Event Recording: Virginia Drives Electric Virtual Town Hall

December 20, 2021

This live event occurred on December 16, 2021 as part of Generation180’s event series.

On December 16, Generation180, Virginia Advanced Energy Economy, Climate Cabinet, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network hosted a virtual town hall event with Virginia General Assembly members focused on transportation electrification, with special guest Don Hall from the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association.

Virginia recently took significant strides to reduce pollution and accelerate the Commonwealth’s transition to a clean energy economy by passing policies that support electric vehicle adoption, such as the Advanced Clean Car Standards. Now it’s time to build on this progress and further solidify Virginia’s future as a leader in advanced transportation and transportation electrification.


The simplest, most important supply & demand graph ever

September 1, 2021

Buckle up, everyone. We’re going back to high school economics class for a hot minute to witness a little supply-and-demand MAGIC. Remember watching your teacher draw endless variations of those graphs on the chalkboard (or whiteboard for you fancy millennials)?

teacher drawing graph on chalkboard

Why are we headed back to high school econ? Every once in a while, it’s helpful to zoom out and remind ourselves what all this effort behind wind and solar energy, electric vehicles, global politics, electrification, and more is all driving toward. The end goal of our energy transition is to fully power our world with clean, renewable energy. Put another way, we want to arrive at the point when our supply of clean energy completely matches our demand for energy.


Here’s the takeaway, though, class: we need that glorious day—when the supply curve meets the demand curve—to arrive as soon as possible. In the context of the climate crisis, getting there a decade earlier, for example, makes a world of difference (pun very much intended). 

How do we make this 100% clean energy moment arrive as soon as possible? We need to bend the curves. If we slow down the growth of energy demand (bend the curve down) and speed up the growth of clean energy supply (bend the curve up), the chart does something kinda magical: it makes the 100% clean energy moment arrive much more quickly than you might expect.

supply and demand graph showing energy demand and clean energy supply

Whammo. That’s some econ magic, y’all. So how exactly do we bend those curves? 


Another (more colorful) way to visualize things

In order to answer that important question, let’s look at another visualization of our energy supply and demand—this one with a bit more detail. This chart shows where our energy comes from (on the left), and to what end uses it flows (on the right). The specifics won’t be on the test, but the gist is that supply is on the left and demand is on the right:

Sankey diagram showing the U.S. energy flows
Breaking down America’s energy sources and consumption in 2020. Credit: Visual Capitalist

After you’ve had a minute let this rainbow of colors soak in, we’re ready to answer our key questions: how do we bend those supply and demand curves?


How to bend the supply curve up

How do we accelerate the growth rate of renewable energy? While the chart above is fascinating to look at, it’s also alarming to see the amount of petroleum and natural gas on which we still rely. The important reminder here is that this snapshot in time doesn’t show the growth curve renewables are on over time. They’ve had remarkable growth over the past decade—and they’re just getting started. Here are three key ways to bend the clean, renewable energy supply curve (i.e., accelerate growth) even more:

  1. Set a clean electricity standard: While some state governments have set their own standards (requiring utilities to get a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources), the climate crisis now demands a more aggressive timeline. The federal government could weigh in with a national standard in order to speed up growth of renewable energy, using a variety of carrots and sticks to urge utilities to pick up their pace. In fact, such a standard should be included in the reconciliation bill currently being discussed on Capitol Hill—and it’s likely Congress’ last good chance to implement this critical policy.
  2. Stop subsidizing fossil fuels: Despite what the coal, oil, and gas industries (and their entourage of politicians) would have us think, most Americans would be shocked at how much we prop up fossil fuels versus renewables. We’re talking over $35 billion in direct and consumption subsidies and nearly $700 billion in “implicit” subsidies (the costs to the U.S. government from climate change, air pollution, and infrastructure damage that fossil fuels aren’t paying) every year. If we turned off this spigot and directed even a fraction of that money toward deploying renewable energy, we could bend that growth curve up dramatically.
  3. Electrify everything: Look back at the colorful chart: if more of our end uses on the right (e.g., “Transportation,” “Residential,” “Commercial”) were able to run on electricity instead of on oil and gas, it would drive more growth of renewables (which can generate electricity very cost-effectively) and less production of fossil fuels. What’s that cool word for making things “be able to run on electricity”? Electrification. Think switching from gas-powered cars, trucks, buses, machinery, appliances, and HVAC to electric versions. 

