Table Of Contents
Clean Energy: An Economic Powerhouse
A worker monitors equipment at a geothermal power plant. Photo courtesy DOE/NREL.There are so many benefits to energy efficiency and renewable energy -- reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, improving air and water quality and public health, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, diversifying our energy supply, etc. But perhaps the most compelling reason for transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy is the economic benefits. Because economic recovery is a top priority for U.S. policymakers, EESI has held a series of briefings to call attention to the tremendous potential of clean energy investments to create American jobs and save consumers and government money. Some of the highlights include:
- Last October, we held a briefing that debuted reports commissioned by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The ASES report found that the implementation of a suite of energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies could create 4.5 million net jobs by 2020. The APTA report found that every $1 billion of public transportation investment creates 36,000 jobs and generates $3.5 billion in economic benefit.
- A November briefing focused on a report commissioned by the Appalachian Regional Commission that analyzed the economic impact of energy efficiency in this region, which includes parts of 16 states. A bold energy efficiency initiative in Appalachia could save enough energy by 2030 to offset 40 new coal-fired power plants and 182 million barrels of oil, saving consumers $27 billion. Such an initiative could also create more than 77,000 jobs in the region by 2030.
- A second briefing in November focused on a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which found that climate legislation and energy efficiency policies under consideration by the Congress could create a net increase of more than 2.5 million jobs across the economy by 2050.
- In January, we organized a briefing on the impact of public transportation investments in creating jobs throughout its extensive supply chain as well as stimulating local economic development. For example, in Cleveland, Ohio, approximately $4.3 billion of investment occurred in the four-mile Euclid corridor following the creation of an innovative bus rapid transit system. The projected leveraged a huge private sector investment and was extremely successful -- and this project happened during the current recession.
- Most recently, a February briefing examined the impacts of the federal stimulus package on investments through state energy efficiency programs. Among the success stories highlighted at this briefing was Iowa’s State Energy Program, which provided $10 million for 62 projects statewide. As a result, state residents are saving $4.7 million in energy costs annually, and 328 jobs were directly created or retained.
These briefings demonstrated that job creation, economic revitalization, savings on energy bills, and other benefits from clean energy are substantial and they are happening today. But we have only scratched the surface when it comes to a national commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy. EESI will continue to bring success stories and high quality studies to Capitol Hill to emphasize the economic benefits of ambitious and stable policies to incentivize investment in American clean energy industries. Look for information on prior and upcoming briefings atwww.eesi.org/briefings.
Update from the Director
Spring is finally here! Our record-breaking snowfall in the Washington, DC, area made it easy to see the devastating economic impact of extreme weather events on local government budgets, retailers and so many businesses and their employees. Scientists remind us that increased frequency of extreme weather events is, unfortunately, part of our changing climate. This has been occurring against a backdrop of noisy Congressional and international discussions about how to address climate change.
The Copenhagen climate negotiations in December did move the ball forward. Not only were more than 100 heads of state present, a testament to the seriousness of the issue, but key developing countries came forward with the United States to establish an Accord for action. While many in Congress had indicated that any U.S. commitments should be predicated upon action by China, that breakthrough did come. While China has become the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, it also has become the world’s largest manufacturer of wind and solar technologies. U.S. failure to address climate change now means we must make up for lost time to ensure our economic competitiveness in the fast-growing arena of clean energy technologies.
EESI’s briefings have brought forward new reports that help policymakers discern the economic impacts and benefits of high efficiency and low/no carbon energy technologies -- and the policies that can accelerate the use of these technologies. While covering many topics, our briefings are all inter-connected -- we look at everything through a greenhouse lens and we look for synergies. How can we address sustainable economic development, energy security, public health, and environmental protection all at the same time? This approach not only is common sense for our complex world, but it is endlessly fascinating. Stay tuned -- there are so many opportunities for us to work on together.
Thank You to Our Donors!
Last year was incredibly busy for EESI. As the Congress moved forward with energy and climate legislation and the Obama administration prepared for the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, our educational services were in high demand. In 2009, we held a record 47 briefings on Capitol Hill that were attended by staff from 298 Congressional offices from both sides of the aisle -- yet EESI receives no Congressional funding. We could not have done it without the generosity of individuals, businesses, foundations, and others that support us. To be part of our efforts to educate policymakers and develop innovative policy solutions, please visit www.eesi.org/donate. Thank you!
Human Behavior and Energy Use
Every day we read articles about technologies and systems that will help reduce our energy use. This is great news, but how effective are super-efficient appliances and programmable thermostats if people are not motivated to buy, install, and activate them? Will public transportation ever reach its full impact if there is a cultural stigma against it? And how does driving behavior and unnecessary idling impact the gas mileage of supposedly fuel efficient vehicles? According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), 30 percent or more of the energy savings that could potentially be realized through high efficiency technologies is lost due to a variety of social, cultural, and economic factors -- that is, how we as humans behave.
