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Here’s how Philly plans to combat climate change

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The city’s first energy plan aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030

Philly wants to reduce its energy use by 20 percent by 2030. It’ll start with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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Under the searing heat of an unusually hot afternoon in late September, the City of Philadelphia unveiled its official plan to combat climate change.

“We’re learning some lessons here for climate change,” said Christine Knapp, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability at today’s announcement.

At the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps this afternoon, Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials released the Philadelphia Municipal Energy Master Plan, a multi-step roadmap to reduce energy use and clean the city’s energy supply.

Chief among the master plan is the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the city’s built environment by 50 percent by 2030. One of those city-owned structures includes the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has set its own goal of reducing the massive building’s energy consumption by 20 percent.

The release of the master plan comes months after Kenney signed onto the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy effort spearheaded by the Sierra Club. The commitment for Philly to transition to 100 percent renewable energy in June came on the heels of the White House’s move to reject the Paris climate accord.

Said city managing director Michael DiBerardinis, “I don’t care what double talk we get from Washington, there are three really compelling reasons to do this: One, it’s good for the environment. Two, it’s good for the taxpayers. And three, it’s good for the economy. It’s that simple. If anyone tells you different, they’re wrong.”

Here are four ways Philly plans to fight climate change:

1. Cut greenhouse gas emissions from city-owned buildings in half

The plan calls to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050. In 2014, the city released 166,200 MT of greenhouse gas emissions—its goal is to bring that number down to 109,700. According to the master plan, the city is already on its way to surpassing this goal by 2030, but there’s still work to do: The plan says one major way to ensure that this happens is to transition the regional power grid away from fossil fuel-based electricity sources.

2. Reduce the city’s energy use by 20 percent by 2030

The Energy Office studied various ways to cut energy use among city-owned buildings and determined that installing LED street lighting has the highest potential for carbon reduction among all other energy efficiency efforts in the master plan.

The city also points to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose roof spans four acres and is one of the largest city-owned buildings. “It’s one of the city’s most significant users of energy,” said president Gail Harrity.

That’s why the museum plans to cut its energy consumption by 20 percent as part of its larger $200 million Master Plan Core Project. Although it’s still determining the full scope of upgrades, some $9 million efforts are already underway, including retrofitting gallery lighting, replacing mechanical equipment, and upgrading building control systems.

3. Generate or buy 100 percent of all electricity for the city from renewable resources by 2030

On the heels of the mayor’s commitment to transition to 100 percent renewable energy, the city and the Philadelphia Energy Authority issued an RFP on Wednesday for a renewable energy power purchase agreement. The RFP is the first of its kind for the city, which is looking to buy renewable energy from a local and large-scale wind, solar, or other renewable project. The bid is open until 5 p.m. on November 29th, 2017.

4. Maintain/reduce the city’s built environment cost of energy at facilities

Currently, the city spends $35 to $45 million on energy for its buildings and street lighting covered by its General Fund, which accounts for about 40 percent of Philly’s government emissions and energy use. The idea is that by committing to renewable energy and cutting energy use, the city will be able to meet this fourth goal of either maintaining or reducing the cost of energy at its properties.

The full master plan, which is expected to be updated regularly, is available at the Office of Sustainability’s website here.