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Let’s Check-In: How is Philly doing to cut 50% GHG Emissions & other ambitious 2030 clean energy goals?
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Let’s Check-In: How is Philly doing to cut 50% GHG Emissions & other ambitious 2030 clean energy goals?

Recent infrastructure updates at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are helping to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, according to a new report, which shows Philly is making strides towards its 2030 sustainability goals despite an increase in electricity consumption.

The City of Philadelphia issued a check on itself last Thursday when the Office of Sustainability released the 2020 Progress Update on the Municipal Energy Master Plan for the Built Environment.

The plan, released in 2017, focused on two ways to make city government buildings more energy-efficient: lower energy use and shift to a clean energy supply.

Using these strategies, the city aims to achieve some lofty goals by 2030:

  • cut city operations’ greenhouse gas emissions by 50%
  • reduce city operations’ energy use by 20%
  • generate or purchase 100% of electricity for all city operations from renewable resources
  • maintain or decrease the city’s operational cost of energy

How is the city working on putting these goals into motion?

Entering the third year of the Master Plan, Green Philly takes a look at what steps the city has taken so far.

Art Museum

A major energy retrofit of The Philadelphia Museum of Art is expected to be completed early this year. Changes at the tourist attraction include LED bulb and lighting fixture replacements, heating system upgrades and a new chilled water system. And those updates really add up – the $11.4 million project reduces electricity use by 4.8 million kWh, for example. As for the price tag, the city says the savings generated by the retrofit will cover the cost.

Commitment to Solar Power

Construction of a new solar power plant will start in the next six months in Adams County, Pennsylvania – about 150 miles west of Philly. The city has a contract to purchase power from the renewable energy developer, and the Office of Sustainability says it’s the largest solar power purchase agreement by a municipality in U.S. history.

Right now, 7 percent of the city’s electricity comes from renewable resources. Once the solar plant is operational (scheduled for some time in 2021), that number will be closer to 29 percent.

Focus on the Free Library

As part of the Energy Reduction Challenge, an initiative to establish department accountability of energy use, some Free Library of Philadelphia employees were trained as “energy stewards.” The stewards take part in monthly calls and bring the energy information to the dozens of branches. The education and engagement campaign has helped the Free Library move closer to its expected 1 percent reduction in energy use.

The success may seem incremental, though the program aims to have a larger long-term impact as more and more stewards share their knowledge.

Building Tune-ups

Along with efforts to make the Art Museum more energy-efficient, retrofits of other city properties are cutting down on Philly-owned buildings’ energy use. The Greenland Nursery, which contains tens of thousands of plants to be planted in Fairmount Park, had its heating system replaced, installation added and lighting switched to LED.

Retrofits at other municipal properties are in the works, too, like the retrofit of the HVAC system at the Fire Administration Building at 240 Spring Garden St. And the city isn’t stopping there. Besides addressing its own buildings, Philly will require starting in 2021 that all non-residential buildings of 50,000 square feet or more to meet a high-performance standard or complete a “building tune-up” every five years.

A Smarter City

Philly’s Energy Office also teamed up with the Office of Innovation and Technology to make municipal buildings smarter. Together, they are working to connect each property to the same software monitoring energy use and indoor air quality. With the software in common, it streamlines the data dump and analytics process so it is easier for technicians to evaluate any upticks in energy use and make adjustments.

In addition to integrating technology, there are other ways the city is getting smarter. It is requiring large capital projects, like the future police headquarters on North Broad Street, to meet LEED Silver sustainability standards. It also worked with PECO to rethink rates so the citywide switch to LED streetlighting was a financial win too.

Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

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Alison Burdo
Alison Burdo is a project manager with Green Philly, focusing on the development and execution of its coverage of the Delaware Watershed. A Philadelphia-based journalist for the past seven years, Burdo most recently supported the launch of the Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting. Her experience includes reporting exclusive, enterprise stories on the 2015 papal visit and the 2016 Democratic National Convention; leading an investigation into the epidemic of unsolved missing persons cases; and regularly breaking news related to Philadelphia's precedent-setting soda tax. View all posts by Alison Burdo

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