Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)
We engage with Congress to advance win-win nonpartisan solutions to address climate change urgently and equitably. We’re also expanding work to help families implement accessible, affordable energy upgrades. Join us!
The climate crisis is one of the most serious problems facing the world. It’s clear we need to act boldly and quickly to drive down emissions and increase community resilience to the increased frequency of extreme weather events and other climate impacts. Scientists and other experts say we must act today to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic changes to the world around us.
Climate change solutions abound. The United States needs to--and can drive down emissions and become more resilient. Our country is now showing urgently needed leadership to address climate change.
But with the divided Congress facing many critical and expansive issues including pandemic recovery and social and racial justice, you can be part of making sure that they continue to keep climate change as an integral part of discussions. EESI’s role is more important than ever. With your help, we will present the nonpartisan, science-based information that Congress needs to take informed action and shift our nation to a more inclusive, more just economy based on clean energy and resilient communities.
If you want our country to transition to a thriving, inclusive, resilient economy based on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and nature-based solutions, give.
YOU are key to EESI's ability to deliver innovative policy solutions!
In 1975, a bipartisan group of forward-thinking members of Congress--Congressmen Richard Ottinger (D-NY), John Heinz (R-PA), and Gilbert Gude (R-MD)-- created the predecessor to EESI, the Environmental Study Conference; this was an informal Congressional study group made up of bi-partisan members concerned about environmental and energy issues. In 1984, when the Environmental Study Conference could no longer support itself entirely on Congressional funds (and rules prohibited receipt of outside funds), this bipartisan group of environmentalists created the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) as an independent nonprofit organization receiving no Congressional funding. The only surviving founder, Richard Ottinger, continues to serve on EESI’s Board of Directors today and remains active in climate policy
EESI has been at the forefront of advancing solutions to climate change. We have unique beginnings as an organization founded by Congress to keep policymakers—and the broader policy community—informed and engaged on environmental and energy issues. This means that we occupy a distinct niche. We inform federal debate on environmental and energy issues by telling compelling stories and showcasing reputable, nonpartisan information and more equitable policy solutions. We work through coalitions, media, publications, and briefings on climate change, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. An independent nonprofit, EESI maintains a strong relationship with Congress and serves as a trusted advisor not driven by special interests.
Climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels pose tremendous threats to our environment, health, national security, and the economy. Moreover, environmental justice communities are also more likely to be disproportionately harmed by impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather. Due to a systemic lack of resources and infrastructure, these frontline communities are experiencing climate change “first and worst.” Addressing these threats and developing science-based, equitable policy solutions and strategies towards clean and sustainable energy will create jobs, improve national security, revitalize rural economies, increase U.S. competitiveness in the global market, and drive down greenhouse gas emissions.
EESI’s history and reputation provide us with substantial access to policymakers, Congressional staff, and other key stakeholders to share the latest science, technology, and policy information and to engage knowledgeable experts in the national debate.
EESI’s mission is to advance science-based solutions for climate change, energy, and environmental challenges. Our vision is a sustainable, resilient, and equitable world.
Since our inception, EESI has been a powerful force in federal energy and environmental policy. Since 1988, we have focused our policy work through a climate change lens. And for the last decade, EESI has expanded our work to providing technical assistance to municipal utilities and rural electric utilities to help them adopt financing solutions that benefit their customers, while driving down emissions. From energy efficiency financing to solutions to climate change and energy innovations, we’re a resource for policymakers, the media, and the public!
Federal Climate Policy Program
As a nonpartisan climate policy nonprofit, EESI fills a critical need: turning complex concepts into accessible information and inviting decision makers from both sides of the aisle to ask questions. EESI works to inform a policy environment in which policymakers work to curb climate change and to increase resilience to current and future climate impacts in an equitable way. It is also urgent for our country’s leaders to understand the economic and human costs of climate change that frontline communities bear, and to act to reduce those impacts.
EESI organizes Congressional briefings to highlight climate solutions, especially those that have multiple benefits and advance equity. We host at least 20 Congressional briefings, which are free and also open to the public, every year. Our fully remote and online format since March 2020 enabled us to host 32 briefings in 2020 - and 20 briefings already in 2021 with more to come. These are recorded for viewing online both as real-time streaming events and archived videos and written highlights, so anyone can access them at a time and place convenient to them.
EESI develops and distributes user-friendly fact sheets and issue briefs on energy and environmental topics, such as our annual fact sheet on jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors, and our exploration of government funding for the fossil fuel industry and how this is starting to move in the right direction. These resources and others we produce are in high demand from many Congressional offices as well as media outlets.
Technical Assistance Work that Benefits from and Informs our Federal Climate Policy Work
In on-bill financing, people in vulnerable and underserved communities can access energy improvements because a loan payment is added to their home energy bill. EESI’s recommended program design emphasizes equity, such as tying repayment to the energy meter and qualifying customers based on good bill payment history, rather than credit scores. This results in lower bills and better comfort for these families. And it helps further speed our nation’s path to drive down emissions, as financing can otherwise be a major barrier to energy upgrades.
