Today, on Arbor Day, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced The Residential Energy and Economic Savings Act, otherwise known as TREES Act. This legislation would establish a grant program to assist electric utilities with energy conservation programs that use targeted tree planting to reduce residential energy demand. This legislation will help homeowners lower their electric bills -- and help utilities lower their peak load demand -- by reducing residential energy demand caused by the need to run air conditioners at a high level.
"As we continue to tackle the combined challenges of high energy costs and the effects of climate change, it is essential that we put in place innovative policies and forward-thinking programs that will help prepare us for generations to come," said Congresswoman Matsui (D-CA). "The Residential Energy and Economic Savings Act, or TREES Act, would help reduce energy costs for consumers and improve air quality for all Americans. My home district of Sacramento, California has implemented a successful shade tree program and I believe replicating this program on a national level will help ensure that we are working towards a cleaner, healthier future."
Patterned after the successful model established by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), TREES seeks to save Americans significant amounts of money on their utility bills and reduce outside temperatures in urban areas because shade trees help to shield homes from sun in the summer.
Planting shade trees around homes in a strategic manner is a proven way to lower energy demand in residential areas. According to research conducted by the Department of Energy, three shade trees strategically planted around a house can reduce home air-conditioning bills by about 30 percent in some cities, and a nationwide shade program could reduce air-conditioning use by at least 10 percent. Shade trees also help to:
- Improve public health and air quality by absorbing particulate matter;
- Store carbon dioxide to help slow global warming;
- Reduce the risk of flooding in urban areas by absorbing stormwater runoff;
- Improve private property values and increase residential aesthetics; and,
- Preserve public infrastructure, such as streets and sidewalks.
"This is a simple plan to achieve energy savings by planting trees and creating more shade," Congresswoman Matsui added. "The TREES Act would reduce families' energy bills and increase energy efficiency in their homes. When communities see extraordinary results from small changes to their environment, planting trees just makes sense."
"We are proud and honored that Congresswoman Matsui utilized SMUD's years of experience with strategic tree selection and placement to minimize air conditioning use and maximize energy savings," said Frankie McDermott, SMUD Director of Customer Services and programs. "Our Sacramento Shade program, now in its third decade with half a million trees planted, has proven that urban and suburban tree planting helps reduce energy use and betters the environment."
"For over two decades our utility/nonprofit shade tree program has produced proven summer energy savings and over 150,000 conservation minded tree recipients," said Ray Trethaway with the Sacramento Tree Foundation. "Expanding this program to the national level would allow Americans across the country to benefit from the immense energy savings."
"ASLA lends its support to the TREES Act because planting shade trees and increasing overall tree canopy are effective strategies to help dramatically lower energy bills and reduce air pollution," said Nancy Somerville, Hon. executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects. "ASLA is pleased to support the TREES Act and encourages members of Congress to follow Representative Matsui's leadership."