Eileen V. Quigley on climate change and clean energy in the US: “We do what we can”
Climate protection is not exactly a priority on the US government’s agenda. As an expert in clean energy innovation, Eileen V. Quigley calls especially upon cities and local authorities to stay on the right track and to advance clean energy solutions. Her analysis of the situation in Germany is mixed.
Eileen V. Quigley has been working on accelerating clean energy solutions in the US for a decade. Her aim: To empower cities to truly and efficiently lower their consumption of fossil fuels and to change their power supply to clean energy sources.
“We are at a critical juncture in the history of the world and of our country,” Eileen V. Quigley testified to Washington State legislators. “The unconscionable absence of leadership at the national level has substantially increased the pressure on regions, states, local communities and citizens to act aggressively and immediately to decrease carbon emissions,” says Eileen and continues: “It is impossible for me to overstate how critically important it is that the Washington State Legislature take up this matter with the utmost of speed.“ Eileen is standing before the Washington State Legislature’s Local Government Committee, talking about the necessity of supporting local authorities in their struggle against climate change.
Working for climate protection
Accelerating clean energy solutions is her profession and speaking to elected officials about the importance of addressing climate change is an important part of her work. Eileen, an expert in clean energy innovation in cities and local communities, directs Clean Energy Transition, a consulting agency in Seattle, Washington. Eileen’s chief focus lies on consulting to cities in the Northwestern region of the US, developing strategies for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and supporting local authorities in their transition to clean energy.
Eileen V. Quigley was born and raised in New York City. In 1980, she obtained a BA in Literature from Yale University, followed by an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. Afterwards, she worked as a journalist and editor and managed various non-profit organisations.
She was Director of Strategic Innovation with the non-profit Climate Solutions. She oversaw the programme “New Energy City”, which chiefly supports small and medium-sized cities in reducing their carbon emissions and accelerating clean energy solutions adoptions. In 2017, she founded her own consulting agency Clean Energy Transition.
Eileen teaches at Western Washington University’s Institute for Energy Studies and is on the board of the US-Centre of the Stockholm Environment Institute, an international non-profit research organisation in the field of environment and development.
Eileen is married and has two grown-up children. She and her husband live in Seattle, Washington.
Seeing the German energy transition first hand
In 2015, Eileen travelled to Germany. “This was an eye-opening experience for me”, she says. “I had been reading about Energiewende and following Germany’s climate and clean energy leadership from afar, so the opportunity to travel to Hamburg and meet with numerous people actively engaged in decarbonization strategies was absolutely invaluable.”
Eileen travelled across Schleswig-Holstein and inspected the local solar, wind and biomass plants. She learned that feed-in compensation benefits local communities and gives them independence in the energy sector.
She met experts and researchers and learned what measures the city of Hamburg has adopted to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. And she delivered a paper and presentation on her theses on energy policies in the US and in Germany at the Kühne Logistics University Hamburg.
“Something else than just reading books”
Seeing “the Energiewende in action”, as she says, with her own eyes was an “immensely valuable experience”. She took home knowledge about several specific examples of how Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein have successfully implemented strategies in Germany to combat global climate change.
This was very helpful for her work in the US, where she also teaches at Western Washington University’s Institute for Energy Studies. “I am able to share with my students all that I learned on the ground in Germany. And that is something quite different from only seeing it in books or reading studies.”
“The world owes Germany a great deal”
So how would she assess German climate policies? What is different from the US? “Germany’s climate policies were the cutting edge for many decades and its extensive development of solar and wind technologies contributed vastly to the precipitous decline in the cost of wind and solar technologies. The world owes Germany a great deal in this respect,” Eileen states.
But she also sees the challenges: “Today, I note that 40% of Germany’s electricity is coal-powered – a larger share than many other European Union nations. I understand the conundrum Germany faces as it confronts the challenge of removing carbon from its electricity supply when storage is not quite at the point where it can balance the intermittency of renewables, and grid transmission systems have not been upgraded.” She will certainly continue to observe how Germany will deal with this wide range of challenges.
“The climate policy of the US is a nightmare”
Eileen acknowledges that there have been severe setbacks in the climate policy of the US: “It’s a nightmare for everyone who has worked hard for clean energy over the past decades. The successes achieved under President Obama are being halted or even reversed everywhere.”
That is why she sees the future of climate protection in the cities: “Local governments are stepping up to pick up the slack and maintain momentum for climate action to the best of their abilities.” Of course, this is no substitute for the nation’s lack of climate protection policy. “But we are holding on as best we can”, she says.
Low-emission economy is the goal
But Eileen V. Quigley wants more: She intends her consulting agency to become an even greater support for cities and communities in the Northwest of the United States as they campaign for an energy revolution. Clean Energy Transition is to become a non-profit institute and to attract strong partners who can make a contribution to achieving a low-emission economy.