What We're Doing

Policy Solution

With our help, utilities are discovering that they can benefit from energy-efficiency programs just as much as the consumer.

Policy Solution

With our long track record of securing energy-efficiency standards, we continue to push for more efficient appliances and buildings—helping save people money, create jobs, and reduce pollution in the process.

Policy Solution

We help bring the benefits of energy efficiency to low-income families in a dozen states across the nation.

Policy Solution

We're partnering with cities to save consumers up to $1 billion in energy bills and to reduce carbon pollution by up to seven million tons annually.

Policy Solution

We help ensure that energy efficiency is an integral part of reducing carbon pollution from power plants.

Policy Solution

We are pushing for smart policy changes so that we can create a cleaner, more efficient national electrical grid.

Policy Solution

Families can save about 11,000 gallons of water a year by making a few simple changes. We tell them how.

Policy Solution

Working in places like China, India, and Latin America, we're helping maximize energy efficiency around the globe.

Policy Solution

We are helping Chinese cities slash energy waste in commercial and residential buildings—which then reduces carbon pollution and makes the air safer to breathe.

Related Priorities

What You Can Do

Keep Your Devices from Wasting Energy and Money

Nearly one-quarter of home energy use is consumed by "vampires." Who can save us?

Easy Ways to Save Energy at Home

How to Go Solar at Home

Experts & Resources

SAN FRANCISCO—The Natural Resources Defense Council today signed a historic proposal with Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), labor unions, and other environmental groups to replace Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant with zero-emissions energy--including energy efficiency, wind, and sol

NRDC Challenges Trump DOE Rollback of Energy Efficiency Rule
Lissa Lynch

NRDC filed suit this week against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for unlawfully suspending parts of an energy efficiency rule that had prevented replacement central air conditioners from evading stricter energy-saving requirements. DOE’s action will mean higher utility bills for consumers and more pollution from power plants generating electricity to run these inefficient A/C units.

Our lawsuit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, argues that DOE’s stay is unlawful. The Administrative Procedure Act provision relied on by DOE as grounds to issue the stay does not allow an agency to suspend a rule that’s already in effect, as DOE did here. Moreover, DOE failed to give a sufficient explanation justifying the stay, as they are required to do.

DOE’s stay indefinitely halted two provisions of a January 2017 rule that updated the energy efficiency test procedures for central air conditioners and heat pumps. Those two provisions had closed a loophole that had allowed certain replacement air conditioners to avoid meeting stricter energy efficiency regulations. As we note in our lawsuit, one manufacturer, Johnson Controls International (JCI), has been using the loophole to sell replacement units without having to meet stricter efficiency requirements. DOE’s stay reopened that loophole to JCI and other manufacturers.

Back in 2016, DOE began enforcing a requirement that replacement air conditioners—the outdoor halves of typical split central air conditioners—meet energy efficiency standards. They were to do so according to a new, specific test procedure for replacements, a move widely supported by industry and efficiency advocates. At the time, the policy applied primarily to air conditioners using last-generation refrigerant R-22, which destroys stratospheric ozone and has been tightly regulated in the U.S. for years. In response to DOE’s imposition of the new test procedure, nearly all manufacturers of R-22 air conditioners ceased production; in most cases, the older R-22 products would have failed to meet newer energy efficiency standards.

Photo: DOE

Shortly thereafter, JCI introduced a unique product line that could be used either as an R-22 replacement unit or as a complete central air conditioning system. Each type has a separate test procedure, and JCI was required to rate the energy efficiency according to whichever use was predominant. JCI chose to certify by the easier path: as complete installations. But as DOE later found, these units are, in fact, “predominantly sold in scenarios in which the outdoor unit is replaced, and the indoor unit is not replaced”—in other words, replacement scenarios. 

The “Test Procedures for Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps” rule, published in early January 2017, clarified that any air conditioner that can be used as a replacement unit must be tested as a replacement unit. This update raised the bar for JCI’s products, as DOE had for many other R-22 air conditioners.