How to bend the demand curve down

Now that we’ve covered how to bend the supply curve up, let’s turn our attention to the less-sexy job of bending the demand curve down—i.e., reducing our demand for energy. Using less (of anything) doesn’t quite capture the American public’s imagination like building massive wind turbines does, but the good news is that reducing demand can be an incredibly cost-efficient way of saving money, lowering emissions, and hastening the arrival of our 100% clean energy moment—all without hampering economic growth (California is a successful example of this). Here are three key ways to bend the demand curve down:

    1. Make our buildings more energy efficient: This report summarizes it best: “Architectural designs, construction practices, and technologies are available today that minimize energy and resource use in buildings and optimize the benefits to people of high performance—cleaner air, more comfortable homes and workspaces, and lower utility bills. And improved building efficiency is a win for city leaders and local planners: every $1 invested in efficiency saves $2 in new power plants and electricity distribution costs.”
    2. Change our most energy-intensive behaviors: Certain individual behaviors require a ton of energy to make happen, and doing less of them would go a long way toward reducing energy demand. Behaviors like reducing food waste, eating less meat, and flying less are both energy- and carbon-intensive—even though all the energy input is sometimes hidden from consumers’ view (“embedded”). 
    3. Electrify everything: Same idea as mentioned above, but for a different reason here: electric motors are simply far more efficient machines than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts. Switching from a gas furnace to a heat pump can reduce a home’s electricity use for heating by 50%; electric vehicle powertrains are 3-6x more efficient than comparable gas-powered powertrains. Electric machines aren’t just better for pollution and the climate crisis—they’re now simply better.


The result

If we’re able to bend the growth curves of both supply and demand, we can accelerate the arrival of a world fully powered by clean, renewable energy. And in case you needed a reminder, speed is of the essence. Every little bit of acceleration matters, as climate scientist Allison Crimmins reminded us just a few weeks ago: “…Every action counts to avoid those [climate] impacts. So every bit of temperature, every tenth of a degree that we can avoid is going to be better. Every single action matters. Every year matters.”


New comic: America’s EV Love Story

August 18, 2021

From time to time, we like to tell stories in the form of comics. This one is all about a “love story” that has pretty much gone untold—but is more important today than ever before. Check out the preview below, and head here for the full comic.

Head here to finish reading!


Behind the Wheel of Electric School Buses: Driving Green Instead of Yellow

July 27, 2021

Just Northeast of San Diego, California, Cajon Valley Union School District boasts an impressive track record for school sustainability. The home of the Braves already powers 26 of their school campuses with solar, introducing over 16,000 students to clean energy in the classroom. Now, three schools (and counting) have electric vehicle charging stations, all warehouse vehicles are being replaced with electric trucks, and the school bus fleet contains 5 electric school buses, with plans underway to triple their electric bus fleet. They even are part of their local utility’s pilot vehicle-to-grid (V2G) program, enabling bus batteries to bolster grid reliability by returning electricity to the grid during times of high energy demand.

We were lucky to connect with Juan Noriega, a school bus driver who was at the frontline of the district’s transition from diesel to electric school buses. His passion for electric buses is infectious, so much so that we’re considering getting our school bus driver’s license so we can experience it for ourselves. Here is that interview, edited for length and clarity. Enjoy!

Pictured: Juan Noriega, electric school bus driver and Transportation Operations Assistant for Cajon Valley Union School District


Generation180: What were your initial thoughts about electric school buses?

Juan Noriega: The personal vehicle that I drive is a Prius, so I had experience with efficient cars, but never with electric vehicles. I was excited, but very worried about how long the batteries would last. That was my main concern, because if the battery was to run out, I would be concerned about the wellbeing of the students. Otherwise, I didn’t foresee any problems.

Generation180: What adaptations did you have to make to drive electric?

Juan Noriega: The transition was not that difficult at all and not extreme, like I thought it would be. Once you’re actually driving, you don’t focus on the specifics of the bus. You just switch from considering mpg to kw/h. The electric buses are very well manufactured, drive smoothly, and perform well.

As long as you drive carefully, like you’re supposed to for the kids (i.e. you can’t speed, can’t stop or accelerate too quickly), you are maximizing the performance of the bus and that lends itself to maintaining the electric battery. Acceleration was great, stopping was the same, and going uphill is a bit different.

I really enjoy driving electric buses. It’s something different, something new. The kids that get to ride in them are the “select few” since only 5 buses in our fleet out of 40 are electric; so they feel different and special.

Generation180: Is there anything you missed about diesel buses after making the switch?

Juan Noriega: I don’t miss having to fill them up! It’s wonderful not having to visit the diesel pump every day and have to inhale those fumes. As long as you plug them in at the yard, you’re set. It’s super easy, plus mess-free and smell-free. 

So, I don’t miss anything really about diesel buses since electric buses handle everything as well, and more. While there are some routes we can’t use the electric buses on because they don’t have the range for it (we have 100 mile range buses), overall, they serve our needs. As long as we plan ahead, as the fleet operations team does, it’s not an issue.

