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.


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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 clean renewable energy, climate, decarbonization, electrify everything, no fossil fuels, solutions, transit

Understanding the climate crisis — with Al Gore

Late last August, I traveled to Los Angeles for a 3 day training with The Climate Reality Project. Many may not have heard of this non-profit anchored by Vice-President Al Gore. The training is free, but one needs to apply and get accepted to participate. We are also expected to pay for our travel and lodging expenses. 

la-training
Climate Reality Training, Los Angeles, August 2019. Photo credit: Meenal Raval

We were told this was the largest Climate Reality training to date, with over 2,200 people from all over the world. About 25% came from Southern California, another 25% came from the State of California, the remaining 49 states brought in 25%. The rest were from outside the US. Tweets from the training have the hashtag #LeadOnClimate. An example: 

  • 25% from LA, 25% from CA, 25% from rest of US, 25% from rest of world, all 2000 trainees ready to #LeadOnClimate

We were grouped by geographic proximity so I mostly interacted with people from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I ran into people I already knew plus some new ones, notably Tim Mahony (a science professor at Millersville University), Shweta Arya (an environmental educator from Delaware County), Dave Walbert (a grad student at Drexel) and Ankit Agarwal (a Center City Philadelphia resident). 

The 3 days with Mr Gore was interspersed with many notables, some very new to me.

There was Amanda Gorman, a young poet laureate, who was amazing. Her poem Earthrise brought us all to tears, find her @amandascgorman, see some quotes below. 

So I tell you this not to scare you,
But to prepare you, to dare you
To dream a different reality

And while this is a training,
in sustaining the future of our planet,
There is no rehearsal. The time is
Now
Now
Now,
Because the reversal of harm,
And protection of a future so universal
Should be anything but controversial.

So, earth, pale blue dot
We will fail you not.

Because an environmental movement of this size
Is simply another form of an earthrise.


Mr Gore led a question and answer session about “The Climate Crisis & It’s Solutions” with Dr Veerabhadran Ramanathan. Some tidbits from that session:

  • The climate crisis is inter-generational, thus the realm of religion and morals. It’s something he can’t bring to scientific discussions
  • He sees the cliff, and the shift in colleagues, all wanting to talk about shifting to solutions – working with 25 university collaboration – with demo projects – then bringing in community partners – He’s got no pushback when presenting because all scientists concur that this is an existential threat. This phrase was repeated by many of the presenters.
  • no massive public support
  • most important message from Dr Ramafor the climate crisis: It’s happening now, there’s an urgency, and we know how to solve it
  • Foreign Affairs magazine article referenced here
    • The climate crisis will affect the rich as much as the poor
    • The climate crisis will get worse if we do nothing
    • He is one of the advisors to the Vatican, which included best health experts
    • He doesn’t see how CA ag could survive 30 years out
    • Future generations don’t deserve what we’re doing to them
    • Referred to a climate solutions course at undergrad level, for all UC students – then at community college, to replicate across US, and also at K-12 level, working with DiCaprio Fdn, to build environmental literacy.
    • This 73 year old man says… we won’t solve this in his lifetime, but wants to leave by offering solutions to those in their 20s
    • The climate crisis is a human tragedy
    • Sees 2 degree warming in 7-8 years due to oceans warming
    • Reduced oxygen in oceans – due to GHG absorption, also fertilizer runoff – causing dead zone – sustainable ag imp to protect oceans
    • transpo sector has BIGGEST emissions
    • 40% of food thrown away – bio-digestor – regenerative ag to sequester more carbon in soil (also plants) – put a price, reward farmers – upcoming soil carbon conference in TN
    • V. Ramanathan shares $1.33M sustainable development prize with fellow climate science pioneer
  • black carbon from diesel – more potent than CO2 – the panel discussion on transportation repeated this message; see below. Must stop diesel combustion, esp in urban areas.
  • We must take CO2 out of the air

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Mr Gore for a discussion on “Inspiring Global Action thru Local Leadership”. 

