Alliance Mourns Passing of Co-Founder Sen. Charles H. Percy

Release Date: Monday, September 19, 2011

 Washington, D.C., September 19, 2011 – The Alliance to Save Energy is saddened by the Sept. 17 passing of its creator, co-founder and continuing inspiration, the Honorable Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.).  From the Alliance’s inception in the 1970s, Percy tirelessly served the organization and its mission, first as chair of the board of directors from 1977 through 1982, then as co-chair through 1989. He continued to participate actively in the Alliance until his health declined in the early 2000s and remained a stalwart champion of the Alliance, its staff and its mission until his death.

“The Alliance is honored to carry on Senator Percy’s unique vision of an organization that scales political divides and represents all facets of the economy – from government to business to labor – to advance energy efficiency as a means of improving the global economy, enhancing security and protecting the environment,” said Alliance President Kateri Callahan.

From Crisis Comes Inspiration

In the wake of the disruptive and unsettling 1973 OPEC oil embargo, an event that threw the U.S. economy into turmoil and introduced “gas line” to the American vocabulary, Percy conceived of an organization that would protect America from having to endure that sort of chaos ever again. 

Percy’s vision became reality in 1977, when he asked fellow senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.) to join him in founding a bipartisan organization to promote energy efficiency. Although he was near the end of his own life at that time, Humphrey quickly agreed, stating, “This may be the most important thing we do in our lifetime.”

Percy, too, considered founding the Alliance as one of his crowning achievements. Callahan observed, “When I had the honor of meeting Senator Percy, one of the first things he told me was that of all the things he had done in his life, founding the Alliance to Save Energy was perhaps the most important. This is quite a remarkable statement from someone dubbed in his time as the “boy wonder of the corporate world” and who graced the cover of Time magazine during his long and successful tenure in the U.S. Senate.”

Bipartisanship – a Percy Legacy

The Alliance’s rich history of consensus-building and collaboration bear testament to the tenor of Percy’s political career. As one of Congress’s moderate Republicans during a less polarized era, he drew admiration from both sides of the aisle during his three terms in the U.S. Senate. Through three decades of growth and evolution, the nonprofit Alliance has remained a broad coalition of business, government and nonprofit entities with bipartisan leadership from the U.S. Congress. Its board currently boasts 13 honorary vice-chairs from among the Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Percy Award Recognizes Lifelong Service

Since 1994, the Alliance has honored Percy’s history of serving the public interest with the annual presentation of the Charles H. Percy Award for Public Service. On Oct. 4, the 2011 award will go to energy efficiency pioneer Daniel Yergin at the Alliance’s annual gala, An Evening with the Stars of Energy Efficiency.

Past recipients include Richard (Rick) Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council; Governor Deval Patrick (D-Mass.); Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff; California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey; Assistant Secretary of Energy David Garman; Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.); Habitat for Humanity founder and President Millard Fuller; Rep. David Skaggs (D-Colo.); and Former Governor Tommy G. Thompson (R-Wisc.).

Lifetime Achievement Award

In 2004, the Alliance honored Sen. Percy with its first Lifetime Achievement Award for his devotion to the organization and its cause. His son, Mark, accepted the award on the senator’s behalf.

Since the mid-1970s when Percy founded the Alliance to Save Energy, advancements in energy efficiency have been helping the United States offset the need for 51 quadrillion Btu of energy annually (for context, the United States consumes about 100 quadrillion Btu each year). These energy savings translate to about $400 billion annually in avoided energy costs for American consumers and businesses, as well as the avoidance of roughly 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions.