Something electric is happening
Why I’m joining Rewiring America
I’m joining Rewiring America – a young and energetic nonprofit working to electrify everything – because it has a vision to weave together communities across this country.
Why I Electrify
I’ve worn many hats – activist, author, politician, entrepreneur and sci-fi acolyte. What ties my work together is a core belief that we deserve more. More freedom, more opportunity, more fairness.
Yet, persistent inequity in our society demands a strong and functioning democracy where everyone can participate. That’s why I fight for voting rights. Because I know that for millions of us, democracy is one of the central guarantors of justice and access. Our votes and our voices determine if we can meet our primary needs: a good-paying job and affordable access to food, housing and healthcare. So we try to elect leaders who see us, and we advocate for policies that make each day a little brighter, a little less difficult to navigate. When tough times hit, we can take care of ourselves and our communities. And in the better days, we not only survive, we thrive.
The difference can be found in hunting for a few hundred dollars more for home heating oil this winter or for the power bill in the blistering summer. How we withstand climate-driven heat waves, aberrational snowstorms, weather and climate disasters that displace lives and health effects that stop us from reaching our fullest potential. On the micro and macro scales, energy policy is about how we invest in ourselves.
Which is why energy security — how we use it, how we supply it, and how much it costs — is a moral imperative for our nation. This is about the planet, yes, but fundamentally, the question is how do we get to live our best lives.
In the energy sector, we don’t need a miracle technology to lower the cost of heating and cooling our homes or to power our cars. We aren’t waiting for a transformational inventor who can reduce our carbon footprint and help our children breathe easier indoors and out. We can live more economically secure, more resilient, healthier lives right now.
And we don’t need an act of Congress — because they have already taken action and deployed billions of dollars to help us transition our lives, vehicles, and homes to clean energy. Whether you are a true believer or a curious skeptic, the reality is the same: today, we can afford more for our families and our futures, all without losing what is familiar.
I’m joining Rewiring America – a newish nonprofit working to electrify everything – because it has a vision to connect communities across our nation and show how we can choose clean energy without sacrificing our livelihoods or our wallets. By taking advantage of what is already out there, we want to make it easier for families, schools, small businesses, houses of worship, and all the rest to save money, to improve health and to change the future. Rewiring America is building tools and partnerships to educate a lot more of us about how to integrate clean energy into our lives without breaking the bank.
The team has already successfully advocated for the largest investment in our personal infrastructure in American history — the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — which has created what they call an electric bank account for every American household. This is an act of democracy and the most significant step we’ve taken to address the climate crisis. Rewiring America has built a calculator that 400,000 people have used to find out what money they qualify for to electrify their homes and lives. They’re not stopping there, and I am coming on board to help us reach more folks looking for solutions.
The IRA is one example of how our elections have consequences that can change our lives, including unlocking thousands in annual rebates and savings for most American families. Regardless of your bank account or your homeownership status, there’s something in this process for you — from a new heat pump to a more efficient kitchen appliance. I am excited about what is to come because I understand that effective policy is a tool, not a weapon. And investing in clean energy — in every region, in every home — is how we truly power this great country.
Our dreams will differ, our choices will diverge and our needs will sometimes conflict. But the mission of a clean energy future is to ensure that we have one. When I said yes to a guest role on Star Trek, it wasn’t simply a once-in-a-lifetime chance to imagine a brave new world among the stars. My favorite sci-fi franchise also reflects the reality that I’ve centered in my career: this planet is not perfect — but our privilege is to try and make it so. Like politics, writing, running a small business or being a good citizen, the goal is to create a vision of what is possible and never stop trying.
Electrification is what is possible – now – to give more people access and opportunity. So let’s get it done.
Stacey and Saul electrify it all
Our Rewiring co-founder, Dr. Saul Griffith, welcomes Stacey Abrams to Rewiring America in this short circuit of a video. Both Stacey and Saul see community as where we electrify democracy and democratize electrification. Saul also invites Stacey to come visit Australia. No word on whether Stacey will invite Saul to Atlanta. Awkward.
