What is energy literacy?

An energy-literate person knows:

  • What our energy resources are and how we utilize them
  • The many ways electricity is made and the advantages and disadvantages of each
  • Why it is important to use energy wisely and how to do so
  • How government policy effects our energy choices

An energy-literate person chooses:

  • To use energy wisely, recognizing the impact of their choice on climate change, our environment and our economy
  • To share their knowledge and inspire action and learning in others

 

Why we need energy literacy programming in schools

 

An energy aha! moment during a Electricity & the Environment workshop at Killington Elementary School.

An energy aha! moment during a Electricity & the Environment workshop at Killington Elementary School.

Society needs tomorrow’s decision-makers to be energy literate so that they can reduce the financial and environmental costs of their energy choices. Our deficit in energy literacy may be one of the most fundamental roadblocks to progress on the issues of climate change and energy sustainability. An assessment undertaken for VEEP by PEER Associates in 2013 showed that Vermont middle school students have low knowledge about energy, scoring an average of 42% on an assessment of energy literacy. This mirrors what we see in statewide science assessments: 2013 New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) results showed that only 47% of Vermont’s fourth graders meet state benchmarks for science proficiency. That number drops to 32% for eighth graders and 31% by the time students reach 11th grade.

Today’s K–12 students will be decision-makers in five to 15 years. Through our education work, VEEP is laying the groundwork for students to develop a deep, scientific understanding of energy, including electricity production, the roles of efficiency, conservation and renewables, the use of new technologies, environmental impacts and the overriding importance of efficiency in all sectors of the energy economy.

Action and community

Essex Middle School students participating in VEEP's Green School Energy Challenge install insulation in a window to test the effectiveness of a set of donated thermal shades.

Essex Middle School students participating in VEEP’s Green School Energy Challenge install insulation in a window to test the effectiveness of a set of donated thermal shades.

Our programs also empower students to act, to use their knowledge to make change in their homes, their schools, their community and their state. As the students we reach today become adult citizens, and begin to vote, enter the workforce, and participate even more fully in their communities, they will bring the mature perspective on energy that is so necessary to advancing Vermont’s energy goal of getting 90% of our energy from renewables by 2050.

Schools — as both educational institutions and the heart of our communities — can provide a powerful catalyzing force to drive the changes required. They are one of the few places in our society where we can easily reach people across socioeconomic levels and on all points on the political spectrum. Additionally, many Vermont school buildings are old and waste energy, which means they can be a treasure trove of energy education opportunities and energy action projects that will help reduce energy use both directly (through changes to the school facilities) and indirectly (through education and outreach to the community). Students working on energy projects in their schools bring knowledge home and are likely to inspire action and stewardship projects within their families.

How are energy literacy and climate literacy linked?

Climate literacy is an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you, as defined by Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science. Our energy-use choices affect earth’s climate system and the health of our entire planet. Energy literacy and climate literacy go hand in hand. VEEP’s mission lives at the intersection of the two, helping students learn how their energy choices impact earth’s climate and take action to reduce the contribution of local energy choices to global climate change.

A climate-literate person:

  • Understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system
  • Knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate
  • Communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way
  • Is able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate