We are delighted to welcome David Nieh to the Energy Foundation Board of Directors.

The Energy Foundation works in both the U.S. and China, the latter through its Energy Foundation China program. Program areas include sustainable cities, buildings, transportation, electric utilities, renewable energy, environmental management, industry, and low-carbon development. Read more about Energy Foundation China’s programs in English here, or in Chinese here.

David heads the China business for Lendlease, an international developer headquartered in Sydney, Australia, known for its environmental leadership in property development around the world. He is a well-known Chinese American business leader based in Shanghai and a well-regarded urban planner and architect.

“I look forward to furthering the Energy Foundation’s goals of sustainable urban development in China and beyond, advancing sustainable energy to clean up the air, reduce carbon pollution, and increase investments in clean energy,” he said.

Before joining Lendlease, David was a general manager of Shui On Land, a founding director at SOM’s Shanghai office, and the chief architect of the city of San Jose, California.

He is currently a board member of the Global Reporting Initiative, Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, and the China Chapter of the Asia Pacific Real Estate Association. He is a director of the Pacific Basin Economic Council and a Shanghai Executive Committee member of the Urban Land Institute. David has been a speaker and moderator at the Boao Forum, an APEC CEO Summit member, and speaker at the Great Hall of the People. He is an appointed advisor to China Development Bank Capital, China Nobel Forum, the U.S-China Clean Energy Forum, Beijing University College of Architecture and Landscape, Stanford University Architecture Program, and University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

“We look forward to gaining David’s insights and expertise as we continue our work to build a clean energy future,” said Eric Heitz, Energy Foundation CEO and Co-founder.

Thirteen of the largest companies from across the U.S. economy helped launch the White House’s “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” by committing to reduce carbon emissions and invest in clean energy.

Their promises—and similar commitments by many other companies—will create good jobs in thriving industries, strengthen national security, and keep our air and water clean and healthy—for today’s children and future generations.

The 13 companies—Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart—represent more than $1.3 trillion in revenue in 2014 and a combined market capitalization of at least $2.5 trillion.

According to the White House, all told, “today’s announcements total at least $140 billion in new low-carbon investment and more than 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy, in addition to ambitious, company-specific goals to cut emissions as much as 50 percent, reduce water intensity as much as 15 percent, purchase 100 percent renewable energy, and pursue zero net deforestation in supply chains.”

The pledge also voices support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations this December.


We applaud the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action. In this context, we support the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.

We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment. 

We put forth our pledges as follows:

Click here to find out what each company pledged.

The following post appeared in the Energy Collective, an online forum that analyzes energy and climate issues.

Curtis Seymour is a Program Director, Power Sector at the Energy Foundation, focusing on renewable energy and other power sector issues in the U.S. Prior to joining our staff, he worked for SunEdison leading business development initiatives aimed at creating strategic partnerships with utilities and load-serving entities in North America. From 2011 to 2013 he was SunEdison’s Director of Government Affairs, directing state-level legislative and regulatory activities for the company on the West Coast, and serving as chair of the Solar Energy Industries Association’s California state policy committee.  He was previously a Fellow at the Robert Bosch Stiftung in Germany, researching and working in the German solar energy industry.  From 2007 to 2010 he was a senior public utilities regulatory analyst and commissioner advisor at the California Public Utilities Commission.

Our Clean Energy Future: Batteries (Maybe) Included

In early May, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and chairman of Solar City, announced the release of the PowerWall, a new, low-cost battery system for home energy storage. The public reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and rightly so: As we build toward a clean energy future, the development of affordable, scalable batteries for electricity could be a key tool in the toolkit. Because the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow, the thinking goes, batteries will ensure we have a reliable supply of electricity regardless of the vagaries of weather.

In addition to being a top-flight technologist, Musk is a brilliant salesman; while his attention is clearly focused on solving the urgent problem of climate change with electric cars (Tesla) and solar panels (Solar CIty), his audience for the PowerWall—much like his audience for the Tesla—are those early-adopters who are always first to try out a new technology.

