Posted in clean renewable energy, decarbonization, electrify everything, EV, goals, policy, solutions, transport

Testimony on 10/2/19

Below is my testimony on 10/2/2019 at a meeting of PHL Council’s Environment Committee. Video available here.


Hello! I’m Meenal Raval, an active member of Philly’s Ready for 100! I also write an Energy column for GRID magazine and produce a weekly radio show Philly Talks Climate.

Today is October 2nd. Mahatma Gandhi was born 150 years ago today. Gandhi is known for satyagraha — sticking to the truth, and ahimsa — non-violence toward all living things. In the US, ahimsa, or non-violence has been used by many activists. I’d like to expand non-violence to the climate movement, to saving the ecosystem we all call home.

In light of this, I support bill 190600, also known as the building energy performance policy. Regularly checking on thermostats, motion sensors, HVAC systems and more could save the owners money, use less energy & water, and reduce emissions. They also make the space more comfortable. How many times have you complained about an auditorium, a library or an office space being too warm or too cold?

In reading this bill, it seems our Office of Sustainability would be reviewing the energy usage of 2000 or more large buildings. If you want this bill to succeed, this office may require additional staffing.

I’d like to remind this committee that the building energy performance policy is but one component of our bigger ask — to transition our entire city to renewable energy as soon as possible, that all of Council voted upon last week — bill 190728, AKA the Ready for 100 resolution.

A recent report titled Halfway There, shows how the US can reduce emissions by 50% by just being smart — by focusing on energy efficiency. We’ll be looking at the policy suggestions on this report, and plan to have a list ready for when this committee meets next with a new chair.

A hint of what those could be are…

Zero energy buildings could reduce emissions by 11%. This is for new buildings, whether residential or commercial, which can be built so that they don’t need much energy. How? Make ‘em tight, make ‘em electric, and what little energy they need would be electricity from rooftop solar panels. Policy-wise, this translates to all new construction being electric only, with no gas hookups and of course, rooftop solar.

Building improvements account for about 14% emissions reduction — whether tuneups like being discussed today, or smart buildings, or heating with electricity instead of gas.

About 30% emissions reduction can be had by encouraging more fuel efficient cars. The most fuel efficient cars are, of course — electric cars. Policy-wise, this means massive buildout of public EV charging stations at under-utilized parking lots — churches, schools, and of course, grocery stores and hospitals. Yesterday’s article in the Inquirer, with me showing off my electric car, was a start towards this policy.

We could have 16% emissions reductions by reducing our vehicle miles traveled and flying less. This means encouraging walking, cycling, using SEPTA, and… tele-commuting! It also calls for being smart about how we move our stuff around.

As we loop in other groups, we’re hearing that we need to move faster on this timeline.

So, though we’ve agreed on 2030, 2035, and 2050 as milestones, when we put our ear to the ground, we hear that we’ll need to move fast, with much sooner milestones, like 2030 — to do away with all emissions, and power only with clean renewable energy sources.

Are you ready? We sure are Ready for 100% !!

In closing, I’d like to thank Council and the entire behind the scene team, for running with us, for getting the Ready for 100 resolution introduced & passed in Council. I look forward to working with you all come January!


Wed Oct 2, 2019, Sierra Club press release: Philadelphia Commits to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy

 

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Posted in clean renewable energy, decarbonization, geothermal, no fossil fuels, Refinery Advisory Group

How about a hemp-based regenerative industry?

On August 6th, 2019, I spoke at the 1st public meeting of the Refinery Advisory Group setup by the City of Philadelphia after a fire in June. That testimony has been shared to the refinery@phila.gov address, and can be found here… About that refinery that just closed

Since then, I realized that the myco-remediation, district geothermal and a solar farm would provide one-time jobs; first for remediation then for the two types of clean energy projects.

Some people in the community suggested we come up with a forestry-based regenerative industry. Later, someone else suggested using hemp for soil remediation. Some quick research helped me connect the two suggestions. 

