5. Energy Saved is the Cleanest of All Energy

This show will air on Friday April 5, 2019 on PhillyCAM’s radio station WPPM 106.5 FM in Philadelphia. Hear the audio afterwards as a podcast . The script is below. Produced by Meenal Raval & Tanya Seaman, with technical assistance from Vanessa Maria Graber.

Hello and welcome to Philly Talks Climate — where we talk about the climate crisis, how it affects Philadelphia, and how we solve this for our region. I’m Meenal Raval, and I’ll be your host. I’m joined this week by long-time friend Tanya Seaman.

Last week, we talked about changing our energy sources from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This week, we’ll talk about Energy Efficiency. Because the energy you save is the cleanest of all energy, cleaner even than the electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.

There are many ways to use less energy. Using less energy translates to saving money. Who doesn’t like that?

You’re listening to Philly Talks Climate on PhillyCAM’s WPPM 106.5 FM.

Why do we need energy efficiency if we’re moving to clean energy?

An important reason to reduce our energy use is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Another reason to reduce our energy use is to save money. A third reason to reduce our energy use is because investing in energy efficiency is cheaper than investing in clean energy.

If we build enough renewable energy for our current energy-hogging buildings, transportation, and manufacturing, we will overbuild and spend much more, unless we use energy more efficiently now. Buildings use 60% of our total energy, so making buildings — our homes, schools, and offices — more energy efficient will go a long way toward reducing our energy footprint.

First, an update from last week… We mentioned that several townships in Montgomery County have passed resolutions to transition to 100% renewable energy. This week, Norristown adopted such a resolution with a 7 – 0 vote. Norristown is the 116th city in the nation, and 14th in Southeast PA. This is an exciting development. Congratulations to all who helped with this. We’re looking at you, Bill Sabey of Plymouth Township.

Meanwhile, Philly has yet to pass a resolution commiting us to a 100% renewable energy goal. We need to push Council member Reynolds Brown and Mayor Kenney on this.

Back to… How can YOU use less energy?

We’ve got a few suggestions.

Programmable Thermostats – You’ve invested in a smartphone. Now invest in a smart thermostat. One that lets you program it via an app. Set the heating and cooling around your schedule. You’ll want the thermostat programmed so that when no one is home, the energy needs are minimal.

Curtains – Think of curtains as more than just decor. Curtains can be used to reduce your energy use. In the summer, you’ll pull the curtains closed to block the sun from heating up the house. In the winter, you’ll pull the curtains open to allow the sun to heat up the house. Textile generally works better than blinds at blocking air flow.

White roofs – Are your top floors uncomfortably warm in the summer? Look up a satellite photo of your house. Do you have a flat roof? Is the roof a darker color? If yes to both, consider a white coating for your flat roof. We all know white reflects the sun, and black absorbs the sun. You’ll feel the difference.

Fans – Consider using a combination of ceiling fans and operable windows for cross-ventilation. Just to compare, a window air conditioner uses 525 watts, while a fan uses about 25 watts, just 5% of the electricity. I’ve learned that it’s not a case of either the air conditioner or a fan. I can keep the air conditioner at a higher temperature (meaning it runs fewer hours each day), and spin the fans in the occupied space to remain comfortable.

Clothing – Of course, dress according to the seasons. By this I mean… Layer up in the cooler months, and wear less clothing in the warmer months.

Shade tree – The front of my house gets all the afternoon sun. It’s been nice during the winter, but I dread the summertime. So this spring, we plan to replace the rhododendron bush in front with a shade tree. The leaves should keep the interior cooler and offer a lovely dappled lighting. I plan to get a hardy almond or a service berry. A tree that the birds and I could snack from!

Hot water – When your hot water system needs replacing, consider a tankless electric water heater. Why keep 40 to 80 gallons of water hot, ready for you to take a shower any time of day or night? That’s a lot of wasted energy. It’s like keeping the tea kettle going all day, just in case you might want a cup of tea!

PECO Home Energy Assessment – PECO offers an energy assessment for your home. For just $25, someone will walk thru your entire house, even peek into the attic and tell you how you can use less energy. They’ll even show up with a box of LED light bulbs and replace the bulbs in your house. Just this is worth more than the $25. Call 888.573.2672.

Didn’t get all that? You can find the audio as well as the script for this show on our website, phillytalksclimate.wordpress.com. You’re listening to Philly Talks Climate.

We just listed a numbers of ways each of us can use less energy.

How can the City help us use less energy?

  1. The City could incentivize energy efficiency.
  2. The City could ensure that new construction is fully electric, energy efficient, and fossil fuel free.
  3. The City could incentivize electrifying everything; offer tax credits or rebates for purchasing efficient new electric appliances.
  4. The City could ready public spaces as cooling centers and as demonstration center.

Related, here’s some News You Can Use…

A recent report — Building Climate Justice: Investing in Energy Efficiency for a Fair and Just Transition begins with a good quote from Senator Bernie Sanders…

“Energy efficiency has enormous potential to create millions of jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and save American families money on their energy bills – a real win-win-win. We must immediately come together to take bold action to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”

Ahh… so each of us save money by using less energy, and there will be new jobs too?

Yup. Local jobs to… seal drafts, insulate exterior walls and ceilings, replace windows. We don’t need to be heating and cooling the outdoors.

Jobs to install thermostats. So we heat or cool our spaces when we use them, and not otherwise.

Jobs to coat our flat roofs white or silver. These lighter colored roofs will reflect sunlight rather than absorbing the heat, helping keep your highest rooms cooler. An added bonus is that this reduces the damaging effects of the ultraviolet rays, and extends the life of your roof at least a decade.

