2022 in Review: The Year that Launched the Electrify Everything Movement

Before we jump into the incredible stories and accomplishments in 2022, we want to introduce you to the Sierra Club’s “Electrification Campaigns;” three interconnected campaigns working to transform our energy systems. In its newly adopted Strategic Framework, the Sierra Club set a goal to transform the US energy systems by replacing fossil fuels with clean energy. This goal is part of a framework to meet the urgency of the moment we are in to address the climate crisis and to bring people together in the fight to save the planet.

About 65 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from fossil fuels used across three sectors - (1) coal and gas to make electricity; (2) oil for transportation sources such as cars, trucks, and buses; and (3) gas in buildings to heat our homes and cook our food. These fossil fuels cause air pollution, water pollution, and climate impacts that disproportionately harm communities of color. Our Electrification Campaigns are working with our members, volunteers, and partners to replace fossil fuels with clean energy by achieving a 100 percent clean electric grid, while swapping fossil fuels for electricity to power electric cars and appliances. Our work is rooted in justice and equity, as we work to directly address disproportionate harms and to focus the benefits of clean energy and electrification where they are needed most. 

2022 will go down in the history books as a catalyzing year in the movement to Electrify Everything. In August, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a $369 billion spending package that will dramatically accelerate electrification by lowering the cost of clean energy like wind and solar, reduce pollution from ports and make electric vehicles more accessible to more families, and launch investments in weatherization and electrification of homes and buildings. Collectively, the law puts us on a path to cutting climate pollution by 40 percent by 2030 and creating over nine million family-sustaining jobs over the next decade, while also advancing racial, economic, and environmental justice.

This year, we celebrated these wins and the people-powered movement that achieved them. But we also recognized the IRA’s harmful oil and gas leasing provisions, which will place an unacceptable burden on communities at the forefront of the climate crisis. The Sierra Club was instrumental in supporting the IRA–previously known as Build Back Better–and we will be instrumental in ensuring these historic investments are implemented across all levels of government in the best interests of our communities and the climate. 

Transforming the Power Sector  

In 2022, The Beyond Coal Campaign’s advocacy at the federal, regional, state, and local level resulted in gaining meaningful progress toward a coal-free power sector, stopping new gas power plants, and spurring growth in clean energy. This year, clean energy surpassed coal as a source of electricity and 15 full coal-fired power plants were proposed for retirement. These plants were responsible for nearly 300 premature deaths per year, and they’re also some of the largest to have shut down since the start of the campaign. By the third quarter of this year, 23 new gas plants were terminated, representing over 10 gigawatts of capacity.  Since the launch of our campaign to stop planned gas just two years ago, we’ve defeated nearly 100 plants. 

Key wins in 2022 include:

  • At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a strengthened “good neighbor” air pollution rule as a result of  litigation brought by the Sierra Club.  With a final rule expected early next year, the Good Neighbor Plan will protect residents in dozens of states who are unknowingly and unwillingly subjected to air pollution from power plants often hundreds of miles away. EPA also proposed reinstating the scientific and legal underpinnings for life-saving mercury regulations rolled back by the Trump administration, took positive steps toward reducing haze pollution that degrades visibility in American cities and national parks, and started to take action to clean up coal ash pollution  from power plants across the country.
  • As IRA implementation takes shape, we hosted educational cross-campaign webinars for staff and volunteers, dozens of campaigners testified before the US Department of Agriculture in favor of the IRA and how it can equitably accelerate rural America’s clean energy transition, and we collected thousands of comments from our members and supporters to urge the Treasury Department to prevent the IRA’s tax credits from becoming tax loopholes that breathe new life into dirty fossil energy plants. 
  • In states across the country, dirty coal plants were announced for retirement, gas plants were stopped, and clean energy is gaining momentum. Highlights include coal-to-clean in Colorado, coal retirements just upriver from Alabama’s Africatown community, energy justice wins in Minnesota, and more. In Michigan, the Sierra Club played a lead role building and facilitating a broad coalition that achieved the retirement of Consumers Energy Campbell coal plant, along with a requirement that the utility drop its plans to acquire three fossil gas plants.  Consumers will replace the plant with clean energy, and will provide $30 million in low income bill assistance.  In Arizona, the Sierra Club partnered with residents in Randolph, a community founded by Black migrant farmworkers, and stopped a fossil gas power plant expansion that would have increased pollution and perpetuated a pattern of environmental racism. New Jersey became the eighth coal free state, and our New Jersey Chapter Director and Board Chair were on site to watch the last plant’s demolition at the site where clean energy is planned to take its place.  

Clean Transportation for All

In 2022, the Clean Transportation for All Campaign celebrated significant wins toward its goals of equitable electrification of a range of vehicles - like cars, trucks, and buses - while remaining deeply focused on the pollution impacts on overburdened communities. Electric vehicles made up more of the nation’s car sales than ever, at nearly seven percent over the first nine months of the year, with over 13,000 new charging stations coming online. Also in 2022, utilities moved forward with over $65 million of investment in transportation electrification in underserved communities.