  • how to lobby our mayor? – quote from movie ‘lost city of Z’ on Amazon – “reach should always be greater than grasp” – beyond what we think is possible – confront the reality
  • ask 4 questions of  local leaders
    • How do you and stuff get around? how do consumables get to you?
    • How do you stay comfortable? physical built environment? heat, cool and power buildings
    • How do you turn on the lights? What is the source of electricity? Then push people like him to get it done.
  • And then:
    • Be ready: Know your stuff better than people sitting with;
    • Be specific – green building ordinance;
    • Be flexible – get victory, bang it, and move forward. Learn to tie victories, one at a time
    • Be inclusive – desegregate, all engaged, labor, women, hunting, too important to get divided
    • Be proactive – stop playing defense – the power that you hold – exercise it
  • Layout a plan, desegregate sustainability – each of the 37 departments he manages, all have a sustainability component – eg police dept reports on reduced crime, as well as reduced paper usage
  • He has a 100 page plan – read it – replicate it – I think this is THE PLAN that he’s referring to. 
  • LA reduced emissions 11% in a year
  • Brother is Mayor of nearby Long Beach, a major port. Their emissions reduction at the ports is 5 years ahead of schedule – clean air standards
  • Mayor Garcetti co-founded Climate Mayors w Houston & Philadelphia Mayors when Trump pulled out of Paris, which brought in 100 cities, now 400 cities. If he’s out, we’re in!
  • Global network of Mayors – C40 – the mega cities – playbook includes bus electrification – local communities setting agenda for big countries!
  • Cannot be paralyzed by magnitude we face – we’re in the post NOW era – the post carbon era is now – the post ICE (internal combustion engine) is now – picture this – will realize the power we have – truth wins out
  • I wish I were a mirror – so you could see what I see – your power – we’re the writers of history – let us make history together! Really revved us up!! (and I rarely use double exclamation points)

Though we were excited, energized and exhausted, Mr Gore kept going. Next up was a conversation with Hal Harvey on “Getting Real about Rapid Decarbonization”. This is Hal Harvey of energyinnovation.org – has an upcoming book  – see Climate: How to Win – spoke of the 4 zeros for rapid decarbonization: 

  • Zero-carbon grid
  • Zero-emission vehicles
  • Zero-net energy buildings
  • Zero-waste manufacturing

Zero-carbon grid – electric utilities are biggest emitters on planet – 80% of our problem is from energy sys – solar and wind cheaper than operating capital of plant – who chooses whether we get brown or green electricity? small number of policies and small number of people – In the US, the PUC decides – 50 states x 5 commissioners = 250 people. If we exclude smaller states, and 3-2 vote is enough, only need to convince 90 people. We were promised an analysis of all 50 PUCs so we could pressure ours. Was told Advanced Energy Economy has research on each PUC, that we need to work with multi local corps (versus multi—national corps) – to show util how to make money, and they’ll come along – 2/3 of all wind and solar in US is in red states – TX, WY, IA – story about NV flipped PUC

Zero-carbon vehicles – zero grid enables others – Americans keep cars for 14 years – keep pressure on both clean cars and EVs

Zero-net energy buildings – Santa Monica zoning – insulated well, almost zero – CA has best building code – CA split to 16 weather zones – if tech pays for itself within 7 years, it’s in the code – written by Governor Brown in 1978. We expect seat belts to work, we expect air bags to work, why don’t we expect buildings to work? utils don’t make money selling electricity – they make money building power plants, then passing the cost to base rates – change incentive – performance based regulation – people want affordable, safe, reliable, clean electricity – give util 5 years, thy’ll get…?

Zero-waste manufacturing – China 70% of emissions from industry – substitute design for material – example of 3D printing to reduce concrete used in new construction – lets unleash our minds – hi value jobs – rethinking materials – SOlivia – carbon? DOE 90% of budget for nuclear – list 5 to 10 most energy intensive industries – study them – circular economy – bottle bill on steroids – manufacturer buy back

Mr Harvey’s advice? Be precise when we speak; we can’t afford to be fuzzy. He ended with a sermon on our levels of consumption. The we need to triage – ethos, pathos, logos – the ethics, the stories, the logic. 

There was a California specific discussion titled “California’s Roadmap for Climate Leadership“. Again, with Mr Gore moderating.

  • Al Gore’s quotes from this session
    • We must electrify the transportation sector
    • 100% committed campaigns, re-educators (an organized effort) leads to advocacy
    • Kept asking – Must we? Can we? Will we change?
  • We learned of monthly coordination amongst the many agencies within California. A collaboration on people working on air quality, electricity generation, with the Community Choice Aggregation team working together with the Investor Owned Utility.

A discussion titled “Fighting for Healthy Communities” was led by groups local to Los Angeles. The PSR-LA (Physicians for Social Responsibility chapter in Los Angeles) team spoke of capturing vapor and VOC (volatile organic compounds) when tankers were unloaded. The California Environmental Justice Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment wanted to get 1 million EV’s on the road. They spoke of SB350, a bill to get to 50% renewables by 2040. They brought young people in yellow shirts, saying these urban youth were the canaries in our current coal mines — the drilling within the City of Los Angeles. Their demand – Stop Drilling Where We’re Living, and asked why their human rights were not valued. These groups together asked that the city’s land use policy must be tied to proximity to fossil fuel infrastructure.