But as one might expect, the truth about the way we produce and consume electricity is more nuanced than can be explained in a battery marketing campaign.

America’s electricity system is entering the grips of a significant transformation, driven by new, clean technologies that are already scalable, affordable, and produce little to no air pollution—batteries not included. Depending on how the full portfolio of clean energy technologies is deployed in the coming decades, it may be a very long time before we actually need batteries to achieve the goal of a very-low-carbon electricity system. The jury is still out on the topic.

To understand why batteries may or may not be a key component of a low-carbon electricity system, it’s important to understand how the electricity grid works, and how low-cost, commercial-scale technologies are already being deployed in service of a clean energy future.

For one thing, there’s a common misperception that, due to its variability, renewable energy like solar and wind power can’t keep the lights on 24 hours a day, seven days a week when we need them. The truth is that no source of power can perfectly match our needs—even “baseload” coal plants and nuclear power stations cannot adjust to fully meet our needs on the hottest summer days or the coldest winter nights.

In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that large, central power stations may prove to be the weakest link in the dynamic, high-tech, highly reliable and low-carbon electricity grid of the future. Central power stations also represent central points of failure. Think about it: Would you rather have a single, giant power station, connected by one high-voltage power line to your city from one direction—all of which could be wiped out by a storm, or flood, or system failure? Or would you feel more secure hedging your bets with a dozen smaller, more dynamic power stations, scattered around the city, actively managed using advanced hardware and software, each immune to the potential failure of the others?

Experience—and a lot of detailed study—have begun to give us the answer to these questions. AsBloomberg Business wrote last fall:

Power outages are up 285 percent since 1984, and the U.S. ranks last among the top nine Western industrialized nations in the average length of outages, which the federal U.S. Energy Information Administration says cost businesses as much as $150 billion a year. Hundreds of thousands of miles of power lines can’t be monitored from a central location, so repairers spend 60 percent of their time searching for breaks. “Many utilities are blind beyond the substation,” says Edward Kennedy, chief executive officer of Tollgrade Communications, which makes grid sensors and consults with utilities on smart-grid projects.

These weaknesses in the grid are not caused by, or even related to, renewable energy; they completely pre-date the advent of large-scale renewable projects in the United States. Much like our crumbling roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure, we’ve been under-investing in our energy system for decades. Modernization of the U.S. electric grid is needed—and it’s coming: The Department of Energy announced billions of dollars in investment in grid modernization over the next 10 years, which will leverage hundreds of billions in private investments by utilities.

The advent of new tools and technologies, and the strong push to bring more clean energy to market, is actually helping drive new investment in our aging grid infrastructure. The result is a more flexible, reliable, and resilient system for the delivery of electricity.

Given what we know about the existing grid’s weaknesses, and the trend toward investing in a more flexible, resilient system, accusations that renewable energy is “variable,” and therefore can’t provide reliable power at scale, ring hollow. As utilities deploy ever-more-sophisticated tools to manage the flow of electrons, power outages will become increasingly rare—regardless of the source of the electricity.

A growing cohort of new technologies and business innovations is rewriting the old assumptions about renewable energy, baseload, and what it takes to provide reliable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable energy. Energy Foundation partners are helping to drive many of these innovations into market:

  • Demand response. Demand response technologies give grid operators the ability to adjust the demand of energy consumers in real-time, allowing them to move electricity to other parts of the grid. The result: reduced costs for consumers, more flexible power supply, and improved grid reliability.

  • Real-time weather forecasting. A great deal of renewable energy is a product of the weather—primarily wind and sun. By integrating high-resolution, high-frequency weather forecasts into their toolkit, grid managers can anticipate when wind and solar power will be available—and when it won’t. The resulting data enables a seamless transition among resources and ensures an uninterrupted supply of electricity.