Ari Matusiak: Why We’re Thrilled Stacey Abrams Is Joining Rewiring America
If momentum can be measured in milestones, the ones that signal the trajectory of an idea from niche to inevitable are worth noting, be they a precipitous increase in the pace of progress or a widening of the aperture to embrace brilliant new champions.
I'd like to welcome a new electric champion to Rewiring America.
Stacey Abrams is many very impressive things: an accomplished legislator, an impactful political organizer, a best-selling author of both fiction and fact, a talented tax attorney, and an internationally revered fighter for democracy. She’s also into heat pumps.
You can read why Stacey’s joining Rewiring America in her own words. But in one of our first conversations, she told us of her personal connection to Cancer Alley, the stretch between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that is home to over 200 plants and refineries that are responsible for around a quarter of U.S. petrochemical production. Stacey grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, just an hour down the road. She wrote her college thesis on the environmental injustice of the region. She then joined the just-created Office of Environmental Justice in the Clinton Administration. When she got to the Georgia legislature, she worked across the aisle to find common ground on the environment. And just four years ago, she founded the Southern Economic Advancement Project to draw explicit links between poverty, health, and climate in her home region.
That’s the thing about electrification. It takes on all three issues: economic security, health, and climate. Our modeling shows the average U.S. household can save $1,800 a year with an electric home and electric vehicle. That is meaningful in a nation where about half of us tell the Federal Reserve that we would have difficulty meeting a $400 emergency expense. And the Inflation Reduction Act provides households with an average $10,600 in assistance to buy appliances and weatherization when it’s time to replace or repair what’s existing. On health, the internet is abuzz with the indoor air health dangers of gas stoves, but being able to afford to keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer is also a health issue. On climate, we simply can’t meet our goals without ending our use of fossil fuels. Period.
Not long after we started talking to Stacey, I met a newly-elected Public Service Commissioner in Louisiana named Davante Lewis. Davante and I were on a “fireside chat” panel together. Louisiana is one of 11 states where public service or public utility commissioners are elected, and his district lies in the heart of Cancer Alley.
Davante told a story about why electrification mattered to him. It wasn't what I was immediately expecting him to share: a way to more affordably keep people comfortable in their homes. It was that electrification, and the virtual power plants we discussed that day, were a path to grid reliability and resilience. Why was that important to him? Because when the grid breaks down, “even for one minute,” those plants need to flare whatever chemicals they are catalyzing. Flaring means they burn off the gas while they can’t pump it into the pipes, and that’s bad for the planet and bad for nearby people. The flaring is done in the name of “community safety,” even though the effect furthers the rates of illness and health catastrophes.
In my view, electrification is the most equity-centered climate strategy we have in our toolbox. That starts with the climate imperative, because the planet does not care whether the furnace, the water heater, the stove, the dryer, or the car are located at a wealthy address or one that’s financially struggling. The planet is simply counting the emissions. Every machine must be electrified as it comes time to be replaced. There is no time for a “trickle down” climate strategy.
That climate imperative, though, is deeply entwined with other imperatives: health, financial security, community well-being — and, as Stacey so eloquently describes, the vibrancy and viability of our democracy. If you can't breathe the air outside your home, breathing safe air inside your own home shouldn't be too much to ask. Having a price-stable home heating source should be how we live. And keeping millions of dollars in our own communities instead of shipping them off to petro-states is investing in America.
Electrification is a big idea, in part because it is a simple idea. We don’t need to invent new things or wait for someone to save us. A better and more abundant future we can all share is right in front of us. There is a lot of work to do. But I believe deeply that committing to this path does more than give us a fighting chance for our planet (which, by itself, is a lot). It will help to sow and reinforce the social fabric that binds us together, giving families and communities across the country a way to more tangibly realize their potential.
Those are ambitions worth pursuing. And I am much more confident in our ability to make good on them with Stacey Abrams adding electrifying America to her to-do list.