The Trump DOE had twice delayed the effective date of that Test Procedures Rule without notice or comment. In the meantime, JCI sued DOE over the Test Procedures Rule in the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, but progress on that case was suspended indefinitely while JCI and DOE pursued settlement out of court. Meanwhile, JCI sought—and DOE granted—an extension exempting their products from compliance with the Test Procedures Rule until January 2018. Now, in the challenged stay, DOE has suspended the relevant provisions indefinitely, re-opening the loophole to any manufacturer.

As we did when Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management suspended safeguards against methane gas leaks from oil and gas infrastructure, we are stepping in, this time represented by Democracy Forward, to prevent DOE’s rollback of energy efficiency requirements that protect consumers and the environment. We’re here to make sure this administration does not halt these important consumer, environmental, and public health protections without following the law.  

This post was co-authored with my colleague Alex Hillbrand.

NRDC Complaint Challenging DOE Stay of Air Conditioners Test Procedure
Legal Filings

NRDC complaint filed September 14, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking to overturn DOE’s administrative stay of two provisions of energy efficiency test procedures for central air conditioners and heat pumps.

Use Carbon Policies to Cut Energy Use and Power Plant Pollution

Energy efficiency is one of the most effective ways to address climate change and limit dependence on power plants, which are America’s largest source of climate-warming emissions.

NRDC is working with local, state, and federal officials to ensure that energy efficiency plays a key role in reducing carbon pollution from the power sector, which account for 40 percent of U.S. emissions. Numerous states and the federal government have acted to limit carbon pollution from the power sector. In 2005, nine states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic joined together in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which NRDC helped develop. A year later, California imposed economy-wide carbon pollution standards as part of the state’s landmark legislation to address its contribution to climate change.

Raymond Forbes/Stocksy

Both California and the RGGI states use clean energy solutions like energy efficiency programs and upgraded building codes to help drive down emissions from the power sector. The RGGI states have integrated clean energy with their carbon pollution limits by auctioning permits to emit carbon dioxide and funneling the revenue primarily into energy efficiency programs. The RGGI states invested around $790 million of auction revenue into energy efficiency programs between 2009 and 2014, an investment that will reduce customer energy bills by $3.62 billion.

At the national level, NRDC led the charge to get the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use the Clean Air Act—the nation’s bedrock environmental law—to tackle carbon pollution. In 2015, the EPA established the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants with its Clean Power Plan. As with the RGGI states and California, NRDC succeeded in ensuring that energy efficiency could be integrated as a means of reducing power sector emissions and complying with the Clean Power Plan pollution limits.

With the election of Donald Trump and ongoing litigation, the future of the Clean Power Plan is uncertain. But whatever happens in the near term, carbon pollution standards are inevitable. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that the EPA must address dangerous carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. And when national standards go into effect, NRDC will continue to work to ensure that energy efficiency is fully deployed to help achieve these emissions reductions at low cost. 

California: America’s Climate Leader
Rhea Suh

The Golden State is stepping up its game to set the standard for powering our nation through 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

One of the many clean energy projects in California, this one in Kern County

Allan Der/Flickr

California is about to make history by leading the way to the future.

State lawmakers are poised to vote this week on a bill calling for all of California’s electricity—100 percent of it—to come from wind, solar, and other renewable sources by 2045. In our lifetime, in other words, our country’s largest statewide economy would be powered without fossil fuels and the dangerous pollution they emit.

That’s setting the standard—and setting the pace.

California’s economy will kick out $2.7 trillion worth of goods and services this year, 14.1 percent of the U.S. total. If the state were a country, it would be roughly tied with the United Kingdom for the fifth-largest economy in the world, just ahead of France.