  • Broader system integration. By expanding and strengthening the grid’s capacity to connect renewable energy resources across a broad swath of regions, grid managers can deploy solar and wind power from remote locations, even when it’s no longer sunny or windy where they are. In doing so, grid managers also gain access to other, less broadly distributed clean energy resources, such as hydropower, geothermal, and biomass.

As Energy Foundation partner Jim Lazar says, “Each of the innovations—such as implementing aggressive demand response programs or targeting efficiency to the hours when load ramps up sharply—creates modest changes. But, when combined, they completely solve the problem. The resulting load is easier to serve than the projected load would have been, even without the addition of renewable resources.”

Further, these technologies and practices, already in broad use, are just the tip of the iceberg. The full portfolio of options for integrating and managing renewable energy is sufficient to have convinced numerous leading experts around the world that, as of today, we have the ability to run our economieson at least 50 percent renewable energy, and potentially as much as 80 percent.

As of the end of 2014, the United States was getting about 13 percent of its electricity from renewable resources. While renewable energy is the fastest-growing source of new energy supply in the United States—with over 80 percent growth for solar, and 10 percent for wind—renewables’ share of the total still only creeps up by a percent or two per year nationally (though many states are seeing faster growth). What this means: We’ve got a long way to go before we begin to hit the theoretical limits of renewable energy—limits that might trigger the technical need for batteries like the PowerWall.

As someone who fully appreciates the potential for new technologies to transform our energy system, I’m a big fan of the PowerWall, and am of course supportive of its development.

But I also believe that the grid is one of the most important machines invented by humans. The grid allows for the dynamic flow of electrons from a variety of locations and generating stations, to an even larger variety and distribution of end-use consumers. It’s what enables us to enjoy all of the comforts of modernity. Thanks to emergent clean energy technologies and practices, we’ll be able to do so with ever-increasing confidence in the grid’s reliability.

So, by all means, Mr. Musk, keep developing your batteries and pushing them down the cost curve. Your success will be the cherry on top of an extraordinary achievement of human clean energy invention.

We’re seeking candidates for the following positions at the Energy Foundation. Each announcement includes instructions on how to apply.

Program Coordinator, Policy

The primary responsibilities of the Program Coordinator, Policy, are to support the work of the Vice President for Policy and manage Policy team projects. Using strong organizational, administrative, and communications skills, he or she is expected to manage the Policy team’s workflow and perform discreet administrative tasks for the VP and the team.

User Support Specialist

The working title for the position is User Support Coordinator. This person is responsible for providing basic desktop, device, and software support in a Mac environment as well as supporting knowledge sharing and collaboration activities. The Coordinator will provide direct support to staff in the San Francisco headquarters and remote offices in North Carolina and Illinois. Continue reading

Vice President of Partner Relations

The Energy Foundation seeks a Vice President of Partner Relations. The successful candidate will direct the development, execution, and evaluation of fundraising strategies to advance the clean energy mission of the Energy Foundation and Energy Foundation China. Continue reading

Program Coordinator, Public Engagement

The Energy Foundation seeks a Program Coordinator, Public Engagement, to support the work of the Vice President of Public Engagement and manage projects of the Public Engagement team. Using strong organizational, administrative, and communications skills, he or she is expected to manage the team’s workflow and perform discreet administrative tasks for the team. Continue reading

EVs charging

The following article by Energy Foundation Transportation Program Director Patty Monahan and Vice President of Power Strategies Dan Adler appeared in Utility Dive, an online news and analysis resource for utility industry professionals. Patty was previously a senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a team lead at the Environmental Protection Agency. Dan was formerly a managing director at the California Clean Energy Fund and senior staffer at the California Public Utilities Commission.

