptation could help minimize the need for emergency responses, saving money and lives. Additionally, EESI held a Congressional Briefing on how foreign climate-related aid benefits the United States. We continue to defend foreign aid programs, particularly those that overlap with climate finance initiatives, such as the Green Climate Fund.
- Warned about the devastating impact the Trump Administration's 2018 budget proposal would have on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate action in the United States. In April 2017, EESI published a summary and analysis of the sustainable energy, building, transportation, and climate implications of the Trump administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. The federal budget outline provided essential insights into which programs the administration was targeting for elimination or reductions, while providing a potential roadmap for mounting a defense against such efforts. EESI's congressional engagement shored up support for endangered programs related to clean energy and climate, helping to preserve them from the chopping block. EESI has made the defense of relevant federally-funded programs a priority and frequently makes the case for the benefits these programs bring to communities across the country (and the world) through its publications and interactions with Hill staff. Key policy areas we track include climate change resilience, mitigation, and scientific research; energy R&D and the national laboratory system; clean energy development; energy efficiency and buildings; environmental justice; foreign climate aid; biofuels; sustainable farming; sustainable infrastructure; and sustainable mobility solutions. EESI continues to monitor and engage on the budget and appropriations processes as they play out in Congress and the White House.
- Held a series of Hill briefings on making U.S. communities more resilient. EESI held a series of Congressional briefings on resilience for our communities. Resiliency has been especially relevant given the extreme weather events that hit the United States. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, featuring 17 named storms (including Harvey, Irma, and Maria), was by far the costliest ever, having caused at least $370 billion in damage. The year 2017 was also the most expensive firefighting year ever for the U.S. Forest Service. Over $2 billion was spent battling blazes in eight different states, including the largest fire in Los Angeles history. Together, these hurricanes and wildfires made 2017 the costliest year on record in terms of U.S. natural disaster damage. By adding so much heat (i.e., energy) to the atmosphere, climate change is making such extreme weather more frequent and more deadly. The Building Resilient and Secure Infrastructure series was carried out in collaboration with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), ensuring that the perspectives and concerns of the states were included in the briefings. The series examined: how cities can become more resilient to extreme weather, the critical federal-state-private sector partnership that underpins our energy emergency preparedness, and how we can best invest in our infrastructure to maximize dividends over the long run. EESI will continue to examine these issues this year, including how to make coastal communities, which are especially vulnerable to extreme weather, more resilient. EESI also helped disseminate information about the PREPARE Act (H.R. 4177), a “bipartisan, zero-cost solution to increase resilience to extreme weather.” The bill was reintroduced on October 31, 2017, by Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA). EESI hosted a briefing about the PREPARE Act in the last Congress, and Rep. Cartwright’s staff discussed the bill at our 2017 resilience briefings. Finally, EESI tirelessly supported the overhaul of wildfire funding to make it easier to prevent devastating forest fires. EESI has written several articles on the question (including "Wildfire Funding Issues Continue to Plague Forest Service – Lawmakers Propose Fix") and supports the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (H.R. 2862), which would increase funding for firefighting activities without imperiling funding for other critical Forest Service tasks.
- Earned a perfect rating from Charity Navigator, one of only six environmental nonprofits to do so in 2017. EESI was also #2 on Charity Navigator's "Charities Worth Watching" top ten list! In March 2017, Charity Navigator, America’s leading nonprofit evaluator, once again awarded EESI its highest designation of Four Star Charity! Beyond earning its place as a Four Star Charity, EESI earned—for the first time ever—100 out of the 100 points possible in both categories considered by Charity Navigator: financial health and accountability and transparency. According to Charity Navigator, only about 1.8 percent of the organizations rated Four Star Charities have achieved a perfect score! The organization states that "this exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets Environmental and Energy Study Institute apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness." EESI has been recognized as a Four Star Charity for the ninth time. Our commitment to accountability and transparency is central to our mission of providing nonpartisan environmental information to professionals across a variety of fields. EESI was also #2 on Charity Navigator's list of ten "Charities Worth Watching"! Charity Navigator explained its decision to showcase 10 Four Star charities operating on less than $2 million a year by stating that "many of America's most effective charities are also household names. But some well-known charities are less effective than you'd think, while a number of lesser known charities are truly exceptional."