EESI works to help cooperatives access zero-interest loan funds with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy Savings Program, to accelerate the spread and adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
EESI works to effect policy changes that put the U.S. on a cleaner, more secure, and sustainable energy path. We need decisionmakers to take action as soon as possible to transition the U.S. from a carbon-based economy to a decarbonized economy in a way that benefits all people.
Yet taking action first requires being aware of the problem; then becoming knowledgeable about the related issues and possible solutions; and then understanding the problems and issues in a way that leads to science-informed solutions. Moving decision makers along this continuum can be a challenge when there are newly elected decisionmakers to inform every time there is a new Congress. The same is true in our work with rural electric cooperatives, in encouraging and enabling them to offer equitable financing solutions to their members. We have found that EESI’s steady, thoughtful, methodical approach is effective and necessary.
Through our climate policy program, technical assistance programs like on-bill financing, and informative content and briefings, EESI advances innovative policy solutions that set us on a cleaner, more secure and sustainable energy path.
You can help us make this vital difference.
EESI is a leader in providing policymaker education and working with diverse groups to explore policy options and develop innovative and equitable solutions in addressing the nation’s climate, energy, economic and environmental challenges. EESI’s impact is multiplied by our strong use of communications tools; our webcasts and recordings multiply the lifespan and impact of our policymaker educational forums. National policymakers need EESI's help to build effective, innovative policy solutions based on solid information, compelling stories and win-win solutions. Also, our facilitation of on-the-ground work on inclusive energy upgrade solutions for families means we have a unique perspective, working for both local solutions and national policy solutions.
We are proud to report that we have advanced progress on climate in a multitude of ways—despite the challenges of the pandemic and working remotely.
In 2020 and 2021, we have:
- Published the report, “A Resilient Future for Coastal Communities.” This report includes specific legislative recommendations based on the climate solutions already in progress that experts and community members highlighted in our Coastal Resilience briefing series.
- Delivered a four-part Congressional Climate Camp series at the start of 2021. This briefing series was particularly aimed at getting new Congressional staff up to speed on critical climate issues. Experts gave compelling advice on how to apply science-based climate information in a legislative context.
- Expanded our organizational capacity for policy work, communications, development, and finance by bringing on five new staff members—helping to enhance our reach, impact, financial sustainability and our ability to grow—all in pursuit of addressing climate change more urgently, equitably, and efficiently.
- Increased our work providing technical assistance to help utilities innovate and drive down emissions. We are now helping 39 rural electric co-ops and municipal utilities across the country innovate through offering on-bill financing programs and ways to speed electrification. We have all been working through the best ways to move forward amidst coronavirus-driven uncertainty and we have found successes. In June 2020, a utility supplying power to nine states asked EESI to assess its potential for on-bill financing and electrification. We delivered that report in August 2020 and consider it a model for developing an interactive web-based toolkit to scale up this work. Notably, we helped Mountain Parks Electric in Colorado launch its innovative on-bill financing program on July 1, 2020. These wins and opportunities, coupled with our positive conversations with many key partners, give us hope and momentum to continue making a high-level impact.
- Began to advise green banks on how to apply for federal zero-interest Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP) loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, based on our long experience in assisting rural electric cooperatives in setting up energy financing programs using RESP funding.
- Launched and produced The Climate Conversation podcast. Now in its second season, this podcast provides context on some of the most pressing climate change issues and solutions in progress, for a general audience. It features interviews with climate and environmental leaders and highlights of recent EESI briefings and publications.
- Trained emerging environmental leaders through our paid internship program. This has not only continued during the pandemic, but has in fact grown and improved. We now incorporate weekly professional development and mentoring sessions for our interns, including guest speakers throughout the environmental field. We have also been able to hire interns who live outside of the Washington, DC area, thereby increasing access to the program.
- Transformed our ad-hoc work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion into an organization-wide policy that permeates our work. For example, we
- Recommended environmental justice considerations in federal policy, such as our response to the House of Representatives Select Committee on Climate Change;
- Have both a board committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and an active (DEI) staff group, which both meet regularly; and
- Have an operational plan on infusing DEI into all aspects of our work.
On GreatNonprofits — the Yelp of Nonprofits — online reviews by donors, collaborators, stakeholders, and volunteers helped us receive a Top-Rated ranking for the 11th year in a row in 2021. As one reviewer wrote, “EESI has a reputation as a hard working organization dedicated to providing policymakers with first-rate information about very complex energy and environmental issues.” Another said, “Love EESI! It's a great non-profit that practices its mission every day - It's not every day you find a small organization that is capable of making big waves in the policy world. I make sure to donate to EESI every year.”
EESI has received the highest rating from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest charity evaluator, nine times. Charity Navigator's President and CEO, Ken Berger, wrote to EESI, saying that the rating indicates that EESI "consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way and outperforms most other charities in America." For each dollar you give, 80 percent goes toward programmatic activities (based on 2020 spending). The other 20 percent goes towards administration and fundraising activities; these investments make it possible for us to achieve the superior levels of transparency and accountability for which we are recognized and to work for financial sustainability. We also undergo an independent financial audit each year.
EESI distributes almost all of its materials electronically to save both paper and financial resources.
We also have a distinguished, all-volunteer Board of Directors, which includes former members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, renowned academics, business leaders, attorneys (including a former IRS Commissioner), and other dedicated individuals.