The Transportation Grid: How utilities can drive the future of transport

“The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.” — former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Yamani

When it comes to how we fuel our cars and trucks, America is standing at an inflection point. The electrification of our system of personal transport, which for many years was little more than a visionary theory, is now in its initial stages of design and implementation; with the right policies, the bulk of our passenger vehicles could shift from being fueled by oil and gas, to being powered by electricity.

If transport electrification is truly a question of “when,” rather than “if,” it poses some profound—and immediate—questions for the electricity sector, and, in particular, electric utilities. Because of the vast infrastructure needed to charge electric vehicles (EVs), utilities may in fact hold the keys to accelerating their deployment. And as a side benefit to accelerating EV deployment, utilities could see increased energy demand and revenue growth.

An outcome that favors both utilities and consumers is not, however, a given. The way utilities structure EV charging rates, and the strategies they use to integrate “smart” vehicle charging with existing and emergent programs and technologies, will determine the extent to which utilities set up a “win-win-win” situation – for the economy, for consumers, and for their own business.

As utilities around the country experiment with EV grid integration, a growing body of evidence is pointing to a set of best practices that ensure EVs have a positive impact on the grid, offer benefits to ratepayers, and address urgent public health and environmental issues. Utilities who choose these approaches may eventually come to be seen as the key players ushering us out of the oil age, and into the age of electrified transport.

The Utility of the Future

Across the United States, utilities, grid managers, ratepayer advocates and electric vehicle (EV) innovators are experimenting with new policies and incentives for EVs that, when observed in aggregate, are on their way to bringing electric vehicles out of their niche, and into large-scale consumer adoption.

While these conversations are still nascent, they fit squarely in the emerging debates about the “utility of the future” taking shape in New York, Minnesota and elsewhere. Some initial findings suggest that tomorrow’s electric utilities will be rewarded for integrating EVs and the related host of new energy technologies and services—technologies and services that are clean, reliable, affordable, and attractive to consumers.

As more utilities realize the potential value of EVs to their bottom line, and as more EV manufacturers grasp the importance of the electric grid for vehicle sales, we may see a perfect storm of convergence that will facilitate a sea change away from the internal combustion engine and toward a transportation system that is powered predominantly by electricity.

Several important variables will determine which set of actors ultimately get to play the lead roles in accelerating a transition to electric drive. All evidence suggests that utilities are the front runner. But a lot is riding on the path they choose.

A growing body of empirical evidence from Energy Foundation partners and others suggests that, with the right policies in place, utilities are uniquely positioned to help oversee the vast network of charging stations, set prices, and structure and manage various EV incentive programs. They’re also in an ideal position to play the role of “referee” for the various technologies that will be deployed in service of electric vehicles – making sure that the full suite of technologies meet rigorous standards for engineering, grid compatibility and interoperability with other systems.

The fact is, no single entity or group of companies has more experience managing the development and deployment of large-scale electric infrastructure than electric utilities. With the right policies in place, utilities may well prove to be the lynchpin to developing a nationwide network of charging stations to rival today’s gasoline stations.

We’re already witnessing an uptick in related activity – and not just in places like California and Washington state, both of which have aggressive goals for vehicle electrification.

Utilities in Alabama, Michigan, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, Indiana, Vermont, Florida, and Minnesota are all experimenting with various programs to incentivize electric vehicle deployment. The range of policy experiments is what you might expect in our diverse, federalist system; and of course, some policies are more effective than others. But while each state’s program has its own unique attributes, there are some common themes that suggest an emergent pattern of best practices:

Use Time of Use pricing to encourage off-peak charging

Like most passenger cars, most EVs are only in use a few hours per day, when drivers are going to and from work, or running errands; the rest of the time—between 20 and 22 hours per day, according to US Department of Transportation—they sit idle.

The average car’s idleness presents an opportunity to use price signals to encourage charging during off-peak hours. Several studies have found that, by using time of use pricing for EV charging stations, utilities can get owners to charge their vehicles during periods of low power demand. The benefits of such price signals are substantial: When EVs are charged off peak, consumers face lower energy prices, and utilities increase revenues without the need to invest in new grid or generating capacity.