- Earned media coverage to help get the word out on sustainable energy. Spreading our work far and wide is an important part of EESI's mission. Federal policymakers are our main target, but public support for sustainable solutions is critical. In 2017, EESI secured positive media coverage which helped get the word out. Policy Associate Brian La Shier was interviewed by three television networks: ABC, BBC, and CNBC. For ABC, Brian noted that 71 percent of Americans think the government should support renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. In a 12-minute interview for BBC News, Brian discussed President's Trump new executive order on the environment, which rolled back many of the previous administration’s climate actions. In his CNBC interview, Brian discussed the large number of jobs being created by clean energy, particularly in the solar industry. Arizona PBS covered our How Can Cities Become More Resilient to Extreme Weather? briefing, and C-Span covered two of our briefings live: Investing in U.S. Infrastructure for Maximum Dividends and The National Security Implications of Climate Change. EESI Executive Director Carol Werner was interviewed by a Bloomberg BNA reporter on the new bill introduced by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and 16 other House Democratic cosponsors, the Sustainable Energy Development Reform Act (SEDRA). She was also interviewed by The Atlantic for a piece on the decline of carbon emissions during President Obama's last year in office. She noted "I really do think that the transition to cleaner energy is underway […]. The genie is out of the bottle." EESI staff provided background information for several stories, including an in-depth public radio piece on the danger tailpipe emissions represent to children throughout the United States. We also provided background for two in-depth articles about the on-bill financing program EESI helped to get off the ground in Holland, Michigan—one in Midwest Energy News and one in the Michigan Municipal League's magazine (see #6 below for more on that work).
- Continued to develop clean energy opportunities for rural communities, launched work on electrification with utilities, and announced a partnership with the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. EESI has supported the development and/or improvement of on-bill financing programs in seven states: Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. "On-bill financing" gives electric cooperative members and other utility customers the ability to finance energy improvements that are then repaid over time on their energy bills. The goal is to reduce energy costs, improve reliability and comfort, and increase efficiency in rural households across the country. We were especially gratified that South Carolina's co-ops, EESI's first on-bill financing partners, were awarded a $13 million no-interest federal loan to help scale-up their on-bill financing program. EESI is also promoting electrification that is both economically and environmentally beneficial (EESI has always said that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand-in-hand). Electrification means households switch to electricity and away from fossil fuels to heat their homes, or power their vehicles—this can financially benefit both the electric utility and customer, while also reducing overall emissions. As the grid is powered more and more by renewable energy over time, the emissions savings grow larger. In October, EESI and the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International launched the Partnership for Advancing an Inclusive Rural Energy Economy. The Partnership, made possible with a grant from the New York Community Trust, seeks to help co-ops develop on-bill financing programs for energy efficiency, shared solar, and energy storage and to advocate for continued support of the federal Rural Energy Savings Program. Last but not least, EESI produced several videos showcasing the on-bill financing program in Holland, MI, based on footage we shot earlier this year. Such success stories are helping to get the word out.
- Showcased two key options to reduce U.S. carbon emissions from the transportation sector: high-octane biofuels and electric vehicles. The transportation sector is now the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, having overtaken the power sector, which is becoming cleaner as coal plants are retire (see #6 above regarding our electrification work). Making our vehicles cleaner is more urgent than ever. One cost-effective way to cut vehicle emissions rapidly would be the widespread use of high-octane sustainable biofuels. EESI held a Congressional briefing (Can Fuel Efficiency Standards Be Met Cost-Effectively?) examining how high-octane, low-carbon biofuels can make it easier to meet national fuel-efficiency standards while electrification of the transportation sector is underway. Indeed, research suggests that high-octane, low-carbon biofuel is the lowest-cost compliance option for both consumers and the automotive industry. High-octane fuels make more energy-efficient engines possible, which, in turn, reduces emissions of carbon dioxide and harmful toxics. Biofuels naturally contain high amounts of octane, and can be blended with gasoline to create high-octane fuels suitable for existing vehicles. In October, EESI submitted comments to the federal government on the role of clean octane in meeting vehicle efficiency standards—and improving public health. The electrification of the transportation sector is gathering steam—and will have ever-greater benefits as the grid continues to become less carbon intensive! In August 2017, EESI published a fact sheet on plug-in electric vehicles, an in-depth update of our 2012 publication on the same topic. Two types of vehicle technologies, all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric, were covered, with an emphasis on the models available to U.S. consumers today. Electric vehicles now make up just over one percent of all vehicle sales in the United States; that may not sound like a lot, but there is a clear upward trend in sales of electric vehicles. China and Europe are also experiencing a surge in electric vehicle use. EESI included outlooks on battery development and the impact of electric vehicles on the grid in the fact sheet.