Visionary leadership, an unbridled belief in innovation, and an insistence on seizing opportunity, not just waiting for it, are fundamental to the California success story. The state has a chance to build on that record by passing this clean electricity bill, SB 100. Authored by  Kevin de León, president of the California state Senate, SB 100 also calls for an ambitious near-term target of 60 percent renewable electricity by 2030. And it would mandate 50 percent renewable electricity by 2026, four years sooner than the existing target.

Already on track to get more than a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, California is a global leader in the transition to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future. That leadership is paying off for Californians, more than half a million of whom now work to help us to become more efficient so we do more with less waste in our cars, homes, and workplaces; to get more clean power from the wind and sun; and to build the electricity transmission grid of tomorrow.

That kind of work is going to attract some $7 trillion in global investment over the next two decades or so. California has positioned its workers to thrive in that booming global clean energy market—like no other workers anywhere. And the state is leading the fight to protect future generations from the growing dangers of climate change, by shedding its reliance on the dirty fossil fuels that are driving this global scourge.

Climate change is taking a mounting and unsustainable toll on our people—through rising seas that threaten our coastal communities, mass extinctions, spreading deserts, and dying coral. It’s taking a toll through hurricanes, like Harvey and Irma, that are made worse as they linger over oceans heated by global warming and become more destructive due to rising sea levels. And it’s taking a toll through wildfires raging across Northwest forests that have turned to kindling in weather that is increasingly warm and dry.

If ever the nation needed climate and clean energy leadership, it is now. And yet, in Washington, we have President Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax” and is doing everything he can to turn back from the promise of clean energy, retreat from the economic opportunity of our lifetime, and condemn our children to a world of worsening climate chaos. Another bill pending in the California legislature, SB49, would protect the state from Washington backsliding on a host of environmental provisions.

Now, more than ever, we need California to lead, to show the path to more good-paying clean energy jobs, to innovation that makes us more efficient, and to leaving our children a livable world. That future is closer than it seems. The clean electricity bill will move us closer still.

Watt’s It to You? Perks of Michigan Energy Planning
Ariana Gonzalez

Michigan wisely passed clean energy legislation back in December, but starting today that legislation is giving you a voice. The legislation kicked off an energy planning process where you can tell your Commissioners in person or in written comments what your vision of a better today and tomorrow should look like.

The Vision

When you envision the life you want, what do you see? Probably a picture where you and your family are happy and healthy. Where you are employed and financially comfortable. Maybe you see yourself hiking Empire’s Sleeping Bear Dunes or grilling at Detroit’s Palmer Park with the sun shining, the sky clear, and the crisp, fresh air easy to breathe. Or maybe you love the holidays and picture your family huddled around a lit Christmas tree, watching the snow fall from your warm, cozy couch.

The energy planning process currently underway can help create these moments. It keeps your air cleaner, keeps your home temperature just right, and keeps your money in your pocket.

How does this energy planning process get us to your vision? Think of it like cooking. You put something in the recipe and get something out. If you decide you want a certain result, then you will plan and be more selective about your ingredients. If you want clean, affordable, reliable energy today and tomorrow, then we must figure out what we want to put in our energy planning cookbook.

You Get Out What You Put In

What combination of inputs will put us on the path to achieve this vision? Two resources that have proven themselves as clean, affordable, reliable and job creating are renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Clean

Neither energy efficiency nor renewables use fuel that pollutes our air and water with harmful carbon, methane, or nuclear waste. Both instead lower the amount of pollutants and therefore lower the number and costs of pollution related health issues.  In fact, new analysis from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that utility-scale solar and wind energy generation in the United States prevented up to 12,700 early deaths from 2007 to 2015, and contributed to as much as $112.8 billion in air quality benefits. If that feels too removed from your day to day, on the efficiency side, the Department of Energy found that enhanced energy efficiency upgrades have been shown to reduce indoor air contaminants linked to chronic illnesses, control environmental contaminants (dust mites, mold/moisture) that can trigger respiratory symptoms, and improve symptoms of asthma and other respiratory health conditions.