Already, a growing body of evidence points to the ability of TOU rates to enhance the EV value proposition for consumers and power companies:

  • In Virginia and North Carolina, Dominion Resources is running a pilot project, to determine how TOU pricing may influence vehicle charging behavior.
  • According to the California Transportation Electrification Assessment, the net benefit to utilities, which could be recycled back to all ratepayers, varies from $2800 to $9,800 over the life of the electric vehicle, depending on the rate structure. These benefits occur by charging EVs at off-peak when capacity utilization is low. The report found, “additional revenue from PEV charging exceeds the marginal costs to deliver electricity to the customer, providing positive net revenues that put downward pressure on rates.”
  • The U.S. Department of Energy’s EV Project found that TOU pricing pushes the majority of EV charging into off-peak hours: “In regions where the electric utility provided TOU rates, the driver typically programmed the EVSE or PEV to begin charging at the time the lower rate started.” In regions that didn’t have TOU pricing, the EV Project found that EV owners plugged in their vehicles in the early evening, when capacity utilization is often high. The rate structure is a key factor in determining whether EVs are good or bad for the grid.

Use smart charging of EVs to increase grid flexibility, reduce rates

As everyone in the electricity business knows, the rapid growth of variable renewable energy will eventually lead to technical challenges with grid integration. Through the use of smart charging and related technologies, utilities can actually use their customers’ EVs to enhance grid flexibility—while reducing rates for all ratepayers. When combined with smart meters, sub-meters, and advanced controls, utilities can turn EVs into the equivalent of a “utility infielder” for the grid.

Most scenarios for very high renewable energy penetration envision some form of rapid-dispatch storage that can absorb excess generation during periods of high solar or wind output, and feed it back to the grid during low generation. Theoretically, smart charging for EV could enable EVs to be charged when there is excess generation from renewables.

Over the longer term, the batteries being developed for EV penetration could become an integral component of the distribution system.  Research continues to determine if it’s possible that EVs (and their used batteries) could feed energy back to the grid, known as vehicle to grid (V2G). But there are major barriers to using EVs to provide power to the grid, since doing so may degrade battery life and may void vehicle warranties.

EV charging stations can also be set up to participate in demand response programs. Because individual EV batteries are too small to provide utility-scale benefits, the concept will likely require utilities to aggregate multiple EVs, such as fleets, into pools of dispatchable power that range from 0.1 to 1 MW in size. But there are clear advantages to doing so: EV batteries ramp very rapidly, and can provide ancillary services like any other fast-ramping source.

In a recent pilot project, GM’s OnStar division worked with PJM Interconnection, the world’s largest competitive wholesale electricity market, to coordinate EV charging to coincide with times of high renewable energy production—in particular, overnight wind power production. By informing OnStar when renewable resources were available on the grid, PJM showed that it’s possible to shift EV charging to be powered primarily by renewable energy, resulting in substantial air quality benefits and reducing the carbon footprint of vehicle charging.

While there are still many policy and related issues to be addressed in deploying such a system, the hurdles are no longer technical in nature:

To enable a grid-interactive vehicle system to move forward in which EVs are serving as resources in wholesale markets, regulators, ISO/RTOs, utilities, and other stakeholders will need to make decisions about how these systems should be structured to clarify ownership and participation. A clearly defined program in which customers understand what they are signing up for and how they benefit from participating will be necessary.

Rate-base charging stations for maximum benefit

As recently as 2011, regulators in California opposed utility ownership of charging stations, out of fear that such a move would stifle innovation and competition. But with a few years of experience under their belts, the California PUC is now headed in the opposite direction.

With the benefit of hindsight, the reasons are fairly straightforward: EV charging stations must integrate with the grid seamlessly, and meet the same rigorous standards for safety and reliability required of utilities. If states are to truly push the large-scale deployment of EVs, they’ll need to turn to utilities as the most experienced operator.