Hemp is an annual crop, requiring planting, care and harvest each year. 

A fast growing plant, reaching 10-12 feet within one season, the planting would provide 2 services: absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and lift up heavy metals from the soil. 

Once harvested, the woody stalks could be the basis for local production of building materials like insulation and hemp-crete, a concrete substitute. Both needed in our urban region, and likely to foster local manufacturing. 

Over time, as the soil gets cleaner, and we increase the acreage planted, the same woody stalks could be the basis for local textile production — for rope, canvas, even clothing. 

When the soil is clean enough, safe enough, we could consider planting for food & body care products — hemp seed, hemp oil, CBD-products. 

Of course, we should still plan for some geothermal and solar farms, allow for some marshland and wildlife preserve, and certainly, public access to the riverfront.

We have found this article about a town in Italy using hemp to decontaminate their land.

My understanding is that the Rodale Institute has a team researching hemp for industrial applications. How can we develop this idea together? I’m certain we can get public buy-in. 


Posted in clean renewable energy, electrify everything, home heating, no fossil fuels, Refinery Advisory Group, transport

It’s time to rethink what’s possible…

On June 21, 2019 the PES refinery in South Philly had an explosion and fire. This incident has received much media coverage. We covered it on a radio episode of Philly Talks Climate on June 28, 2019, see Pay up, PES! …and please clean up on your way out.

On August 21, 2019, at the third public meeting of our City’s Refinery Advisory Group, notably the labor sub-committee, I was moved to speak briefly, something like this…


Hello! My name is Meenal Raval. 

I’ve gotten laid off in the past. And remember how it felt to have the rug pulled out from beneath me. So I feel for you all here today. 

Tonight, I’ve heard people say that we need heating oil. That we need gasoline. 

I say we don’t. 

I drive an electric car. Heat my home with electric. And have my row home roof packed with solar panels, powering all this. 

I’m living proof we don’t need fossil fuels. 

It’s time to rethink what’s possible. 

Posted in clean renewable energy, geothermal, Refinery Advisory Group, remediation, solar

About that refinery that just closed…

On June 21, 2019 the PES refinery in South Philly had an explosion and fire. This incident has received much media coverage. We covered it on a radio episode of Philly Talks Climate on June 28, 2019, see Pay up, PES! …and please clean up on your way out.

On August 6, 2019, at the first public meeting of our City’s Refinery Advisory Group, this is the picture I painted…


Hello, my name is Meenal Raval. I live in Mt Airy, about 10 miles north of here. 

We’re thankful there were no casualties from the 6/21 incident at the refinery. We’re also thankful this refinery has closed. We need to ensure that it remains closed. And focus on the task at hand — to reclaim the land for other applications, ones that don’t involve fossil fuels, in line with our City’s climate action goals. Because we all have a Right to Breathe!

Remembering our City’s Zero Waste by 2035 goal, and knowing there’s no “away” to take the contaminated soil to, we need to clean the soil in place. 

When we look at flood maps, for instance choices.climatecentral.com, most of the refinery land could be submerged given the rate and direction we’re headed with the climate crisis. We recommend cleaning it up as best as we can before this happens, to recreate the marshland and green space we’ve lost where the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers meet. Most people would not hesitate to support a complete Schuylkill River Trail.

How? In one word — myco-remediation, or remediating using the mycelium network of mushrooms. Myco-remediation works in two ways — pulling up elementals and breaking down compounds.

Elementals like lead are pulled up and into the mushroom fruit, which can be harvested, dehydrated and incinerated, with the resultant ash treated as hazardous waste.

Compounds (like petro-chemicals formed from hydro-carbons) actually feed the mycelium, which break the hydro-carbons down into innocuous elements like hydrogen, carbon and oxygen and help the mushroom fruit thrive! If no heavy metals are found in the soil, the mushrooms from a petro-chemical site can be harvested and added to the compost pile, for future soil enhancement.