Generation180: What do you like most about the buses: smooth to drive, acceleration, safety, noise?

Juan Noriega: Quietness. Definitely. With that said, we do have a small noise it makes on purpose for 0-15 mph so people know we’re there. It’s a fun jingle, so everyone jokes that the electric school buses are like an ice cream truck.

The noise factor makes a big difference. Diesel is just so loud, and starting up close to a neighborhood at 5:30 am with 40 buses turning on would negatively impact the community. Now we have fewer community concerns and complaints, as electric buses make no sound to start.

Plus, the AC works really well. 

Generation180: What did parents and students say – did they like them? 

Juan Noriega: The buses look different (yellow and blue, not yellow and black, for fire safety reasons), so everyone knows who rides on the electric buses. Kids these days are very used to screens, so since the dashboard is a screen, they easily relate to the control panel and often ask questions.  All of the kids are excited by them, whether they ride them or not. When dropping kids off, parents and students alike often remark “woah, it’s electric! I’m curious, can I look inside?” The community accepted and welcomed the buses, wanting to learn more about electric transportation.

I also drove a lot of students with learning disabilities, and a major benefit for the majority of students was the lack of noise from the diesel engine. Plus, in the long-term, it’s improving their health by cleaning up the air they breathe every day.

Generation180: Do you have any advice for bus drivers that might be wary about giving up a vehicle they are comfortable with for an electric model?

Juan Noriega: Take the plunge! It’s a very easy vehicle to drive. It is basically the same in terms of drivability, so you’ll slip right in. You have to be aware of what you’re doing and your basic principles are the same. You just have a different motor and you have a different range.

I work for dispatch now and plan the routes, so it’s not on the driver. We manage the routes and range of the buses, and we would not send them on long routes or field trips they can’t handle. Technology is improving, as are bus charge points. For now we have limitations, and we use fleet management to address them. 

It’s a matter of having an open mind and trying it, so get behind the electric wheel! 


Interested in bringing solar, electric school buses, or other clean energy technologies to your school? Explore our resources and answers to common questions at our Help Desk and get started!


Why the energy transition needs the arts

July 21, 2021

We sometimes assume that the more people learn about climate change, the more they’ll turn their concern into concrete action, like switching to an electric vehicle or putting solar panels on their house. But it’s not that simple. Just because we know something, or have a solid scientific understanding of it, doesn’t mean we’re going to do something about it.

In most cases, we first need to go through an inner shift—changing our mindset and/or our personal values—before we (individually or collectively) actually change our behavior. There’s another important way to help shift people’s thinking and spark change that is often overlooked: the arts.

It might sound cliché, but there’s a lot of truth to the saying, “change the culture, change the world.” The arts—from songs and TV shows to visual arts and storytelling—play a crucial role in shaping our consciousness, and artists have long been agents of social change (helping to spur everything from the end of Communism in Eastern Europe to the mainstreaming of LGBTQ culture). On the clean energy front, concepts like the “energy transition” can be abstract, technical, or downright un-inspiring. But as one author put it, the arts can be the “open sesame” to animated discussions and deep questioning, pushing us to engage our emotions and provoking curiosity or outrage.

The power of ideas

Through music, art, books, and other forms of cultural expression, we can introduce ideas, expand our imaginations, and change the broader narrative to support positive social change. As artist Favianna Rodriguez has observed, art is “where people can imagine what change looks and feels like.” Art also inspires action: the most popular artists have the ability to motivate masses of people through their fan bases. In the case of clean energy, engaging the arts and culture can normalize or celebrate actions like installing solar or driving an EV (think about all the Superbowl ads this year that aimed to do exactly that).

Art is “where people can imagine what change looks and feels like.”

Some argue that, for social change movements to be successful, they need to have a strong arts and culture component, or a “cultural strategy.” In other words, the only way we’re going to change politics is by changing the culture (often behind the scenes and over time). Journalist and music critic Jeff Chang has likened political change to a wave: the peak of the wave is the visible, high-profile event or policy win, but in order to reach this peak, many divergent (and often less visible) forces must come together beforehand, gradually building power. Artists and other agents of cultural change help create the conditions that lead to these peaks, shifting and framing public sentiment through a process Rodriguez describes as “rain readying the crops.”

Visions of a better future

Artists are powerful agents of change because they have the flexibility and imagination to push boundaries and give us a sense of what’s possible. They aren’t confined to the world as it is, to existing political frameworks and systems, but can point to the possibilities for a better future. “[W]ithout the inspiration and visions artists provide, we won’t be able to give birth to the life affirming and just civilization we aspire to,” notes the Bioneers website. Because artists work in the idea space (and not just the action space), they’re able to present more complex messages and to “deal with contradictions and gray areas.” Art enables us to imagine desired futures (such as a world running on clean energy) and opens up a positive way of seeing things. It helps us focus on “what we want” and how to get there.

