Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Turning Point

The need to save energy is a notion that everyone seems to agree is of great importance these days. Whether you're short, tall, wealthy, poor, liberal, conservative, pink, green, or purple - the idea that you might be burning up dollars for no reason strikes a common nerve.

That's why it's comforting to know that professional guidance for the "power to save" has come to the greater Philadelphia region in the form of EnergyWorks, a comprehensive energy solutions program for home and commercial or industrial building owners. EnergyWorks experts help owners find ways to reduce their building’s energy use, and EnergyWorks’ low-interest loans help them pay for the upgrade.

At Energywise PA, a site sponsored by the new Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance, Deputy Philadelphia Mayor Alan Greenberger describes the program as follows:

"Energy Works pays to send auditors to a home or business to pinpoint specific changes that can save energy and money. I have a big house in Mount Airy and, even though I'm an architect, I can actually think of 10 things to do, but I don't know which one is the most bang for the buck."

Many homeowners can get a $400 energy audit and only pay $100 for it. Likewise, low-interest loans are available for improvements. The $25 million program is available in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.

An auditor views a home systems model at the ECA training center.

Last month Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Campus Apartments CEO David Adelman announced the first full commercial application of EnergyWorks in the launching of an impressive $50 million hotel project in Philadelphia's University City community.

A press release by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation quotes the Mayor as saying "The city was able to pull levers in a difficult economic climate to obtain financing and make this project happen. By making a smart economic and environmental investment in Philadelphia, this project will bring new, quality jobs for our citizens and a brand-new, environmentally-friendly hotel for visitors. It’s a win for everyone involved.” 

The project will be the largest of its kind to utilize EnergyWorks trained contractors, an aspect that helps guarantee the investment will be fostered by an energy efficient, green-building methodology. That way, the return on the city's dollar is less likely to simply go up the chimney, literally.

A flamingo-like wind farm in the UK.
In essence, we seem to be at a real turning point in the building trades and with our society in general regarding issues of energy conservation. Notions of saving the environment and saving money have begun to merge at a mainstream level; they are seen as one and the same.

For Energy Coordinating Agency director Liz Robinson, the two were never far apart. Her 26 year old organization sprouted from the need for a local community resource to help mitigate issues related to some of the less attuned policies of utility companies and their often unhindered rate hikes.  

Describing the ECA's beginnings in an interview with Home Science, Ms. Robinson said "There was a necessity for community outreach and a comprehensive approach to solving energy solutions, and to get utility companies engaged in those solutions." 

Some of those solutions are evidenced by the initiation of utility caps at the end of the 1990's, and the current transformation of the utility marketplace through deregulation and a more open market. But most notably it's seen in the growing commitment to energy conservation through various sectors of the local economy.

With the evolving possibility of a genuine democratization of energy resources, Ms. Robinson emphasized the importance of "helping to elevate the energy literacy" of both energy consumers and contractors. "In the past," she said, "utility companies made it easy - the public hasn't had to understand everything. Now with more choices at hand, there is a great need for education on the issues for consumers as well as training and other resources for contractors involved in programs such as EnergyWorks."

A Delaware River "family" seeks a clean energy future.

Throughout the past decades, the ECA has been through many stages of this transformation, and deservedly, it now seems to be a lynch-pin for the vast array of these new exciting initiatives.--D.A DeMers.

For more information on the EnergyWorks program visit the ECA's links at Other resources on the web can be found at
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