About Last Winter . . .

As most Philadelphians noticed, the weather the past few months was a bit outside the norm.  This winter brought nearly 68 inches of snow to Philadelphia, cementing its place in history as the second snowiest on record.  It also had the highest heating degrees days (a measurement designed to reflect the demand for energy needed to heat a building) in the past decade.  Now that we’ve had our last cold streak for the season (at least we hope), we thought it would be worthwhile to take a look back at a few of the major winter weather events.  Sustainability and resiliency are intrinsically related and here at MOS, we were left thinking how the initiatives Philadelphia is pursuing as part of Greenworks can help to lessen the impact of extreme winter weather.

The Polar Vortex

During the peak of the polar vortex in early January, the regional electricity grid was experiencing one of its most challenging times, as heating demands stressed the regional electricity grid.  The local grid operators, PJM, recorded their all-time winter peak use at 141,312 MW on the evening of January 7th.  During that time energy prices were 6 times the monthly average for natural gas and 3 times the monthly average for electricity.  Individuals and organizations that purchase directly from Pennsylvania’s real-time energy markets saw a sharp increase in energy costs.  For the City of Philadelphia, long-term energy management purchasing strategies and energy efficiency investments helped the City avoid the largest increases in its monthly utility bills.


The Winter of 2013-14 hammered our city with extreme snowfalls–and extreme cold (Source: CNN.com).

The Ice Storm

In February, a cold streak of ice and snow followed by heavy winds resulted in record-breaking electricity outages throughout the region.  The events left millions without power, caused the closing of schools and workplaces, and severely disrupted day to day life.  One of the best defenses against storms is smart grid technology, which allows utilities to find outage areas and deploy remote or on-site solutions to restore service quickly.  Over the past several years PECO has been deploying its advanced meter infrastructure throughout Philadelphia, with plans to complete smart meter installation for residential customers by the end of 2014.  While smart grid technology will never replace the service crews that pull a tree limb off of downed lines, they will enhance resilience in our electricity grid.


There’s no forecast for what type of weather future winters in Philadelphia will bring. However, investments in energy efficiency, infrastructure and strong energy management practices will help all Philadelphians better manage winter events.  We’re still crunching the numbers to see just how the winter affected the City’s energy bills, but we’re confident that the investments we’re making today will help reduce our cost burden—and our environmental impact—in the years to come.

2013 FPAC Year in Review

TFPAC_logohe Food Policy Advisory Council of Philadelphia (FPAC) is a Mayor-appointed body that facilitates the development of responsible policies that improve access for Philadelphia residents to culturally appropriate, nutritionally sound, and affordable food that is grown locally through environmentally sustainable practices. Thanks to the hard work and sustained collaborative effort between FPAC appointed members, supporters, and staff, the FPAC had a productive 2013 and is looking forward to maintaining that momentum in 2014.

Below is an overview of the FPAC’s accomplishments last year. If you would like to get involved in any of the sub-committees, please email fpac@phila.gov.

Questions about FPAC’s 2013 or plans for the coming year? Join FPAC Coordinator Hannah Chatterjee for a live Twitter Q&A on Friday, April 4th from noon to 1PM @GreenworksPhila (use #phillyfpac).

  • General FPAC

The Council established 2 new sub-committees to tackle issues thus far unaddressed by the FPAC, Local Food Procurement and Zero Waste, and also reconvened the Anti-Hunger sub-committee. Appointed members adopted 5 articles for the FPAC by-laws (review them here). The Council appointed 14 new members, and secured a full-time FPAC Coordinator.

Appointed members adopted a standing meeting time and location for the 2014 general FPAC meetings, taking place on the first Wednesday of every other month starting in February, from 3pm to 5pm on the 18th floor of the One Parkway Building (1515 Arch St), Room 18-022.

  • Anti-Hunger Sub-committee

The Anti-Hunger sub-committee reconvened in October 2013 with 6 core members.

Sub-committee members hosted the first FPAC town hall in November 2013 – a focus group with restaurant industry workers surveying participants about their habits and practices around healthy food, food access, and the internet.

Surprisingly, the town hall results showed that 72% of the participants are online more than 5 hours a day, and that many of the participants had no idea where to go for information about food resources such as SNAP and food pantries. The sub-committee will use the information gathered at the town hall to inform the food resources toolkit that the members are currently developing in order to mitigate the effects of the November 2013 SNAP budget cuts.