Humor as strategy

Comedy can be a particularly effective means of bringing attention to issues in a non-threatening way. Author Srjda Popovic notes how the use of humor was key to engaging young people in the overthrow of Serbia’s dictatorship in the 1990s, as activists encouraged youth to participate in low-risk performance art that helped alleviate fear while providing a sense of comic relief.

Comedy can be a particularly effective means of bringing attention to issues in a non-threatening way.

In Japan, manga (a term that refers to all kinds of cartooning, comics, and animation) has been used widely to facilitate public discussion of topics from sexuality to climate change. Comics are a powerful medium because they can be a flexible and humorous way to communicate information and develop awareness and empathy. Research has shown that using comics as an educational tool results in two key experiences that can lead to inner transformation: 1) “Aha” moments (or sudden insights into connections between facts, phenomena, problems, and solutions) and 2) laughter, which is often a sign of emerging creativity and insights.

Moving forward

So what does all this mean for the clean energy movement? It means we need to pay closer attention to how art shapes politics, and to think about how to build up a cultural strategy alongside a political one. It means making clean energy come alive through humor and art. It means joining forces to “make waves of political change,” especially in light of the overall decline in support for the arts. It means giving artists the space, time, and resources they require to be creative. And it means hiring artists (and not just policy experts and organizers) to work for social change organizations. As Rodriguez notes, we need to “build the infrastructure and networks needed to help socially engaged artists thrive…while they’re young and excited to shape the world around them.”

Want to see some recent creative projects of ours? Check out these fun videos, this long-form comic, and this children’s book.


Scrubbing dirty fuels from the ivory tower

June 3, 2020

Sadly, there’s no shortage of things to be outraged about these days. But here’s a hopeful trend:  the movement among the world’s major higher education institutions to cut ties with fossil fuel companies. Just last week, the University of California (UC) system announced that it had fully divested from oil, gas, and other dirty fuels, scrubbing them from its $126 billion investment portfolio. It joins other top names in higher ed, from Georgetown to Cornell to Oxford University, with many more scrambling to join the club.

Divestment is basically the opposite of investment. It involves getting rid of any financial interests—like stocks, bonds, or investment funds—that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Historically, some of the best-known (and most effective) divestments were in things like tobacco advertising or businesses that supported apartheid in South Africa. Today, fossil fuels fall squarely in the same morally questionable, high-risk category.

In total, the UC system sold a whopping one billion dollars (cue Dr. Evil) in fossil fuel assets from its pension, endowment, and working capital pools. It then invested that same amount in clean energy projects, making it the largest school in the U.S. to take the divest-invest plunge.

University of California Berkeley
“Berkeley Campus” by Erik Eckel is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Divesting from fossil fuels is a huge step forward in protecting our climate because it weakens the fossil fuel industry and accelerates investment in clean energy solutions.

But will divesting put their budgets at risk? Most higher ed institutions rely on their endowments to fund their operations, and, historically, it’s been profitable to invest in fossil fuels. Some schools, like Swarthmore College, have made explicit their worries about putting their asset performance at risk.

The short answer: Not for long. Most fossil fuel companies are a far cry from the attractive investments they used to be: they’re running on a moldy business model, would struggle to survive without the $400 billion in subsidies they receive every year, and have massive balance sheets chock full of assets that could very likely become stranded (i.e., not worth zilch). To put it bluntly, they’ve become risky investments.

Anna Olerinyova, a student at St. John’s College at Oxford, didn’t mince words about her school’s divestment decision: “The fact that the world’s top university is abandoning fossil fuels shows that the age of fossil fuels is rapidly coming to an end.” Now that wind and solar power are competitive with (and, in many markets, cheaper than) fossil fuels, renewable energy is a safer, more profitable long-term bet.

And the movement is snowballing. In the U.S., more than 50 universities have committed to divestment; worldwide, over 1,000 schools, insurance companies, pension funds, churches, hospitals, and other institutions—spanning 48 countries—had committed to fossil fuel divestment by the end of 2019.


Last November, hundreds of protesters swarmed the field of the annual Harvard-Yale football game to demand greater action on divestment. This might seem like small fry compared to the current state of our country. But it’s another sign that the times they are a changin’.

Learn more about how you can divest (starting with your own personal bank) by taking a crash course in divesting and using this handy list of the top 200 fossil fuel companies.

The divestment movement is breaking the hold that the fossil fuel industry has on our economy and our governments. By harnessing the power of the financial sector for good, it can be a huge tailwind in our transition to a clean energy future.

Originally published in the 6/3/20 edition of our Flip the Script newsletter