But, as the old saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Utilities, EV owners, and the broader public all stand to gain substantial benefits from the large-scale development of EV charging stations. The policies that empower utilities to collect the revenues and invest in the needed EV infrastructure must therefore ensure those benefits are properly distributed—and don’t result in market distortions that hinder other objectives, such as encouraging continuous technological innovation, fostering new business opportunities for service providers, enhancing environmental performance, and extending the benefits of vehicle electrification to all.

As states begins to address the carbon emissions that cause climate change, there will need to be an even greater focus on the transportation sector as a major source of this pollution. By embracing vehicle electrification and the related need for new infrastructure, utilities stand to help solve the challenge of decarbonizing the transport sector. But that means they’ll also need to continue addressing carbon emissions from their core operations, and not simply shift the proximate cause of emissions from stationary to mobile sources.

There are many challenges that lie ahead – we’ll need to properly structure utility policies, while continuing to entice consumers to purchase electric vehicles through rebates, incentives, and other programs. But all signs point to utilities having a central role in the effort to bring human mobility out of the oil age, and into the era of vehicle electrification.

A new study finds that, between 2012 and 2014, the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) added $1.3 billion in economic value to the nine-state region, led to the creation of more than 14,200 new jobs, and cut electricity and heating bills, saving consumers $460 million.

States participating in the program have found that “regulating carbon emissions from power plants through market-based mechanisms goes hand in hand with economic benefits.”

The report, “The Economic Impacts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States,” was prepared by Analysis Group energy experts and funded in part by the Energy Foundation. It analyzes the economic impacts of RGGI’s most recent three years.

Launched six years ago, RGGI is the first market-based cap-and-trade program in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Participating states include Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. RGGI states establish a regional cap for carbon emissions and then create their own, individual plans to cut carbon and offer a declining number of carbon emission allowances for sale through regional auctions. Power plant owners buy those allowances at auction—which gives them the right to emit specific amounts of carbon dioxide—or find ways to clean up carbon emissions. Auction proceeds go back to the states, which have reinvested billions of dollars back into their economies.

Since 2009, the RGGI states have received and disbursed virtually all of nearly $2 billion in proceeds from CO2-allowance auctions back into the economy in various ways, including on: energy efficiency measures; community-based renewable power projects; credits on customers’ bills; assistance to low- income customers to help pay their electricity bills; greenhouse-gas-reduction measures; and education and job training programs. Several success stories are posted here.

Each individual RGGI state has seen economic benefits as the region cut annual carbon emissions by about a third from 2008 (140 million metric tons) to 2014 (90 million metric tons), according to the report.

The Analysis Group said the report findings provide valuable lessons for states across the country now evaluating their options under the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to limit carbon emissions from power plants across the country. In fact, the group called RGGI “a blueprint for Clean Power Plan success.”

Findings from the new report were released today at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) conference in New York.

Read the report’s executive summary here. Read Bloomberg Business News coverage here.



We want to share this opinion piece by Larry Kramer, President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Carol Larson, President of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. It appeared in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.


Foundations Must Move Fast to Fight Climate Change

By Larry Kramer and Carol Larson

Climate change is the defining issue of our day. It is an urgent global crisis that affects everything philanthropy seeks to do, whether it is to improve health, alleviate poverty, reduce famine, promote peace, or advance social justice. It is a problem that can and must be solved — a problem that demands action now, while we still have time. And it is a challenge on which foundations can make a profound difference.

Currently less than 2 percent of all philanthropic dollars are being spent in the fight against climate change. That is not enough given how big of a threat we face.

In 2013 the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million for the first time since the Pliocene epoch, approximately three million years ago. The global average temperature during that period was 2° to 3°C higher than it is today; global sea levels were, on average, 82 feet higher than they are now. Unless we act quickly, it will soon be too late to keep the average global temperature increase below 2°C, the internationally agreed threshold beyond which climate change risks become unacceptably high.