  • Communications and Outreach Sub-committee

Sub-committee members drafted the Media and Communications Guidelines outlining the FPAC’s internal and external communications strategy (adopted June 2013). The FPAC is committed to interacting more with the Philadelphia community, and will be sending members out to speak and table at community events, for which the sub-committee developed FPAC outreach materials. If you know of a community-based organization whose members might like to hear more about the FPAC, please get in touch with chair Hannah Chatterjee.

  • Governance and Membership Sub-committee

Sub-committee members drafted the following 4 articles for the by-laws:

Interim Member Nomination, Application, and Appointment Process Article, standardizing the nomination process for future FPAC members through the member nomination form (approved January 2013); Duties of Appointed Members, Co-chairs and Coordinator Article, detailing the responsibilities of each position on the FPAC (approved April 2013); Attendance Policy for Appointed Members (approved April 2013); Resignation Policy (approved April 2013). The sub-committee is currently working on a Conflict of Interest Policy for the FPAC.

  •  Local Food Procurement Sub-committee

The Local Food Procurement Sub-committee was established in May 2013. Sub-committee members have begun a conversation about and are currently planning the next steps for a project that will adapt the city’s procurement policies to encourage the purchase of local food. The sub-committee is looking to start a pilot program with a City agency in 2014.

  •  Vacant Land Sub-committee

With full support from the FPAC, the Land Bank Bill was passed in December 2013.

As the new bill gets rolled out, the sub-committee along with several partners will conduct a vacant land inventory project that will provide critical data and information on the usability of vacant lots for urban agriculture and gardens.

  • Zero Waste Sub-committee

The Zero Waste Sub-committee was established in October 2013. Members are working on a white paper to determine how the City can support waste minimization, composting, and recycling in Philadelphia in order to achieve “zero waste.” The sub-committee has started by assembling information about problems related to food waste, and plans to encourage more commercial food composting and recycling to build on the policies and infrastructure that are already in place.

Citywide Benchmarking Update

In our last blog entry, we mentioned Philadelphia’s citywide benchmarking program, through which large non-residential buildings are reporting their energy and water usage using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool. We’ll be releasing full results on this program’s first year in the next few weeks, but we wanted to give you a sneak preview today.

benchmarking Chart_highres

As of today, about 1600 buildings have benchmarked in the city. While this is a small percentage of the overall number of buildings, it’s around 20% of Philadelphia’s overall square footage and total energy usage. While the majority of large non-residential buildings in Philadelphia perform at or above national averages, hundreds fall well below this threshold. Raising the performance of these buildings (which can take the form of everything from operational improvements—that’s turning off the lights and the computers, which we’re sure everyone reading this is already doing—to comprehensive energy retrofits) to meet national averages for similar facilities would reduce energy consumption for benchmarked buildings by 23% and citywide consumption by 3.5%. To put that in context, the Greenworks Philadelphia Target for citywide building energy usage is a 10% reduction—just bringing the lowest-performance buildings up to average gets us a third of the way there.

Why does this matter? Take just electricity usage: per the Energy Information Administration, it cost commercial customers in Pennsylvania an average of 9.5 cents a kilowatt hour to power buildings in 2012. For those buildings that reported their 2012 usage, this works out to more than $390 million in annual electricity payments. By bringing the underperforming facilities up to speed, those costs fall to just over $300 million. That’s $90 million for Philadelphia’s businesses, hospitals, churches, and schools to spend elsewhere. Again, that’s just for electricity, and only for those buildings that are underperforming. There are energy-saving opportunities in high-performing facilities, too!

Saving energy in buildings is also a key part of Philadelphia’s climate action goals. Building energy usage accounts for more than half of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and these 1600 buildings specifically represent 10% of overall emissions. Bringing those underperforming buildings up to par mean for carbon emissions would be the equivalent of removing thousands of cars from Philadelphia’s roads each year.

But to be clear: the act of benchmarking alone will not save anyone money, and will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Benchmarking does give building owners, managers, and tenants the right information to make decisions and take action, though, which is why it’s so important as a first step. MOS is excited to continue working with its partners on plans to improve the performance of Philadelphia’s building stock. The city was recently selected as one of ten participants in the City Energy Project, a ground-breaking effort to collaborate on policies and practices to reduce energy usage in buildings, and we look forward to discussing more about what this means for Philadelphia in the coming weeks and months.