Affordable

Skeptics will say that affordable energy efficiency and renewables are only possibilities in the distant future. In reality, both renewable energy and energy efficiency are affordable now and show forecasts of continued cost competitiveness. In fact, the most recent Michigan Public Service Commission report shows energy efficiency and renewables together are more affordable than any new source, including new natural gas plants with energy efficiency and renewables combining for $37.43 per MWh versus $66.23 per MWh. Additionally, the U.S. Energy Information Administration states that wind and solar will be among the most competitive sources in the future compared to  natural gas.

Job Creating

Finally, both renewable energy and energy efficiency have spurred the growth of a strong clean energy economy in the state that employs over 87,000 Michiganders. These jobs include everything from welders for wind turbines to roof insulators and administrative assistants—they are for those with PhDs or no degrees.  

The Perks of Planning

By planning, we don’t leave our vision of a happy, healthy, and affordable today and tomorrow to chance. We can both dictate the Michigan we want, while ensuring there are no-regrets protections when challenges inevitably arise. Through the spring and summer, the state held meetings to get inputs to Michigan’s planning process. They drafted a proposal and are now asking for public comments including three public hearings across the state:

Date: Wednesday, September 6
Time: 1:00pm – 5:00 pm
Location: Schoolcraft College
     18600 Haggerty Rd
     Livonia, MI 48152

Date: Wednesday, September 13
Time: 1:00pm – 5:00 pm
Location: L.V. Eberhard Center
     301 West Fulton, Room 210
    Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Date: Wednesday, September 19
Time: 12:00pm – 4:00 pm
Location: Northern Michigan University
     University Center – Huron/Erie Room
     1401 Presque Isle
     Marquette, MI 49855

If you are unable to attend, written comments must be submitted by October 6 to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909.  Electronic comments may be e-mailed to [email protected].  All comments should reference Case No. U-18418. 

At first glance, the proposal may look pretty technical, but comments are not limited to specifics like forecasted natural gas prices and efficiency cost curves. The Commissioners also want to hear your overarching support for more stakeholder involvement, getting as much energy efficiency and renewables as possible, and pursuing carbon reducing scenarios.

Now is your chance to be heard. Mark your calendars and join us in telling the Commission what the Michigan you want looks like.  

This blog is part two of a series that will help you keep an eye on the recently passed energy bills and energy planning process. Just like a “watt” is a unit (like an inch or gallon) for measuring electricity, this blog will measure how Michigan’s energy legislation will impact your life. 

NRDC in Action
Trading Coal Plants for Solar Farms in India
Senior attorney and India program director Anjali Jaiswal leads a small team that’s accomplishing big things in one of the world’s most polluted countries.

Indian workers install solar panels at the Gujarat Solar Park.

Ajit Solanki/AP

When President Trump announced his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, he singled India out, claiming (falsely) that, under the accord, the country of 1.3 billion could “double its coal production by 2020” while “we’re supposed to get rid of ours.” But the reality is that India has made a bold commitment to move away from such dirty fuels and toward a clean energy future, making huge strides in the global fight against climate change. Since 2009, NRDC has been working with partners there to encourage that transition as part of its India program, spearheaded by senior attorney Anjali Jaiswal.

Jaiswal, who was born in India and moved with her family to the United States when she was a child, joined NRDC in 2001. After six years in the Water program and a stint on the Litigation team, she was selected by NRDC founding president John Adams and immediate past president Frances Beinecke to lead the organization’s efforts in India. Though based in San Francisco, Jaiswal was thrilled by the opportunity to also work in her native country again, having studied environmental science there in the 1990s and, more recently, worked with local nonprofits in New Delhi through a Fulbright program. She looked forward to applying her India experience, both personal and professional, as well as her background working on local environmental issues in California, to her new role.

© Rebecca Greenfield

“Anjali’s vision, which has proved to be very, very effective, was to work with people and institutions on the ground in India who are known and respected,” Beinecke says. “That’s been the model since we started, and it’s really worked well.”