Our understanding is that multiple crops and harvests can pull up the heavy metals, break down the hydro-carbons, and leave us with living, fertile soil. I was told that about 3 growing cycles, all of which could take place in just one year, would be enough to remediate the soil. I’ve also learned that myco-remediation is best done with mycelium from spent substrate from a mushroom farm! And.. that myco-remediation is cheaper than any other form of remediation. 

Most people I’ve spoken with suggest some form of renewable energy at this site, such as geothermal fields and solar farms. After soil reclamation, I sense that a pollinator friendly solar farm would be very popular, allowing for local food production in this area also. 

With our region being the mushroom capital of the US, this could be a great Philadelphia story — land reclamation, green space, clean energy and local food. These are the type of jobs people would clamor over. 

Thank you!! 


Some easy reading references on myco-remediation

 

Posted in clean renewable energy, decarbonization, electrify everything, energy efficiency, pipelines, water heating

Getting into hot water

As we gutted a Philadelphia row home, we also planned for it to become a frack-free house. This translates to: No gas appliances delivering fracked gas from Western Pennsylvania into our home. Everything that once used gas would be replaced with electric options.

So far, we’ve happily removed the gas oven / range and the associated gas pipes out of the kitchen. For cooking, we’ve picked out an electric stove. And already own other electric appliances to supplement this: toaster oven, microwave, induction cooktop and crockpot.

But hot water? As with most homes in our city, ours had a tank of hot water, kept piping hot using the fracked gas pipeline coming right into our basement. It didn’t make sense to have gallons of hot water waiting for us, night and day. As I explained to my nephew, it’s like having a tea kettle ready 24 hours a day, for whenever we might want our 2 cups of tea.

So we began looking at on-demand hot water systems, also known as tankless hot water systems. There are gas models available, but of course, we only considered the electric models. All tankless models are certainly more efficient since there’s no energy loss during storage, but the recurring question seemed to be…

Could the on-demand water heater keep up with our demand?

We learned that the average ground water temperature in Pennsylvania ranges between 45 and 50 degrees F. And that we like our showers at 112 degrees F in the winter, cooler in the summer. This means the water needed to be heated 67 degrees (112 – 45).

We also learned that 1 kW of electricity can raise the water temperature by 7 degrees F at a rate of 1 gallon per minute (gpm). This translates to needing 9.5 kW (67 /7) for a 1 gpm flow.

The average faucet flow is 2 gpm. The efficient shower head we’ve installed at every home we’ve been in for the past 30+ years has a flow of 1.5 gpm. We agreed that we both kept it at mid-flow, rarely at the full flow of 1.5 gpm. And so decided that our demand (in the shower stall) could be rounded down to 1 gpm.

The tankless system we decided on is the EcoSmart 11, suitable for 1 shower at a rate of 1.5 gpm for incoming water at 47 degrees F, ideal for our one bathroom apartment! We also agreed that we could coordinate sink and laundry use based on shower use. The shower use would take precedence.  If this proved inadequate, our alternate plan was to install a point-of-use model under the kitchen sink. The clothes washer we had selected could heat water on it’s own, if needed.

We’ve used this water heater daily for over 16 months and have no regrets. The installation is in the basement, just beneath the bathroom, about the shortest run for the hot water.

How much electricity used during a shower?

We concurred that most of our showers lasted about 10 minutes, or 0.16 hour (10/60).

Per the specs, the tankless system we decided on was rated for 54A and 220 V, or 11,880 W (54 x 220).

For the 10 minute shower, the electricity used would be 2 kWh (11,880 W x 0.16 hour / 1000), about 26 cents at our current utility rate.

The newer packaging now has a yellow EnergyGuide sticker, showing that it uses about 622 kWh annually. I’m reminded of the electric water heater at another house we lived in. It had a 40 gallon tank and used about 4700 kWh annually, over 7 times as much! Talk about an efficient way to get into hot water, with more space in the basement…


Other posts about living fossil free!