Questions? Join MOS (@GreenworksPhila) for our first-ever live Twitter Q&A forum on commercial benchmarking, Wednesday, March 19th at 12PM.

Looking Ahead to Greenworks 2014

Note: This blog is the first in a series of posts going behind the scenes of the process of producing the 2014 progress report for Greenworks Philadelphia.


An in-progress look at laying out the 2014 Greenworks update.

With only two years left before the conclusion of Mayor Nutter’s second term in office, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (MOS) is preparing the fifth Greenworks progress report. This year, we want to give partners and stakeholders in Philadelphia and beyond a peek at how these progress reports are put together.

As a first step, our team is thinking about those areas where Philadelphia has made some of the biggest strides in the five Greenworks goal areas (energy, environment, equity, economy, and engagement) over the past year, and where the most exciting opportunities for 2014 will be. Here are a few we’ve considered:

  • Greenhouse Gas inventories and climate adaptation strategy:  Both MOS and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) are continuing to track greenhouse gas emissions. Our office will release new data in 2014 highlighting some of the keys trends in emissions (and prime opportunities for emissions abatement). But it’s not enough to just monitor emissions. This spring, MOS will meet with agencies throughout city government to help draft an action plan to adapt Philadelphia’s critical infrastructure and services to a changing climate.
  • Municipal and citywide building benchmarking: MOS recently released a report on the energy usage of municipally-owned buildings for 2011, and results for large non-residential buildings 50,000 square feet or larger for both 2012 and 2013 energy and water usage will be released later this year. Benchmarking helps building owners and operators track their utility usage over time and compare that usage to a national average. Buildings can use this information to reduce their bills and their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Food Policy Advisory Council: Thanks to the hard work of FPAC coordinator Hannah Chatterjee, the City’s commitment to improving access to healthy and farm-fresh food is stronger than ever. Hannah will be writing more about FPAC’s work on this blog in the coming weeks.
  • Bike Share: Our office is excited to be supporting the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities in the upcoming launch of the citywide bike share network. The City is currently considering several proposals for the program, and we hope to be writing much more about it in Greenworks 2014 (and using the bikes this fall!).
  • Waste Watchers:  At the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon, hundreds of volunteers once again gave their time to help divert waste to recycling while cheering on the city’s runners. MOS is excited to be expanding this program in 2014 thanks to a grant by the Bloomberg Foundation, which will help support Waste Watchers volunteers at six events between now and Spring 2015—including the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon.

What are you hoping to see MOS cover in Greenworks 2014? Respond below or tweet us @GreenworksPhila to share your thoughts.


Philadelphia, January 29, 2014 – Mayor Michael Nutter today announced that Philadelphia has been selected to join The City Energy Project (CEP), a national, 10-city effort to significantly boost energy efficiency in large commercial buildings. Philadelphia’s participation in CEP is expected to lower energy bills by as much as $77 million and may cut climate-change pollution equal to what is generated by 23,000 homes, annually.

“The City Energy Project is an innovative approach to tackling commercial building efficiency in cities across the country. Improving energy performance in Philadelphia’s buildings is not just good for the environment, it puts money back in the pockets of building owners, operators, and tenants – and ultimately back into the local economy,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. The City of Philadelphia closely tracks energy use in city government buildings and released a report on municipal building energy benchmarking today that can be found at www.phila.gov/benchmarking.

Philadelphia will be participating in the new City Energy Project, an initiative from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation, that is designed to create healthier, more prosperous American cities by targeting their largest source of energy use and climate pollution: buildings. The following cities will be joining Philadelphia as CEP’s first participants: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, and Salt Lake City.

Funded by a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation, the City Energy Project will assist the 10 selected cities in developing customized programs and policies aimed at boosting energy efficiency in large commercial buildings.

Buildings are responsible for 62 percent of Philadelphia’s carbon emissions, more than either the transportation or industrial sectors. As much as 30 percent of the energy these buildings use, however, is wasted.

Fortunately, the technology and best practices that can make buildings vastly more efficient are already in place. Working together, cities can make significant progress in reducing their contribution to climate change. And in the process, they can give their local economies a boost.

“City skylines have long been symbols of aspiration and innovation—this project takes that to a new level,” said Laurie Kerr, Director of the City Energy Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These mayors are showing there is the political will to put people to work to build a healthier, more prosperous future for America’s cities. In the face of a changing climate and increasingly extreme weather, these city leaders know they cannot wait for the state or federal government to make them more resilient and sustainable – they are taking action now.”