Jaiswal points out that India ranks as the third-largest annual emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the United States and China, but in terms of per capita emissions, it lands far down the list at 128th. The United States, by comparison, is 12th, and the average American uses 10 times as much energy as an average Indian, Jaiswal notes. “What India is trying to do is really hard,” she says. “It’s building out an economy, increasing prosperity, and bringing millions of people out of poverty while fighting climate change.”

Problems in the country loom large—200 million Indians don’t have reliable electricity, and the devastating effects of climate change are already wreaking havoc across the country. The key, Jaiswal says, has been to focus on building relationships and creating realistic, human-centered, scalable solutions.

Solar panels have made a big difference in Tinginaput, India.

© Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos Pictures/Dept. for International Development

“We’re a small, lean team, but our impact is much greater than our size,” Jaiswal says. In the eight years since NRDC’s India Initiative was founded, the team of seven (along with other NRDC experts) has worked with partners to launch several projects that address the country’s public health, energy, and climate challenges. One focus is to strengthen climate resilience among some of India’s most vulnerable populations, such as slum communities, outdoor workers, pregnant women, and children.

For example, the team has devised a revolutionary—and increasingly popular—heat-preparedness plan and early-warning system for heat waves. “It's a great example of how we’ve been able to take the work to scale,” Beinecke says. “It started in Ahmedabad, but now there are 11 states and 30 cities in India that have adopted the same model.” Beinecke adds that the project’s success is due in large part to Jaiswal’s knack for developing strong partnerships with NGOs in India.

Jaiswal has also worked with local partners on an innovative finance model to help nearly 43,000 saltpan farmers in the remote, scorching desert of Gujarat (also home to her father’s village) gain access to clean energy and improved living conditions. One local group, the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), founded by the inspirational Ela Bhatt in 1972, has been instrumental in helping the farmers replace expensive diesel-powered pumps and generators with solar panels, allowing the farmers to save money while helping to bring about a more sustainable future. In the two years since the project began, Jaiswal has seen nearly 500 solar installations crop up across the salt flats.

Saltpan farmer in the Gujarat Desert

© Bhaskar Deol

On a trip to Gujarat earlier this year, Jaiswal and Beinecke sat with a family in their tent while the mother explained how the project is enabling them to send their young children to school for the first time. “You felt, wow, you’re really having an impact on the lives of people who live in very meager circumstances to improve their standard of living and their quality of life,” Beinecke says. “That these three or four children sitting with us were going to be able to have a different future was very inspiring. It was fantastic.”

The India Initiative has also helped introduce energy efficiency standards for buildings that will set a strong precedent for new construction in rapidly developing cities: As of 2014, only 30 percent of the buildings projected to exist in India by 2030 had been built. It’s an exciting thought for Jaiswal and Indians alike, who are eager to see the country develop with climate solutions in mind. “It has changed so rapidly, and people are really seeing how things can get better in India,” Jaiswal says. “India is a technology-loving country, with a lot of people helping to develop solutions we use every day, and these climate solutions can make life better and grow the economy.”

Jaiswal was impressed with India’s commitment to renewable energy development before the Paris Agreement, and she remains so now. “When we started in India, the country was producing 17 megawatts of solar energy—that’s very little,” she says. “We’re talking gigawatts in terms of amounts now.” One gigawatt of energy can power 544,000 Indian homes a year. Over the past three years, India quadrupled its solar capacity to 12 gigawatts, and it will add another 10 in 2017. The country is also ramping up wind energy production as part of its goal of installing 160 gigawatts of solar and wind power by 2022.

India’s ambitious commitment to renewable energy will be central to helping the country reach its Paris climate accord goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent to 35 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. But India’s formal commitment wasn’t necessarily a sure thing during negotiations back in late 2015. The country took the lead in fighting for an equitable agreement for developing countries—not because, as Trump thinks, it wants to increase its coal production, but to make it work for its population’s immense needs.