Posted in no fossil fuels, no gas plants

Brief Speech at 7/2/19 rally outside SEPTA’s Midvale bus depot

Though I couldn’t make it, the below was read by Lynn Robinson of Neighbors Against the Gas Plants.


Hello, and good evening!  My name is Meenal Raval.

Though a smallish gas plant, the project we’re resisting is, from an engineering perspective, ideally situated by Wayne Junction. Most people we knew thought nothing of this project when we first learned of it — back in October of 2015.

A team of two (Mitch Chanin and Meenal Raval) researched this over the winter, and by early spring of 2016, we’d begun our monthly attendance at the SEPTA Board meetings, each time questioning this project.

This led to organizing public meetings and looping in many groups in our region — schools, faith groups, environmental groups, neighborhood groups — you’ve all come to the many meetings and hearings questioning and resisting this project. So, thank you all.

We know this plant isn’t needed. That it’s bad for the climate crisis. That it’s bad for public health. And lastly, that it’s a bad financial move. So why has SEPTA dug in their heels and worked to push this project along?

It could be ego, yes. It could also be the gas industry pushing an unwanted, unneeded and addictive substance. Because once a transit agency is dependent on their fracked project, they have a long-term customer — no matter the future cost. A future cost that each of us will be paying — whether as increased fares, increased taxes, or worsened health.

We’ve done our best resisting this project. We expect the L&I Review Board to remember their obligation to consider us, the public interest, when they deliberate on this unnecessary project.

Thank you…

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, solar

Testimony at Environment Committee in support of a Solar Incentive Bill

On Tuesday June 11, 2019, bill 190378 to establish a Solar Panel Incentive Program was  discussed at Committee on the Environment.

Current members of this Committee — Reynolds-Brown, Bass, Blackwell, Gym, Taubenberger, Green, Parker

Prior to this hearing, there was this related post on the Philadelphia Energy Authority site: Councilwoman Reynolds Brown Introduces Legislation to Establish a Solar Rebate Program for the City of Philadelphia.

Many people spoke, all in support of this bill, notably: Christine Knapp, Laura Rigell, Spencer Wright, Joseph Kiss, Juan Sanabria, Laila Riley, Edward Robinson, Matt Walker, Mitch Chanin, Meenal Raval.

Many also wrote letters of support, notably: Chris Spahr, Dan Dillon, Barry Moore, Frank Foley, Samuel Park, Mark Bortman, Micah Gold-Markel, Douglas Davis, Julia Hillengas.

Below is my testimony.


Hello, My name is Meenal Raval. I’m a resident of Mt Airy and am active with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 team. I’m here today to speak on bill# 190378, to establish a solar panel incentive program.

We need a rapid transition to renewable energy, so of course we support this bill. A bill that would offer residents a 20c per watt rebate for rooftop solar projects installed for the next 6 years. The bill would also offer a 10c per watt rebate for commercial rooftop solar projects installed within the same time frame.

What is unclear is how this rebate program will be funded. While we wondered where we were getting the $2.5 million — we hear that it’s already cut to 1/5th the fund! Why are we limiting this program before it’s seen the light of day?

In addition to a rebate incentivizing rooftop solar, we would like to have a comprehensive conversation about something we’ve asked this Committee for months — the Ready for 100 resolution.

A resolution with the goal of transitioning all of Philadelphia’s energy uses, both public and private, to 100% clean and renewable electricity by 2035, and to 100% clean and renewable heating and transportation by 2050.

Adopting such a resolution, with an agreed upon time frame, would lead to an action plan and help put things like today’s bill in the context of a larger plan. We have a draft copy of an Action Plan to offer this Committee.  An Action Plan would help prioritize, even triage, our work ahead, so we could focus on reducing the most emissions, and improving air quality for the most people.

A Ready For 100 resolution would put the Citywide Energy Vision and the Municipal Energy Master Plan developed by the Office of Sustainability; Council’s pledge to uphold the Paris Accord plus the 70 megawatt solar project in Adams County — yup, all of these — in the context of an aggressive, but achievable, goal.