Climate change isn’t just an environmental problem. It is an everything problem. Its effects touch all cultures, all incomes, and all geographies. Climate change disrupts earth’s natural systems. It threatens public health and safety. And it hurts the world’s poorest people — those living on less than $2 a day — most of all.

The Hewlett Foundation and Packard Foundation have made commitments to the climate fight that far exceed any other pledges in our organizations’ histories. We have done so because the business values that motivated our founders, Bill Hewlett and David Packard, still underpin our approach: partnership, respect for science, tolerance for risk, and a willingness to make big bets on problems worth solving.

When we consider all of our grant-making priorities — children, education, health, reproductive rights, oceans, our communities, and so much more — it is profoundly clear that climate change has the unique potential to undermine everything we care about as foundations.

In California, for example, the Packard Foundation collaborates with organizations to ensure young children are healthy and ready for school. Yet in Fresno, a city faced with hazardous air pollution from traffic and industry, approximately 20 percent of children have been diagnosed with asthma.

Despite local efforts to address conventional pollutants caused by cars, agricultural operations, industrial processes and more, the challenge will intensify as drier air and hotter temperatures become more routine. These escalating conditions would make asthma attacks more frequent and more damaging to children, causing them to miss school and jeopardizing their ability to thrive and succeed.

In Africa, the Hewlett Foundation supports organizations that work to empower women to make choices about whether and when to have children, how to raise their families, and how to earn a living. But that work won’t transform women’s lives if climate change progresses at its current pace. Experts predict climate change could reduce the amount of arable land in Africa by two-thirds, making food scarce and less affordable, hurting families, and creating instability that could cause political and other problems.

Fortunately, significant work is already under way to confront these epic threats, and we’re beginning to see signs of progress worldwide: The U.S. has dramatically increased fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025; Mexico has committed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 22 percent and emissions of black carbon or soot by 51 percent by 2030; Brazil has reduced rates of deforestation; China is embracing new models for cleaner mass transit; India is increasing efficient energy standards for appliances; and European nations are reducing their reliance on coal power.

Looking around the country, we see evidence of what’s possible when grant makers choose to engage in new ways.

The Barr Foundation in Boston expanded its climate portfolio several years ago and is now a leader in supporting efforts to promote clean energy and transportation alternatives. The Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities is working to align foundations to promote an array of local climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. And the Council on Foundations is helping to bring all of philanthropy together to spotlight climate change and energy through its annual meeting. Initiatives like these demonstrate that foundations can have a positive impact on our climate future. But if we are going to prevail and preserve a future in which every person has the ability to achieve his or her full potential, foundations need to do more.

Our goal now is to enlist as many other grant makers and partners as we can, as quickly as possible, to join us. Working together, and by supporting the local, national, and international organizations focused on curbing climate change, we can prevent global average temperature change from exceeding 2°C.
It’s not too late, but we must act quickly, and we must act together.

In the fight against climate change, foundations can make a lasting difference in ways that other sectors cannot because they share certain special qualities: the freedom to think big, the capacity to tolerate risk, and the ability to invest for the long haul.

We don’t expect every foundation to make climate change its top priority. There are many urgent issues that demand attention. But there is a role for every organization to play in the fight against climate change, no matter where it works or how it works.

Leadership matters in this fight. We hope more foundations, whatever their grant-making priority — promoting civil society, economic development, social justice, or health (to name just a few) — will examine how climate change could impact their missions. Talk to your grantees about their climate concerns. Seek out allies for whom climate mitigation is a focus, and look for ways to learn from them. Attend climate-focused gatherings that might not fall neatly into your current program priorities. Engage your board. Ask hard questions.

There is no single playbook for preventing dangerous climate change. We are all forging solutions in real time. But we can no longer sidestep the threat that a warming planet presents to all the good we seek to achieve in the world.

Left to its current course, the impact of global climate change threatens the long-term success of every other effort foundations support. It is time to act in whatever ways we can. It is time to get going.

Larry D. Kramer is president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Carol S. Larson is president of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Both serve on the board of ClimateWorks.


Transitioning to renewable energy and energy efficiency represents the best of America’s longstanding tradition of innovation and embracing new technology and ideas.

A competition last week honored that tradition when 14 cleantech startups from seven Midwestern states competed for a combined $1 million in early stage investment funding. It was the Clean Energy Trust’s  5th annual Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago, and the sold-out crowd of 400 included clean energy investors, entrepreneurs, and innovators—as well as Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

Winners included a a gas storage solutions developer; a company whose battery charger runs on kinetic energy; and an energy storage and management service provider that combines intelligent energy management software with a unique thermal storage technology using phase change composites. Another winner is developing a fuel nozzle to improve jet-engine efficiency; their technology will improve fuel economy and safety by integrated plasma in the combustion process.

The Clean Energy Challenge, a nationally acclaimed accelerator program and pitch competition, has served as a launching pad for more than 60 cleantech startups in the Midwest through direct investment, commercialization assistance, mentorship, and access to Clean Energy Trust’s broad partner network.

Amy Francetic, CEO of Clean Energy Trust (shown in photo above), said past winners have received a collective $2.2 million in awards since 2011 and gone on to raise more than $62 million in follow-on funding, creating more than 300 high-tech jobs across the Midwest. Francetic said they are helping the Clean Energy Trust achieve its goal of a clean energy future where ingenuity creates a healthier environment and a more prosperous economy.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner also participated and emphasized the importance of clean energy and innovation to Illinois’ future.

“I am dedicated as governor to getting Illinois’ economy booming, thriving and the key to it is innovation and technology development,” Governor Rauner told the crowd. “And we can be worldwide leaders in clean energy innovation and technology. That’s what you’re focused on, that’s what I’m going to help you achieve.”

A panel of industry experts judged the finalists and awarded prize funding to the following companies, whose technology is described in more detail here:

  • Pritzker Foundation Prize ($100,000) – NETenergy
  • Wells Fargo Prize ($100,000) – Igor
  • ComEd Female Founder Prize and Clean Energy Prize Fund ($75,000) – Design Flux Technologies
  • U.S. Department of Energy Student Prize ($50,000) – FGC Plasma Solutions
  • Aviation Clean Energy Award sponsored by Boeing, United and UOP Honeywell ($50,000) – FGC Plasma Solutions
  • Hanley Foundation Prize and Clean Energy Prize Fund ($50,000) – Sun Number
  • Clean Energy Prize Fund ($50,000) – Glucan Biorenewables
  • McCaffery Lakeside Building Efficiency Prize ($25,000) – Igor

Two companies received Emerging Growth Awards from the Illinois Clean Energy Fund, an innovative program by Clean Energy Trust and the Illinois State Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

  • NuMat Technologies ($300,000)
  • AMPY ($200,000)

The Energy Foundation was a sponsor of the event.

To read more about the competition, learn more about the winners, and take a look at past winners, visit the Clean Energy Challenge website. See the Chicago Tribune story here.

The Energy Foundation is accepting applications for following position:

The Program Coordinator, Public Engagement, supports the work of the Vice President of Public Engagement and manages projects of the Public Engagement team. Read the full job description here.

The Program Associate position has been filled.

The Energy Foundation seeks candidates for a new position in our organization: Vice President of Partner Relations. The new vice president will report directly to Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder Eric Heitz.

The Vice President of Partner Relations directs the development, execution, and evaluation of fundraising strategies to advance the clean energy mission of the Energy Foundation and Energy Foundation China. The primary responsibility is to establish, strengthen, and steward relationships with current and potential funding partners.

To read the full job description, click here.