In November 2009, EESI held a briefing for Congressional staff to examine the often-overlooked behavioral aspects of energy use. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), who has introduced legislation to establish a social and behavioral sciences research program at the U.S. Department of Energy, opened the briefing by saying that “we have tremendous opportunities for tremendous savings,” and that the link between behavioral science and energy use will play a key role in solving our energy, economic, and geopolitical crises. Other briefing speakers, including psychology professor Doug McKenzie-Mohr and ACEEE researcher Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez, said that simple behavioral changes in the United States could result in a savings equivalent to the energy produced by 240 medium-sized coal-fired power plants, and that convenience is one of the best motivators to get people to engage in activities to help save energy.
EESI Releases Energy and Climate Guidebook for Local Planners
Planning for a New Energy and Climate Future is the title of a new report that explores the role that professional planners can play in tackling three interconnected challenges facing local communities: meeting energy needs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and adapting to climate change. The report, developed by EESI, the American Planning Association (APA), and the University of North Carolina, Asheville, presents information and strategies to help planners address energy and climate goals and integrate them with other planning actvities. Funding for the project was provided by the Surdna Foundation, George Gund Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The premise of the report is that changes in the dynamics of energy markets as well as the threat of climate change may profoundly affect local communities both economically and physically. “A number of factors are increasing uncertainty about future energy prices, in particular rising energy demand in developing countries such as China,” notes Jan Mueller, EESI’s lead on the project and a co-author of the report. “But rapidly evolving technology and the economic benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy are providing communities with new opportunities to take charge of their energy future and make greater use of local and regional energy resources.”
Such local efforts to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy are essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping reduce the severity of future climate change. Moreover, many communities need to respond to climate change impacts that are happening today and prepare for future changes that are already loaded in the Earth's climate system. "It’s not just about climate change mitigation -- we have to think about adaptation at the same time," Mueller says. The organization of the report reflects that these issues are often co-mingled in decisions regarding development patterns infrastructure, transportation, economic development, building and site design, and natural resources. "Planners do not have the luxury to address these challenges separately, " Mueller adds
The report is being published through the APA's Planning Advisory Service and will be presented at APA's National Planning Conference in New Orleans in April, 2010.
Obama’s FY 2011 Budget Supports Clean Energy
On February 1, President Obama rolled out his budget request for Fiscal Year 2011, which included significant funds directed towards energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) programs. The president’s request for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) EE/RE programs totaled $2.36 billion, a five percent increase over FY 2010 appropriations and approximately eight percent of the total DOE budget request. Several EE/RE programs saw an increase in funding, including solar, wind, geothermal and weatherization assistance, while funds remained flat for the biomass and biorefinery program and decreased for the water technology program. Funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), a program created in 2007 to fund specific “high-risk, high-payoff, game-changing research and development projects to meet the nation’s long-term energy challenges,” received $300 million, building on its initial seed money of $15 million and $389 million in the FY 2010 budget and federal stimulus package, respectively. Last year’s stimulus package also included an additional $25 billion for energy projects.
Of course, the actual funding levels for FY 2011 will be determined by Congress during the appropriations process. As in previous years, EESI published an analysis of funding levels for clean energy programs in the Energy, Agriculture, and Transportation Departments, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. And on February 23, EESI partnered with the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus to hold a briefing on the DOE budget request featuring Cathy Zoi, the DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Zoi explained her agency’s plan for ramping up U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency industries and said, “What we need the energy sector to do now is move as quickly as the telecommunications sector did over the last 10 to 20 years.”
What Can States Do to Help Develop Advanced Biofuels?
Shifting from oil to sustainable, low carbon, advanced biofuels is key to achieving many national objectives, including job creation, economic growth, reducing the U.S. trade deficit, and decreasing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard, the energy provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill, and other complementary legislation enacted by Congress in recent years are helping to do just that. But full commercial scale production of cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels has been delayed by the lack of private financing for new biorefineries. Technological, economic, regulatory, and political uncertainties concerning advanced biofuels have kept investors away.
As the federal government continues to work to create the conditions for this new industry’s success, many state governments are implementing innovative policies to spur its development. “States across the country are recognizing the tremendous opportunities in developing advanced biofuels industries -- sustainable economic development, energy security, and low carbon, renewable energy,” says EESI policy associate Ned Stowe. To help state governments develop their own local bioenergy resources and advanced biofuels industries, EESI recently published a paper entitled Developing an Advanced Biofuel Industry: State Policy Options for Lean and Uncertain Times, funded by the Energy Foundation. The paper outlines 10 policy recommendations, including conducting an inventory of bioenergy resources and markets, developing sustainable feedstock production guidelines, and enacting a low carbon fuel standard.
A Look at International Climate Negotiations
Environmental messaging was abundant last December in Copenhagen, Denmark, where 192 nations worked to address climate change. Photos courtesy EESI Board Member Jared Blum.On December 18, following two long weeks of meetings and negotiations, world leaders at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen announced that they had reached a “meaningful agreement” to move the world towards addressing climate change. What has since become known as the Copenhagen Accord was formed by the leaders of the United States, China, India, South Africa and Brazil (the latter four countries making up a group known as the “BASIC” countries) in the last hours of negotiations. The agreement includes a system for monitoring and verifying each nation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and also sets a goal for limiting global temperature rise to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050. In addition, developed countries pledged to provide a fund "approaching" $30 billion over the next three years to help developing nations deal with the impacts of climate change, with a goal of mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020. The Accord was not formally agreed upon by the 192 countries attending the summit, but they “took note” of the agreement as the meeting closed.