A Ready for 100 resolution would, of course, have to include education – what each resident and business could do to shift their energy needs.

Adopting this resolution would provide an important guiding principle for all future decisions about the energy we use, how we invest City funds, which projects to choose, and where necessary — find new solutions.

A Ready for 100 resolution would also require that we review and revise our policies in light of this resolution and action plan. For example… If new vehicles are being considered, this resolution would remind us that they need to be zero emission vehicles. If roofs are being replaced, this resolution would remind us that we need to consider the viability of rooftop solar – for both public and private projects. If a road is being repaved, this resolution would require that we consider pedestrian and cyclist use for this same roadway.  If we’re buying leaf blowers and street sweeping trucks, this resolution would have us consider low-carbon options such as investing in people and brooms.

This bill offering a rebate to those installing rooftop solar is one we support whole heartedly.

When we consider the climate crisis in every decision we make, when we consider future generations in every decision we make, it becomes obvious that we can no longer encourage new fossil-fuel projects that have recently been the focus of our climate action – the SEPTA gas power plant, the PGW LNG facility and the soon to be voted on trash & recycling program that would continue to incinerate our trash.

The Ready for 100 resolution has been adopted by cities and towns across the US, including Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Orlando, LA and 18 townships in the Philadelphia suburbs. The Ready for 100 resolution is is very much needed for Philadelphia.


Posted in electric stoves, electrify everything, no fossil fuels, transition

Testimony at May 2, 2019 session of City Council

Two Philadelphians—Joe Cox and Meenal Raval—spoke this week against our own municipal utility’s desires to extend their customer base for fracked gas by developing an LNG facility. You can learn more at 350philly.org/NoLNG.

Watch, and/or read testimony below.


Joe Cox, candidate for City Council At Large

Watch Joe at 1:00

 


Watch Meenal at 1:01

Good morning! I’m Meenal Raval.  And I’m here today to speak on 3 items: 170706, 181063, and 181081 – all about the climate crisis and our dependance on fracked gas. I’m aware that only the 2nd one, bill 181063, is on the agenda today.

The first item, resolution 170706 is from September 2017. I bring it up to remind ourselves that it commits the City of Philadelphia to meet or exceed our share of the targets set by the Paris Climate Accord to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Sponsors were many of you here today: Councilmembers Cindy Bass, Derek Green, Kenyatta Johnson, Helen Gym, Curtis Jones, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Bobby Henon, Jannie Blackwell and David Oh.

The emissions from PGW are about 22% of Philadelphia’s emissions. What’s been done to reduce these emissions…in light of our commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, back in September of 2017?

I’m also here to speak on bill 181063, that you’ve heard me speak on before. It’s about the LNG facility proposed by PGW.

Lastly, there’s resolution 181081. Many testified on this last week, discussing the future of PGW beyond selling more fracked gas.

All three of these connected in my head when I read yesterday’s New York Times article titled – Your Gas Stove Is Bad for You and the Planet. It says… to help solve the climate crisis, we need to electrify everything.

This article is highly recommended reading for each of you. Some quotes from it…

In Berkeley, Councilwoman Kate Harrison is proposing a ban on gas hookups in new buildings, part of an effort to make sure the city follows through on its 2018 declaration of a “climate emergency.”

A policy idea for us! Another quote…

Stoves actually use very little energy, but until people are convinced there are superior alternatives to gas stoves, we will not be able to get rid of gas lines to buildings — and start saving large amounts of money by shutting down the gas distribution system.

This article also says that…

gas stoves are polluting our homes. Over the past decade, a growing body of scientific evidence has shown that gas stoves throw off pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. When you are cooking, those invisible pollutants can easily reach levels that would be illegal outdoors, but the Clean Air Act does not reach inside the home.

and

Scientists link gas stoves to asthma attacks and hospitalizations. In 2008, Johns Hopkins scientists urged doctors to advise parents of asthmatic children to get rid of their gas stoves or at least install powerful exhaust hoods. Asthma is a rampant, discriminatory disease, hitting children and communities of color the hardest.

