The Lessons We Can’t Forget From One Year of COVID-19 | Alliance to Save Energy

The Lessons We Can’t Forget From One Year of COVID-19

Let's Save Energy

Alliance to Save Energy's Blog

03/18/21 / Ellie Long

The Lessons We Can’t Forget From One Year of COVID-19

COVID-19 Anniversary

The past several weeks have given us many anniversaries we’d prefer not to commemorate: one year since sport teams cancelled their seasons, one year since overseas travel was suspended, one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Here at the Alliance, we marked our last in-person event with an Active Efficiency Steering Committee meeting on March 6, our last day in the office on March 12, and made the decision to take EE Global Forum virtual on March 27.

The coffee mugs and houseplants left behind on our desks are a reminder of how unexpected this all has been, and how few of us anticipated that one year later, COVID-19 would still define our day-to-day lives. But as we look toward a “vaccine spring” and re-entering the world as we knew it, we’re reflecting on what we’ve learned – and what we can’t forget – from the past 12 months.


The world changed in a matter of days last March, and this upheaval demanded new priorities. First and foremost at the Alliance, this meant protecting the health and safety of our staff, partners, and community by switching to remote work and cancelling in-person events. But circumstances did not permit much time to adjust to the new normal, and by the end of March, our team was hard at work designing policies in response to the pandemic’s impact.

More than 413,500 energy efficiency workers lost their jobs in March and April 2020 alone. To quickly stimulate job growth in this sector, the Alliance released four proposals in April: the Mission Critical Facility Renewal program to retrofit public buildings, a grant program to offer low and no-cost efficiency upgrades to small businesses, a package of tax incentives for homes and buildings, and a suite of efficient transportation opportunities. Not only would these proposals create jobs, but they would fuel economic activity by reinvesting in communities and enhancing energy affordability, make facilities safer such as through upgrading ventilation systems, and place a down payment on mitigating future crises by reducing climate-warming emissions.

These proposals strengthened our call to action as the energy efficiency community rallied around alleviating a terrible situation, and many of these proposals are under consideration in Congress today.


The Alliance had big plans for 2020, but by mid-March, our shift to meet the moment meant a possibility that we wouldn’t be able to achieve our goals. We couldn’t have been more wrong. This is symbolized by the dedication of our Associates and the progress of the Alliance’s Active Efficiency Collaborative. While all of 2020’s events could have led to a delay or cancellation of our plans, by the end of the year, the Collaborative not only delivered but exceeded its goals with two innovative reports, more than a dozen case studies, and a dynamic new website – all launched at the first ever Active Efficiency Forum virtually in December.

This growth in the face of unprecedented challenges is further exemplified by organizational growth spearheaded by Paula Glover’s start as Alliance President in January 2021. The past twelve months tested us, but one year later, we’re better positioned than ever to push for the future of energy efficiency.


While we were able to adapt and advance our priorities this year, that doesn’t change the fact that it was a profoundly challenging year for us all on a personal level. We were surrounded by suffering from the health impact of the virus, to its economic fallout, to the blatant inequity illustrated by both who COVID-19 hit the hardest and a generational movement for racial equality.

These tragedies necessitated reflection and a new perspective. For our work, they’ve made us refocus on the people at the center of our policies – overcoming inequitable energy burdens, tackling harmful pollution, preparing for and mitigating the consequences of climate change, and creating economic opportunity in communities that too often have been pushed aside.

While we hope that the pandemic is in its waning day, this lesson of perspective in reorienting toward the real-life impact of our work is something that cannot be forgotten. The same goes for lessons in learning how to reprioritize to meet the moment and finding strengthen to grow in the face of adversity: when we “return to normal,” the past 12 months need to inform us as we move forward – not just back to the status quo, but to a bolder, more resilient, and more equitable future. 




Help the Alliance advocate for policies to use energy more efficiently – supporting job creation, reduced emissions, and lower costs. Contact your member of Congress.


Energy efficiency is smart, nonpartisan, and practical. So are we. Our strength comes from an unparalleled group of Alliance Associates working collaboratively under the Alliance umbrella to pave the way for energy efficiency gains.


The power of efficiency is in your hands. Supporting the Alliance means supporting a vision for using energy more productively to achieve economic growth, a cleaner environment, and greater energy security, affordability, and reliability.