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Energy Justice: The VEIC Strategic Plan’s New Commitment

Karen Glitman and Frances Huessy -

In January 2017, VEIC’s Board of Directors unveiled a 5-year Strategic Plan. The Plan names three goals for the organization: be a catalyst for greenhouse gas reduction, further energy justice, and operate the organization with excellence. The Plan provides VEIC with a sharper focus and renewed clarity on the role it plays in the global nonprofit community.

VEIC’s long-term (20-year) greenhouse gas reduction goal remains unchanged from 2007: Reduce 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas globally, per year, by 2027. This is equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered in 19 million acres of forests annually, which is about the size of South Carolina.

Energy justice is a new-to-VEIC term for the commitment that VEIC has embodied in its ongoing mission to act with urgency to enhance the economic, environmental, and societal benefits of clean and efficient energy use for all people. As we approach our work through the energy justice lens, the importance of addressing the basic energy needs of all people, and understanding the systemic and institutional structures that create and perpetuate this lack of access, will come into sharper focus.

Energy justice is generally understood to mean that everyone can access adequate clean fuels and energy services to meet their basic needs, that everyone can participate in decision making, and that they can participate free from bias.

This commitment to energy justice requires us to approach our work in new ways in designing programs, policies, and regulations for our customers and clients, and with our partners. This commitment to total-energy justice also opens up a direction for the kinds of inventive, bold thinking that have characterized VEIC’s history.

This objective is articulated in the VEIC 2017-20122 Strategic Plan:

To remedy inequalities in health, environmental quality, and economic well-being, we will actively seek to advance energy justice by delivering services and promoting policies that benefit vulnerable people and disadvantaged communities and to include them or their representatives in all VEIC projects that affect their communities and environment.

What This Means for VEIC’s Approach to Obtaining New Work and to Supporting Existing Contracts

With this Strategic Plan, VEIC acknowledges the urgency of making energy justice a priority for total energy efficiency, and for renewable energy, program design, and delivery of services. We know from experience, and from the literature—and certainly from the early inspiration of Blair Hamilton and Beth Sachs—that reducing the energy burden for people at risk brings three societal positives:

  1. It strengthens community well-being and sustainability for all of its members,
  2. It offers cleaner air and thus improves health, and
  3. It strengthens economies.

VEIC will also thoughtfully examine all of our work and initiatives to ensure they improve energy, economic, and environmental justice; and, we will create opportunities to build the capacity of organizations and individuals in disadvantaged communities to find methods for fairly distributing affordable efficiency and clean energy to all.

Why We’re Doing It

At the core of our new Strategic Plan is the well-being of all living things on the planet. We do our work in energy justice and greenhouse gas reduction to improve human health, environmental quality, and economic well-being for all people. Moving forward with this lens provides us with sharper focus and clarity on the “why” of our work, and whom we serve.

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