SCEP's Year of Thankfulness
By Dr. Henry C. McKoy
Each Thanksgiving Day growing up, as my family and I gathered around the dinner table, before we could begin eating, my mother would stop us. My mother would insist (read: force) each person in the room to take a moment to share what they were thankful for. As a child, and even as a teenager and young adult, I disliked this annual ritual. I come from a large family, which meant this activity would significantly delay the start of the meal. More truthfully, there was a certain amount of anxiety with having to share that "one" thing that you were most thankful for from the previous year – even among family. This was made even more difficult when we had non-family guests join us for the holiday, which added additional discomfort with being vulnerable around people you did not know well or at all.
November is considered by many – at least in the United States – as the season of being thankful. Being thankful for health. Being thankful for life. Being thankful for those around you. Being thankful for those who support you. But also being thankful for those who challenge you, those who help you grow, and those who inspire you to become a better person each and every day. For me, this includes the amazing people I work alongside in the U.S. Office of State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP). This month of November 2023 marks the 2nd anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the historic legislation that has made trillions of dollars in resources available to support the just and equitable transition to a decarbonized world. This time also officially marks SCEP's first birthday. Though many of us have been here working hard to try and make SCEP a success for well over a year, November 20, 2022, was the day that we became an "official" office in the U.S. Department of Energy.
This past year, we have deployed billions of dollars in Annual appropriated and BIL funding to every state and territory in America via SCEP's 28 programs. This has included millions in BIL clean energy funding through programs like the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG) and State Energy Program (SEP) to state, local, and Tribal governments to improve energy efficiency and advance crucial clean energy and infrastructure upgrades. This has included billions through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) which has helped slash energy costs and increase health and comfort for hundreds of thousands of households in every county across our nation, particularly for some of the most economically vulnerable populations. This is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars of BIL funds that SCEP granted out to support the "renewing of America's schools and nonprofits" through our Renew Schools and Renew America's Nonprofits awards. This funding to power energy efficiency improvements will elevate the conditions of low-income schools and communities in urban and rural geographies across the nation, through building and energy upgrades and other opportunities. And to top it all off, we have closed out the year by providing tens of millions of more dollars to train a qualified, diverse clean energy workforce to help implement all these planned improvements. Billions more are now available through our Inflation Reduction Act funding as well. We are investing on both the supply and demand sides of an equitable clean energy economy. Together we have achieved so much over the last year and have worked tirelessly to try and transform communities and lives for the better.
I am incredibly thankful for the amazing team here at SCEP – professionals from different backgrounds and different walks of life – who leverage those differences and that diversity towards bringing our vision of a new place-based, equitable energy economy to life. My gratitude to our interns, Fellows, staff, and leadership cannot be overstated. None of this works without them. I would also like to thank everyone who worked with us outside of our SCEP walls: those who gave us advice and insight; shared their experiences and knowledge with us; and mostly, those that have challenged – and continue to challenge – us every day to deliver on the mission of equity and justice for all populations. We must deliver on the promise that this time will be different. That no community, no person, will be left behind. We have worked with so many stakeholders – states, local governments, community organizations, Tribes, etc. during SCEP's first year of operating. This has been our great fortune. This engagement and support have made our programs that much more impactful and responsive. Thank you all for your contributions, for making a difference for all of us. You all are forcing us to be better at what we do.
Though my mother passed away in March 2007 from complications associated with cancer, the tradition that she started us on so many years ago has carried on faithfully. Each year, including this year, before our Thanksgiving Day dinner, we pause to share verbally what we are most thankful for. The multiple generations, the invited guests, and all gathered around share whatever is on their hearts and minds. With time comes perspective. I no longer feel the uncomfortableness or slight anxiety that I did as a child during these moments. I am well aware of all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me throughout my life, and I am truly thankful for those. Those who hear me speak publicly know that I do not need a holiday season or particular month to share my thankfulness for the opportunity to lead SCEP. I tell people every day with joy and happiness – including perfect strangers – that I am thankful to engage in this work. Moreover, I am thankful to being doing it in partnership with all of you.
I hope that there is much laughter and love among you and those you choose to spend your time with during this holiday season – this season of thankfulness. As we conclude this first year of SCEP's existence, I am extremely thankful for the work that has been done, but also for that work that we have yet to do.