Want a Clean Energy Future? Talk to Students.
We’re facing a historic turning point. The decisions we make in the next several years about how we generate and use energy will have profound impacts on future generations. No one feels this more than today’s students, who are voicing increasingly concern about climate change, and whose understanding and stewardship of energy resources will help define our shared future. Students will play a critical role in achieving our energy goals, both in their ability to affect near-term behavior change and to help lead a longer-term energy transition.
That is why the Alliance sees K-12 education not just as a social good, but a social imperative. Through our PowerSave Schools program, our goal is to teach students, our future leaders, the fundamentals of energy efficiency, which is the most timely and cost-effective solution to the energy crisis. That understanding may seem straightforward within the energy community, but for the general public, it is often an underrated resource, or even an afterthought.
This dynamic is especially visible in our schools, where energy represents the second largest expense (behind only salaries), yet nearly a third of it (about $2.5 billion) is lost to waste each year. So there’s no better place to address the importance of efficiency than in our education system, where the problem is clear and students are primed to learn and to take action. STEM curriculum and hands-on activities can empower students to quantify potential savings, develop data-based recommendations for savings, and effectively communicate that message to the school community. This creates smarter future energy leaders and consumers, while giving them agency now within their communities.
Students are uniquely well-positioned to take their understanding of energy principles into their homes and communities. Engaging adults around topics as nebulous as energy efficiency can be difficult, especially within hard-to-reach communities where cultural, linguistic, or socio-economic barriers can complicate outreach efforts. But schools bridge these divides, and students are the most effective ambassadors for changing energy behavior. Whether performing home energy audits, teaching families and neighbors basic efficiency behaviors, or sharing demand response and energy assistance programs, students turn learning into action. And let’s be honest, it is hard to say no to our kids, especially when they know what they’re talking about.
Given the enormity of the challenge before us, the impact it will have on young people’s futures, and their unique power to effect change, it is in everyone’s interests to include them in the solution. We are excited to be joining our partners in the school sustainability community to push this movement forward at the Green Schools Conference & Expo in Portland, Ore., May 2-4. We encourage you to register today and join us.