Use Clean & Efficient Energy

Converting 5% of the city governments energy use to clean, local energy will remove millions of pounds of hazardous pollutants from our air that increase asthma and heart disease symptoms as well as respiratory infections in children. By switching 5% of its energy use to clean, local energy, the city can remove these hazardous pollutants from the air each year:

» 30,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides
» 90,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide
» 13 million pounds of carbon dioxide59

Buy or generate clean, local energy and build healthy, energy-efficient city and school-district facilities.


Philadelphia should begin to buy or generate energy from clean, local sources to create new jobs and to gain the capacity to provide critical services during disasters. The city of Philadelphia spent nearly 30 million taxpayer dollars on energy in FY 2005.55 Most of that money left the local economy and flowed out of the country. By buying or generating a minimum of 5% of its energy (and preferably more) from local, clean sources such as wind, solar, or methane, the city can lower its dependence on foreign oil, create new jobs in alternative-energy industries, and deliver emergency-response services during disasters.

Buying and generating clean, local energy creates new jobs. A commitment to buy or generate clean energy is an economic development policy. Over the past four years, Pennsylvania grew its clean energy purchases from 5% to 20% of its energy needs. Through consumer purchases, state funding initiatives, and other incentives and requirements favoring renewable energy, the state created over 3,500 new jobs and $2.5 billion in increased earnings.56

Pennsylvania's prominence as a clean, local energy consumer already benefits Philadelphia. One of the world's leading wind turbine manufacturers chose to put its headquarters in the city, and 14 companies that install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work in the region.57 Philadelphia's commitment to clean, local energy will similarly spur new investment and create new technology jobs in wind, methane, and solar power manufacturing, construction, and operations.

Buying and generating clean, local energy increases emergency preparedness. Hurricane Katrina made it clear that every city must be fully prepared to provide emergency services during times of crisis. When disaster strikes, widespread power failure often results. Lights go out. Medical equipment does not work. Neither do the electric pumps that deliver safe drinking water and help treat wastewater and sewage. The city of Philadelphia, as the Emergency Preparedness Review Committee Report advised in June 2006, must take immediate steps to improve its ability to deliver critical services in a disaster situation.

Being able to supply backup power to support communications and emergency services such as medical, fire, and police is key. Pennsylvania recently added solar panels to the governor's house that turn sunlight into electricity. This system can power communications during times of disaster. Chicago has installed a solar-power backup supply for its 911 communications facility, and New York City has added solar panels to keep its Central Park police station functioning at all times.58 Philadelphia should take similar steps to back up its critical emergency services with a reliable source of power so that no neighborhood will be left to struggle on its own in a disaster.


Philadelphia should build energy-efficient, healthy city and school-district facilities.  All new facilities that the city and the School District of Philadelphia build60 should achieve the silver rating of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. In FY 2005, the city and school district together spent over $50 million on energy.61 With energy prices rising dramatically, it is essential that new city facilities, whether they are offices, libraries, police stations, or fire stations, be built to use energy as efficiently as possible.

New advances in technology and construction techniques have dramatically changed how buildings are designed and built. Fifteen states and 50 cities, as well as the federal government, require new buildings to meet LEED standards. To achieve LEED silver certification, a facility must earn a certain number of points for healthy design and efficient water and energy use. Points can be earned for increasing the use of natural light; reducing the use of energy, water, and toxic materials; and other state-of-the-art practices that benefit the neighborhood environment.

Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Dallas have all adopted LEED silver standards;
their new city buildings cut air pollution and limit their burden on sewer systems by reducing their need for electricity derived from fossil fuels and coal (which pollute the air) and by reusing water from sinks for flushing the toilets, among many other improvements. LEED's flexible point system allows architects and builders to take the approach that will work best for a specific location.

Locally, some buildings are already following LEED standards. The new Department of Environmental Protection headquarters in Norristown will use 35% less energy and 58% less water than a conventional building of the same size. The Philadelphia School of the Future will realize similar savings.

By building to LEED silver standards, the city will also provide training to the city's workforce in state-of-the-art construction practices that the private market is already adopting. Private efforts can already be seen at One Crescent Drive, which has succeeded in achieving LEED platinum status, and the Comcast Building, which is in pursuit of a gold rating. Zoning incentives for private buildings (recommended in the zoning section) will encourage others in the private sector to build healthy, energy-efficient buildings as well. Healthier buildings have been shown to increase worker and student performance and dramatically reduce absenteeism.62