Key wins in 2022 include:

  • The Sierra Club was part of a nationwide grassroots effort to ensure that school districts across the country applied for electric school buses in order to dump their dirty diesel school bus fleets. This is a big deal, as 95 percent of the buses in the US run on diesel, making kids and bus drivers sick with daily pollution! The almost $1 billion in funding from the EPA is a direct result of the advocacy for a clean commute for kids that has been years in the making. At the state level, New York continues to lead the electric bus transition, committing $500 million towards electric buses just this year. The Sierra Club is working with coalition partners to ensure New York’s commitment that all school buses purchased after 2027 are electric.
  • The Sierra Club and its partners exerted massive pressure on the EPA this year to move on clean truck rules in order to clean up some of the most polluting vehicles on our roads. This advocacy, to list some highlights, included preparing members of our community to testify for a three-day national public hearing that overwhelmingly outnumbered industry opposition, a powerful full-page print ad in the Washington Post for the same federal rule, over 100 groups urging the EPA to move forward with granting state waivers on cleaner trucks, and a multimedia project in Sierra Magazine amplifying Sierra Club data and community stories of the harms of truck pollution in impacted communities living near high-traffic roads and warehouses in various states.
  • In California, we were part of the movement to pass strong regulations to address pollution from all sorts of transportation — from cars to boats! California finalized its strongest standards for cars yet, a program that is being adopted by several states across the country. Pollution in California’s ports is a major environmental justice issue, and communities living near harbors in Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, and Oakland are suffering severe health impacts from this exposure. 
  • Our relationship with labor partners, including the United Auto Workers, deepened this year. In October, Sierra Club Board President Ramón Cruz and United Auto Workers Vice President Cindy Estrada co-wrote “BCG’s New Frontier: Autoworkers and the Environmental Movement,” which outlines the exciting and essential opportunity to work in solidarity to transform the transportation sector and increase workplace democracy as electric vehicle manufacturing grows across the US, especially in the South. 
  • National Drive Electric Week (NDEW) was in full swing again this year, and the Sierra Club joined our partners EVHybridNoire, the Electric Auto Association, and Plug In America as national hosts to this annual event, now in its 12th year. Sierra Club volunteers and staff from all over the country, including 10 of our chapters, organized or participated in more than 270 NDEW events this year! The events were hosted by local community members who own and drive their own EV and are eager to share their experiences.

Building Electrification

In 2022, the Building Electrification Campaign became the Sierra Club’s newest national campaign, growing out of the opportunities to combine our work on home retrofits and weatherization with our cross-sector gas campaigning. With about 30 percent of domestic gas use in homes and buildings, the campaign has identified 18 priority states representing 62 percent of building gas use. 

Key wins in 2022 include:

  • At the federal level, the Sierra Club took the lead in filing a groundbreaking petition calling on the EPA to regulate the harmful emissions from gas appliances. Twenty-five health, environmental, and consumer protection organizations joined the Sierra Club in filing the petition. We also worked with our partners to secure a settlement agreement with the Department of Energy to update more than 20 appliance standards, with the potential to save $650 billion in utility costs for households across the country.  
  • The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) establishes new programs and provides funding to support low- and moderate-income households that choose to electrify or complete home energy retrofits. The law incentivizes installation of heat pumps, induction stoves, and other electrification and efficiency upgrades Over the last two months, we have filed comments to the departments of Energy and Treasury that call on the administration to prioritize equitable implementation of the law to ensure all Americans have greater access to clean and safe homes.  The IRA builds on the Infrastructure Investments & Jobs Act’s critical funding for supporting home retrofits, through $3.5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). This year the US Department of Energy (DOE) provided guidance to enable states to allow replacing gas appliances with cleaner and more efficient electric appliances, a big step in supporting electrification, protecting people’s health, and reducing energy burden. 
  • Cities and states are also stepping into leadership to address pollution and health harms from gas appliances. Washington State became the first state to require electric space and water heating for new commercial and residential buildings, and a growing number of more than 90 cities and counties have made similar commitments to all-electric new construction, including more than 68 in California along with Washington DC, NYC, and cities in Washington, Maryland, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Oregon.
  • Our teams have been working with partners to successfully stop subsidies for gas companies to hook up new customers, paid by current ratepayers, to make electrification even more cost effective than gas in new construction. The California Public Utilities Commission voted to phase out all line extension subsidies starting in 2023, thanks to advocacy from the Sierra Club and partners, despite opposition from the gas industry. In Connecticut, our team successfully organized and advocated for an end to fossil fuel appliance rebates and the end to a ratepayer funded gas expansion plan. 
  • In California, gas appliances in homes and buildings generate four times more lung-damaging nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions than California’s gas power plants and nearly two-thirds as much NOx as California’s 16 million passenger cars. Thanks to work from the Sierra Club and many partners, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted unanimously to approve a Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan - a plan for reducing NOx pollution to comply with the Clean Air Act - that requires the sale of only zero-emission space and water heaters by 2030. Importantly, CARB, at our coalition's request, included a commitment to gathering stakeholders to formulate policies that would ensure that this 2030 requirement will not negatively impact low-income homeowners and tenants.

Looking ahead to next year, we must work to take the promise and potential of the IRA and the commitments of the Biden administration and turn them into action. In states across the country, we will engage governors to ensure home retrofits and safe electric appliances are available to families most in need. We will continue to pursue more than a dozen, high-impact federal actions that will reduce health burdens from pollution, and remove polluter loopholes that have propped up fossil fuels.  We will work with environmental justice and climate justice partners to ensure billions of dollars in federal funding in the IRA goes to frontline and fenceline communities first.

Across our Electrification Campaigns, our work to transform our energy systems isn’t just about electricity–it’s about power. It’s about upending the status quo and dismantling the systems that divide us. It’s about saying no to sacrifice zones and yes to thriving communities. From community and local solar, to electric transit, to equitable access to healthy homes and housing, electrifying everything can change how we make power and determine who has power in this country. We hope you’re as excited for the work ahead as we are.

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