Jobs to install operable skylights. Because another way to cool spaces and light them for free during daylight hours is to install operable skylights, which circulate hot air out of your house.

The Clean Jobs PA report says that approximately 76-80% of all clean-energy jobs will be in energy efficiency. The City can help create demand for these jobs.

You’re listening to Meenal & Tanya at Philly Talks Climate, on PhillyCAM, our community access media! Find us online at phillytalksclimate.wordpress.com.

Yup, the City can help create demand for these jobs.

  1. One way is by requiring energy efficient construction in our building codes, so that all renovation would include the examples we just mentioned, and more.
  2. Another way the City can help is by requiring that new construction is energy efficient, fully electric and free of fossil fuels. New buildings should not have gas furnaces or water heaters. New buildings should be solar-equipped or solar-ready.

    If solar isn’t viable, then new buildings should have green roofs.  A green roof is one that grows plants with just rainwater, offers a layer of insulation between the sun and your house, and reduces the heat-island effect of heat-reflecting rooftops in a city like Philadelphia. We’ll talk about the heat-island effect in a later show.

    New construction and major renovations can also use passive heating and cooling systems. Systems that use sun exposure and solar water-heating systems to warm up spaces. Systems that use cross-breezes and attic fans to circulate air and cool spaces in hot weather.

    New construction could also use greywater plumbing for non-potable water needs. Greywater systems use once-used water from sinks and showers to flush toilets and water landscapes, thereby reducing the need to unnecessarily expend energy to purify water for these uses. This also reduces the amount of water returning to our wastewater treatment plants, some of which doesn’t get treated when we have too much rainwater during a storm. Greywater systems are not yet legal in Pennsylvania, though other states and municipalities have approved plumbing codes that enable greywater use.

    New construction should also be planned to include shade trees.

    Our Citywide Energy Vision asks for Residential Energy Disclosure at time of sale. A more efficient home means reduced utility bills, which means the family could afford more house.

This is Philly Talks Climate. With Meenal & Tanya.

  1. To get off fossil fuels, we need to begin electrifying everything. The City could offer tax credits or rebates for purchasing efficient new electric appliances.

    When replacing any household or institutional appliance that uses fossil fuels, homeowners, businesses, and institutions can benefit from a choice that, with a financial incentive, becomes less expensive than its fossil-fuel rival.

    Right now, if you do a search online for energy-efficient appliances, you will most likely find that the most energy-efficient appliances are powered by natural gas, AKA methane. Yes, I called it methane. Natural gas is made up mostly of methane, which is 80 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide! Let’s not call it natural gas, which sounds wholesome, and like something we want in our homes. I don’t think we want methane anywhere near our homes.To keep us from being so easily fooled into buying methane (gas) appliances, the City could promote electric appliances as a viable option. The City could also  educate installers about these options, and offer an easy way for contractors and end-users to apply for the rebates.Currently, contractors promote gas appliances, even when customers ask for electric appliances. Likely because industry has promoted them as the cheaper option. And also because contractors are used to doing things a particular way. However, if we make our spaces more energy efficient, the cost of running electric appliances doesn’t have to be more expensive.One reason fossil fuel energy is not very expensive is because it is subsidized by us — the tax payers. We offset the cost of fossil fuels by 5.3 trillion dollars every year.  That means that our taxes help fossil fuel companies build their plants that pollute our air —  and make these companies profitable at the same time.
  2. Ready public spaces as cooling centers.

Everyone does not have homes that are comfortable during heat waves — including people who are homeless. The City could set up libraries, recreation centers, and school buildings to be refuges on hot days, requiring round-the-clock staffing and even programming.

These public spaces could be outfitted with inexpensive cooling systems such as sun-blocking curtains, white rooftops, ceiling fans, and windows that open and allow for cross-breezes, and street and yard trees for shade.

It’s important that these public spaces be adequately cooled.  Just adding central air-conditioning to our school buildings only exacerbates the situation, and is the most expensive way to keep these spaces comfortable.

You’re listening to Philly Talks Climate with Meenal and Tanya. Here at PhillyCAM, Philly’s Community Access Media.

Related, there’s a report out this week from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Lifting the Cap.

This report tells us about the dramatic surge in jobs that  Pennsylvania could achieve by lifting its artificial cap on energy efficiency investment by the utilities. Under current law, that cap acts as an arbitrary barrier to energy savings and the associated economic benefits. ACEEE evaluated the economic impacts of a scenario unconstrained by an investment cap. And they found that this could create more than 30,000 jobs, a 50% increase.

The good news is that bills are pending in both chambers of Pennsylvania’s legislature that would remove the investment cap and create energy efficiency jobs. Now’s when we ask that you… Engage with your Elected Reps

The Senate bill, SB 232 was introduced by Senators Killion, Laughlin, and Kearney and 11 others. The corresponding House bill, HB 193 was introduced by Representative Quinn and 6 others.  We need to contact our legislators and urge them to co-sponsor SB 232 or HB 193 today!

This is Philly Talks Climate, Fridays at noon on PhillyCAM’s WPPM. Afterwards at phillytalksclimate.wordpress.com.

Where do you connect with others concerned about the climate crisis?  This weekend of April 5th thru the 7th, consider checking out the 2019 Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival. The film festival will be at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street in Center City. For details, lookup Phila Enviro Film Fest dot org.

Thanks for listening to Philly Talks Climate with Meenal & Tanya!

Intro song is Make our Planet Great Again, by KB. Closing song is Carbon Man by the Beatles. 


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