So, I’m here today asking all of you to step up. To remember the Paris Climate Accord and each of your pledges to work towards it. I’m asking each of you to be our climate champion this coming election, and leave us a memorable legacy. There are many of us, ready to to work with you on the transition. Who will it be?

Will it be you…Ms Bass? Mr Green? Mr Johnson?

Or you… Ms Gym? Mr Jones? Ms Reynolds Brown?

Perhaps you… Mr Henon? Ms Blackwell? Or you? Mr Oh?


Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels

Testimony at April 11, 2019 session of City Council

One lone person spoke this week against our own municipal utility’s desires to extend their customer base for fracked gas by developing an LNG facility. You can learn more at 350philly.org/NoLNG.

Watch, and/or ready testimony offered by Meenal Raval.


Watch Meenal at 1:37

Hello. My name is Meenal Raval. Here today speaking on bill number 181063, known as PGW’s public private partnership for an LNG project.

I’m here to remind you that many many groups are still opposed to this project. We remain opposed to this project from a public health perspective — people unable to breathe the air in their neighborhoods, air fouled by fossil fuel emissions. We also remain opposed to this project from a climate perspective — that physics demands that we must not invest in any new fossil fuel projects. We remain opposed to this project from a financial perspective as well. It does not appear that we will be making as much money as advertised.

Just a reminder that this project is not needed to heat our homes. This project is NOT needed.

We therefore recommend that we cancel this project, and ask that each of you vote No on bill number 181063.

I ask that we focus all our energy on transitioning PGW to a more sustainable entity — one that does not require it to sell more and more gas to remain viable.

I also want to share with Councilmember Reynolds Brown that Chicago passed a Ready for 100 resolution. What is keeping you from introducing a similar resolution for Philadelphia? When can we meet with you about this?

Thank you!


 

Posted in no fossil fuels

Testimony at April 4, 2019 session of City Council

Two people spoke this week against our own municipal utility’s desires to extend their customer base for fracked gas by developing an LNG facility. You can learn more at 350philly.org/NoLNG.

First up, candidate Joe Cox, running for City Council At Large.

Watch Joe Cox at 1:30

Next, Meenal Raval

 

Watch Meenal at 1:40

 

Hello, my name is Meenal Raval.

I’m here today in opposition to bill number 181063, PGW’s proposed LNG facility. You may have noticed that I’ve been here each week speaking, or supporting someone speaking, against this bill. Last week, you heard from Abby Leedy, the student from Central High, and also with the global School Strike for Climate. Some of the students from that strike are here today, from Friends Select School.

I ask you — When are you going to acknowledge the elephant in the room? I’m talking about the climate crisis. The crisis that’s affecting our air and water quality. The crisis that’s affecting the most poor, the black and the brown in each community. The crisis that demands that we stop planning new fossil fuel projects.

I also know that most of you are up for re-election. We could support you so much whole-heartedly if you showed an initiative, even some interest, in solving the climate crisis.

Some new at large candidates, such as Adrian Rivera-Reyes, give us hope. Did you read his op-ed in Philly Voice?

But how, you ask? How can you lead on climate? We’ve developed a climate action platform that my colleague Tanya Seaman has shared with each of you. You could use this document for starters. Missed that email? Please see me afterwards.

You could also review the testimony offered by the public at the November 29, 2018 hearing organized by the Committee of the Environment. There are quite a few good ideas there.

Also, for starters, you could publicly state that you’re against this project and that you plan to vote NO on bill # 181063.

Since we’re given only 3 minutes to speak here, we’ve taken to the airwaves, by producing our own radio show — Philly Talks Climate. Last week we talked about other US cities making commitments to renewable energy. This week, we’ll talk about using less energy overall, and the jobs potential from this.

You can hear us on Fridays at noon on PhillyCAM’s WPPM 106.5 FM. And you can find details at phillytalksclimate.wordpress.com.

We need your leadership. Who wants to work with us? Come be our hero!