In the months since the Copenhagen talks, much discussion has taken place over what exactly the Copenhagen Accord means for global action on climate change and what the next steps should be. As of early March, more than 100 nations had engaged or were likely to engage with the Accord, representing over 80 percent of global GHG emissions. What remains now are for these nations, including the United States, to develop and implement policies that put these commitments into action. With President Obama seen as a key broker on the deal that was reached in Copenhagen, much attention is focused now on what next step the U.S. Senate takes with domestic climate legislation. (The House passed a “cap and trade” bill last summer to limit GHGs.) Otherwise, discussion has shifted ahead to Cancun, Mexico, where the next round of talks will be held at the end of November. Stay updated on the progress throughout the year as EESI reports the latest actions in Climate Change News.
EESI Donor Spotlight
A few years ago, Sean Levine was searching online for a good cause on which to spend his year-end bonus. He knew he wanted to support a nonprofit working on environmental and energy issues, specifically one that was working to educate Congress about the complexities and importance of these issues. He was delighted when he discovered EESI and found exactly what he had been looking for.
Sean tracks energy issues in his job as a senior policy and securities analyst at a boutique Wall Street brokerage firm and appreciates EESI’s unbiased information on environmental and energy science, technology, and policy. Sean says, “I often turn to EESI when trying to get my head around a complex energy subject; the newsletters are great.” He understands that good legislation is key to solving energy problems. “EESI provides a key service in providing unbiased information and helping Congress understand how urgent the challenge is and what the solutions are, so Members of Congress can better do their jobs,” explains Sean.
But his concern for energy issues goes beyond the business realm. "I'm very concerned about what kind of world we leave behind, and also about America's competitive future." Sean believes that pursuing some form of carbon regulation, energy diversification and next-generation technology will help mitigate climate change, create jobs and leave a lasting legacy for America’s future.
“Sean is another wonderful example of how EESI helps bring together people, ideas, and sound information about science, technology, and policy,” says Carol Werner, EESI’s executive director.
USDA Creates Landscape Restoration Committee
Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.On March 8, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the formation of a new Collaborative Landscape Restoration Advisory Committee to serve as a forum for integrating data, experience, and differing perspectives to aid the public land management agencies in crafting a thoughtful, comprehensive, and robust approach to hazardous fuels reduction and other forms of landscape-level land restoration on public lands.
In our 2009 policy paper Sustainable Forest Biomass: Promoting Renewable Energy and Forest Stewardship, funded by the Energy Foundation and Wallace Genetic Foundation, EESI identified the need for such a collaborative body to move forest restoration projects forward in a climate characterized by divergent and strongly-held perspectives and a great deal of unknown factors. In such a charged climate, collaborative groups have been shown to be effective in leading to successful solutions with high levels of satisfaction among stakeholder participants. To learn more about policies to promote a sustainable forest bioenergy industry, please click here.
Susan Williams Joins EESI
EESI is pleased to announce that Susan Williams joined our team as Development Director in November. Susan brings a wealth of experience in climate, energy, and environmental work. Most recently she was the Regional Development Officer for the South America Field Division at Conservation International, where she worked to obtain funding for a wide range of conservation, sustainable development, and climate change work. She previously raised funds at Green Empowerment for renewable energy projects in developing countries, and provided energy and climate policy analysis to private and public sector clients. She earned a master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in international environment and resource policy.
Susan is enjoying working with EESI’s generous donors, who are key to EESI’s work in educating Congress and developing environmental and energy policy solutions. Susan can be reached at (202) 662-1887 or swilliams [at] eesi.org.
Low Carbon and Prosperous: Lessons from Denmark
While much of the U.S. energy and climate debate has focused on costs, job losses, and concerns about international competitiveness, Denmark has demonstrated that investing in clean energy can be a successful economic development strategy. Since 1990, Denmark has grown its economy by 45 percent while energy consumption has remained constant and carbon emissions have fallen by 13 percent. With a focus on combined heat and power/district energy, wind energy, building efficiency, and electric vehicles, Denmark’s clean energy industries are thriving, providing 11 percent of total Danish exports and contributing to Denmark’s relatively high GDP and low unemployment.
On November 24, EESI partnered with the Danish Embassy to bring Denmark’s success story to Capitol Hill. Speakers from three leading Danish clean energy companies -- Novozymes, COWI Group, and Grundfos Management -- discussed their contributions to Denmark’s economy and carbon reduction goals, as well as the government policies that helped them succeed.
The Danish example made quite an impression with the American audience, and in fact theNew York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman referenced the briefing in a column that highlighted the importance of learning from other countries’ best practices. “With unemployment in Denmark at about 4 percent, compared with our 10 percent, maybe we should at least consider putting a few of its ideas on our table,” Friedman wrote. For more information from this briefing and other clean energy success stories, please visit www.eesi.org/briefings.