Cliff Majersik, Executive Director of the Institute for Market Transformation, said, “We have the skills and technology to make buildings more efficient, but we need a coordinated effort by major cities and the private sector to make it happen. The City Energy Project will give city leaders and the real estate industry the support they need to make buildings better, improving the lives of millions of city residents.”

Projected Economic & Environmental Benefits
Boosting building efficiency reduces pollution, improves air quality, reduces the demand for new power plants, and makes cities more resilient to energy-related crises.

Together, the 10 participating cities are estimated to be able to reduce carbon emissions by a total of 5 million to 7 million tons annually. That is equivalent to taking 1 million to 1.5 million passenger vehicles off the road per year, the amount of electricity used by roughly 700,000 to nearly 1 million American homes annually, or taking 3-4 power plants offline.

The CEP is projected to save Philadelphia ratepayers as much as $77 million annually on their energy bills, and a total of nearly $1 billion annually across all 10 cities (at current prices).

How it Works
Through this new project, the cities will develop their own locally tailored plans to advance energy efficiency and reduce waste in their large buildings, which can represent roughly 50% of their citywide square footage. These plans, which will include multiple integrated strategies, can make more progress in each city than any one program or policy could alone.

The City Energy Project will offer their energy expertise to help guide the cities through the planning, designing and implementation processes. The energy efficiency solutions that CEP will help the cities develop are flexible to each city’s unique situation, supporting the following goals:

• Promote efficient building operations: Strong building energy performance can be achieved through efficient operations and maintenance, and the training of facilities personnel.
• Encourage private investment: Common-sense solutions to financial and legal barriers to energy efficiency should be adopted to increase private investment in building energy improvements.
• City leadership: Cities should lead by example and reduce taxpayer-funded energy consumption in municipal buildings, and encourage the private sector to match their actions.
• Promote transparency: Building energy performance information should be transparent and accessible to enable market demand and competition for energy-efficient buildings.


Philadelphia, December 20, 2012 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter was joined by City officials for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center (PJJSC) in West Philadelphia.  The PJJSC is a secure, short-term residential detention facility for youth ages 13-20 with social and educational programs which aim to steer children accused or found guilty of crimes away from further illegal conduct.

“The new Juvenile Justice Services Center represents years of planning and collaboration,” said Mayor Nutter.  “The building reflects Philadelphia’s commitment to addressing the needs of our citizens: the security needs of our residents and the social-service needs of at-risk youth as they develop into productive, contributing citizens.”

Located at the corner of 48th Street and Haverford Avenue, the PJJSC is easily accessible by public transportation or car.  The $110,000 million, City-funded Center has more than 160,000 square feet and beds for more than 150 residents.

“The goal of the Center is to help young people who are involved in the juvenile justice system make better decisions and improve the trajectory of their lives,” said DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose.  “This new facility embodies our belief that given the right support, children have an immense capacity for change.”

The PJJSC features 10 classrooms, a gymnasium, a health clinic, outdoor recreation spaces and a garden for residents.  Visitation space includes a play area where volunteers can baby-sit young children and rooms where youth can meet with their families, lawyers, social-service providers and probation officers.  Family Court courtrooms, Judges’ chambers and conference rooms are also on site.

The Honorable Kevin Dougherty, Administrative Judge of Family Court said, “Philadelphia is working hard to improve outcomes for youth involved with the justice system and the courts.  The design of this new facility allows for enhanced programming to better meet the needs of young people we are serving to maximize opportunities for their transformation.”

The PJJSC is a model site for several city-wide initiatives.  It is the largest City project built to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, and it was a pilot site for a city-wide effort to employ more women and minority contractors in public projects.  Site-specific artwork was commissioned for inclusion in the PJJSC as part of the City’s ‘Percent for Art’ program.  Two Philadelphia-based painters were chosen to decorate the lobby, the community room and the second-floor waiting area.  A documentary by Greenhouse Media featuring the artists’ creative process will be displayed in the building.

More than 15 City departments, agencies and programs are affiliated with the PJJSC, and major tenants of the facility will include the Department of Human Services, the Juvenile Justice Division, Family Court, the School District of Philadelphia, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender Association, and the Department of Public Property Facilities Division.