“Paris showed us that we can develop an international structure that works for countries around the world—not just rich countries,” Jaiswal says. “In order for it to work, it has to be designed for everyone.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called failure to respond to climate change “an immoral and criminal act.” Accordingly, “we’re seeing India really stepping up,” Jaiswal says. “India is investing in clean energy technologies and innovation while folks like Donald Trump are investing in our grandfathers’ technologies.”

Jaiswal and the India team are determined, now more than ever, to foster India’s newfound leadership role on climate, and she stresses just how motivating the idea of reducing poverty and promoting economic prosperity is for the country. “While there are many challenges, development is skyrocketing in Asia. Innovation and the spirit of wanting to build a brighter future are very much part of the culture that exists in India right now.”

Tell Trump we won't stop fighting global climate change

Nicole Greenfield
Policy Primer

The agreement’s authors built in a time line for withdrawal that President Trump will have to follow—slowing him down from irreparably damaging our climate.

Personal Action

We know that you know that Trump’s assessment of the Paris Agreement is way off base. Here’s how to convince those who don’t.

Explainer

As the country's economy improves—and temperatures rise—tens of millions of people are installing air conditioners. That spells trouble for climate change.

onEarth Story

How India builds its energy grid could decide the fate of humanity. Maybe we should help the country out.

onEarth Story

The energy secretary’s take on a basic law of economics was either confused or deceitful.

onEarth Story

A Harvard study says clean energy could save billions of dollars—and thousands of lives—every year.

Action Figure

Shazia Khan’s mission is to bring solar energy to people with no access to electric utilities.

onEarth Story

A new documentary shows us how folks of all kinds are helping to build the solar industry.

There Is No Reason Why Ameren Should Weaken its Commitment to Energy Efficiency
Henry Henderson
A homeowner installing a programable thermostat as part of an Energy Department program to weatherize homes Courtesy of Dennis Schroeder, NREL – https://flic.kr/p/dexW54

We spend a lot of time thinking about energy efficiency at NRDC. It is not the sexiest topic; but surprisingly in Illinois, it's become sort of contentious.

Not efficiency itself-everyone recognizes there are incredible monetary and health benefits to cutting waste out of our energy system, especially as this state implements the landmark Future Energy Jobs Act, which delivers massive energy efficiency benefits.

As part of that law, Illinois' two utilities agreed to energy efficiency targets. Unfortunately, Ameren Illinois is floating a plan with lower targets this year. And to push that plan, Ameren has created a false choice between a plan that benefits low income customers and a plan that captures enough energy efficiency to meet the statutory goals.

This is simply not true. Experts representing NRDC-CUB-EDF and the Illinois Attorney General's office have given Ameren many choices to improve its plan while lowering cost and still funding low income programs well above the statutory minimum. Ameren has repeatedly tried to spin criticism of how it spends its money to an outright rejection of funding for low income programs. That's just crazy talk. Our coalition fought hard to ensure there are millions of dollars going to programs in support of low income communities in the Future Energy Jobs Act. Our issue is only that Ameren has focused its attention on programs that bring less benefit to those communities-essentially lessening the positive impacts low income communities should be getting from these resources.

The Future Energy Jobs Act, if implemented correctly, can provide enormous opportunities to residents of all income levels and businesses and help Illinois become a leader in the rapidly developing clean energy economy. Across the state, households, buildings, and businesses are already saving money on their electric bills from successful efficiency programs, and the state is currently home to about 90,000 workers in the energy efficiency sector. Illinois can expand its clean energy economy by doubling down on efficiency investments, which could create more than 7,000 jobs per year and add $700 million to the state's economy annually between now and 2030.

Ameren's proposed plan squanders this opportunity. It contains costly programs that will result in very little to no proven energy savings. This is not good for anyone. Except maybe Ameren...

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