Nancy Kunkle, SEI Program Manager, attended the Tri State Sustainability Symposium at Temple University on March 4, 2015.   The event was a great way to network with sustainability industry players and institutions in the region and Nancy was able to re-connect with our past Program Manager, Will Williams who was also in attendance!  Thanks to Paul Spiegel, a BoD member,  for the event recommendation!  Here are just some of the highlights that might be of interest to our SEI participants . . .

  • By the numbers: the “80×50 challenge” (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050).  It’s a great mantra – It’s NOT a plan of action, but a good dialogue! Focus is on reducing emissions in office buildings (60%), surface transportation (19%) and electricity. But the big payoff will come from residential.  The ROI for residential retrofits (thermostats, bulbs, insulation, furnance, hot water heater, etc) is more difficult to achieve.
  • Philadelphia continues their focus on Sustainability: The Philadelphia Energy Authority is renewing focus on energy efficiency under Mayor Kenney.  The team wants to do deeper retrofits of buildings and do projects faster than they have been able to in the past. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability under the leadership of Christine Knapp is working to update the Greenworks program this year and is looking for input on what programs and projects are of interest.  THE Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Select Greater Philadelphia, and the CEO Council for Growth created the Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team will release their update Energy Hub report on March 30, 2016.
  • Philly’s “Coolest Block” contest:    ECA did the Coolest Block contest under Mayor Nutter and it’s now called the Energy Fit Philly competition.  Money comes from Federal Weatherization Program for Residential Energy Efficiency.  You might think that it’s not getting a lot of attention because of the low cost of fossil fuels but those prices are most likely to go up so now is the time to invest.  Philadelphia now has a requirement that all new row house roofs be white to reflect heat.  A question to the SEI group: is there an opportunity for a similar neighborhood project in the SE PA suburbs?”
  • Passive House – started in Germany but a key movement in the USA: the single family house is the most expensive to get the most efficient BUT there are so many of them that if we can figure out solutions it will have the largest impact! Typical building costs are 8-10% higher than a typical cost of a new house.  Philadelphia has 6-9 passive house projects already.  Energy Star initiative is great at addressing energy efficiency, but it is just not fast enough and he challenged the audience that we need to leap frog and find other solutions that have bigger impacts.  Building codes and incentives, perhaps at the national level, needs to be part of the passive house solution.
  • Building a sustainability network: Lehigh Valley shared what many regions are facing – that sustainability groups exist in high numbers but in silos.  Everyone knows a silo; it’s good for some things but not sustainability because sustainability isn’t a single problem.  We need to connect our silos and empower the collective resources.    Mike Dunn from the US EPA office made a good point about not getting too carried away with the details when forming a network:  The idea of “weak” network might work best; it’s one that gets things done without a lot of structure and bureaucracy.