With a boost of federal stimulus dollars, the City of Brotherly Love has warmly adopted a multifaceted plan for greater efficiency. In October, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced that the city would receive $14.1 million in funding through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.
The city has a plan in place for the funds, which will be invested and leveraged with other funds over the next year and a half. The money will be applied toward several programs, including energy audits and efficiency retrofits of municipal buildings; replacing 85,000 traffic lights with new, low-energy LED lights; and expanding the city’s use of solar-powered trash compactors and on-street recycling units.
A large portion of the funds, close to $6 million, will be applied toward a revolving loan program for businesses and nonprofits to complete energy-efficiency improvements, and grants for business to commercialize innovative efficiency technologies.
For those who think all this talk about efficiency is just a bunch of garbage, the city also is considering applying some of the funds to start up a radio frequency identification tag system on city recycling trucks and household containers to track and reward homeowners for recycling.
The efficiency programs will help the city achieve the goals set out in Nutter’s comprehensive plan for reshaping the city’s energy policies. The plan, “Greenworks Philadelphia,” is designed to make Philadelphia what the mayor would like to call the “greenest city in America.”
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program was created in 2007 but did not receive funding until the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009’s passage. It provides funds to units of local and state government, Indian tribes, and territories to develop and implement projects to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions. Since funding became available, the Department of Energy has awarded more than 1,400 grants totaling more than $1.6 billion. More than $2.7 billion in formula grants still are available.
Philadelphia ranks in the top tier of the department’s list of more than 80 recent recipients. On that list, only New York City ($80.8 million); Chicago ($27.6 million); Ohio ($24.9 million); Los Angeles ($15.4 million); and Newark, N.J. ($14.4 million) received more funding.