- Made sustainability recommendations for the 2018 Farm Bill that Congress is drafting. Lawmakers are actively preparing the next Farm Bill, as the current bill expires this year (September 30, 2018). The Farm Bill funds critical conservation programs, provides financing for rural energy efficiency initiatives, and establishes a framework for the renewable bioenergy industry—an important source of revenue and jobs for agricultural communities. EESI is analyzing existing Farm Bill programs and making recommendations to Congressional staff. We are primarily focusing on the bill's Energy and Conservation Titles (EESI played a key role in the development of the Farm Bill's first Energy Title back in 2002). EESI published a backgrounder on the Farm Bill's conservation programs, Conservation Measures in the Farm Bill; shared information on the Energy Title’s funding levels and appropriations with Congressional offices; and met with many other concerned groups, including the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, the American Biogas Coalition, and the National Farmers Union.
- Celebrated the 20th Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO, which attracted more than 750 attendees. EESI has helped organize every Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO since its scrappy beginnings in 1997. Much has changed since then. Back in 1997, people spoke of "alternative" energy, and many were skeptical that renewables would ever amount to much—only hydropower could call itself a major player. Today, bioenergy, wind, and solar are also large industries—and geothermal and hydrogen fuel cells have made huge strides. Annual wind power generation has increased by 3,314 percent between 2000 and 2015, and solar power has increased 572 percent. Our country’s energy revolution is in full swing, and receiving strong bipartisan support from the members of the House and Senate Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucuses, which were the EXPO's honorary co-hosts. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), and Rep. Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) gave rousing remarks in support of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Every year, the Expo creates more impetus for federal action on sustainable energy. A strong presence by private companies shows that the industry values the opportunity to share its innovations and stories with the policy community. EESI staff chaired the all-day policy forum featuring eight panels and 36 speakers that runs concurrently with the EXPO. The panels, which were livecast and are available on our website, covered a wide range of topics, ranging from the electricity grid to ultra-low energy passive buildings.
- Trumpeted the effectiveness of energy efficiency standards and the potential of Passive House building techniques. Energy efficiency is by far the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions and save energy dollars. Federal efficiency standards reduced our national energy bill by about $80 billion in 2015, equivalent to the electricity needs of nearly a third of U.S. households. Energy efficiency standards have a big impact because more than 40 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States is used for operating buildings, and most of that energy goes toward appliances and building-related equipment. Our in-depth fact sheet, Energy Efficiency Standards for Appliances, Lighting and Equipment, discussed the regulatory standards currently in place, and showed their value. This was an important message for policymakers, as the Administration proposed drastic cuts in energy efficiency programs in 2017 and is likely to do so again in 2018. Buildings themselves, and not just their appliances, can be made more efficient. EESI co-hosted a “Passive House/Path to Zero” workshop with the Green Home Choice Program of Arlington County, Virginia, and the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to make that point. Passive buildings use insulation and window placement to reduce energy needs by 60-85 percent. Nearly 100 local building professionals participated in the workshop. Many expressed interest in learning more and taking on their own passive building projects as a result of what they learned! As an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that receives no Congressional funding, EESI is deeply grateful to all our donors who make these achievements possible! Without donors, these achievements simply would not take place. Please see our funder page to learn more about our funders or click here to make a gift to support this work in 2018.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.