Dr Ramanathan was brought back for a discussion on “The Climate Crisis & It’s Solution” with with Al Gore and Don Henry. Some notes:

  • We need to wake people up, and also give them hope. 
  • There’s been noisy denial. During the last 3 presidential campaigns, there was not one  question about the climate crisis.
  • We need to develop innovative partnerships
  • Mr Gore working in collaboration with William Barber.
  • Most effective messengers are us – willingness to shoulder the burden – topic complicated – communicate to neighbors – once we reveal what’s right and wrong – there’s the opportunity to do right – massive GOTV (get out the vote) effort. 
  • Legacy businesses want to extend their business  plans & manipulating the system, tamping down concerns. 
  • For climate justice, we need to move from transactional to transitional movement. I remember Judy Wicks saying much the same thing years ago when talking about building the local living economy. 
  • We need to be multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and cross religions
  • University of California intends to be carbon neutral in 10-15 years
  • Mr Gore spoke of the necessity for a Sustainable Revolution, one with the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution and the speed of the Digital Revolution.
  • An example of speed – Google has largest server farm in world; leading artificial intelligence company (Deep Mind’s Mustafa Saleyman) analyze and within 30 minutes had a recommendation for 40% electricity reduction; with a reiteration of the algorithm, they achieved a 56% reduction. Just with smarter management. Stories like this are our Call to Arms!
  • There was a question about CCS (carbon capture and sequestration), nuclear, and methane (also known as natural gas) in helping solve the climate crisis. The advice?
    • NO CCS – It’s expensive, 30% of current generation would be needed to run CCS.
    • NO nuclear – no engineering firm in US would even design a nuclear plant now.
    • NO methane –
      • It’s 86 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide over 20 years
      • 34 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide over 100 years
      • and has 50% less CO2 emissions than coal
      • It’s NOT our bridge to the  future

Since wildfires were raging throughout California last summer, Mr Gore brought local experts to talk about “Facing Reality: Firefighters on the Climate Frontlines“. Some notes:

  • Ken Pimlot, Director of CA Dept of Forestry & Fire Protection said
    • things are different now
      • they’ve never seen a fire last as long as 13 days.
      • 100,000 acre fire was rare, now common
      • They’re experiencing fires of 2700 degrees F!
      • They’re experiencing a year-round fire season, even in December with weeks and months of deployment, away from home. The life of firefighters is much like soldiers, facing greater risk than they ever stepped up for.
    • Asked us to talk to the politicians!
  • Martha Karsten of Chief Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade said
    • The whole state of CA is a tinderbox
    • Their fire station used to run 6 months, now 9 months
  • Ken Thompson, Former Deputy Fire Chief, New South Wale in Australia said
    • It’s exactly the same in Australia.
    • In Melbourne, 1st responders to fire – gonna be 1st responders to global warming!
    • new level of fire code: catastrophic
    • it really is a tinderbox out there
  • Each of them said – Name them – call out the politicians

On a session on “Clean Transportation: Moving Beyond Carbon”, Mr Gore led discussions with people from LA Clean Tech Incubator, CARB (the California Air Resources Board), Proterra and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

We learned from Ryan Popple of Proterra Buses that a diesel bus uses 10,000 gallons annually. This is our tax dollars.

The NRDC speaker shared that diesel accounts for more than 70% of  carcinogenic effect of emissions. That diesel for transportation is like coal for electricity generation. We need community based policy. There was a belief that consumers will do the right thing when given options. One out of 12 Americans live in Southern California. Don’t underestimate the purchasing power of a City or County. Not a dollar more for fossil fuels. 

In a discussion about the Paris agreement, there was an excited discussion about we are still in, even if President Trump has walked away.

Being in Los Angeles and proximity to Hollywood, there was a discussion about “Climate Crisis on camera” with Alan Horn. We learned that Alan is also on the NRDC board, with wife Cindy Horn on the Climate Reality board. This one couple paid for the venue for over 2200 people.

In closing, some take-away quotes from Mr Gore: 

  • Climate change is not a political issue, it’s a personal issue
  • “95% of time spent persuading people to do something when they damn well knew they should do it in their own self interest” – Al Gore quoting President Harry Truman
  • We’re an army of activists that won’t go away
  • Each month less than 1 American hears about climate change from a trusted source. We need to present to family, schools, civics
  • Policy doesn’t match public opinion – amplify voices of others
  • 65% population get urgent need to act on climate, yet the climate crisis doesn’t make list of top 10 issues in US. In Germany, the climate crisis is #1, terrorism is #2.
  • important to change light bulbs, more important to change the laws and policy
  • we’re working with 3 budgets
    • time budget – complete presentation in allotted time
    • complexity budget – don’t overtax people
    • hope budget – this is a problem from hell, leave the audience with hope
  • Politicians see uncertainly as an opportunity to delay.
  • CA decision by cities and towns to go 100% RE – things change when you make commitment – yeah!
  • Georgetown TX example – red state, mayor was CPA and numbers made sense  
  • Colorado State – student pressure
  • GDP up, population up, emissions down – Both CA and Sweden show that economy can be decoupled from fossil fuel emissions
  • In response to a question about energy storage other than Lithium Ion, there’s compressed gas storage, flywheels, flo batteries (?), and… 90% of storage in world is pumped hydro. 
  • Paris agreement agreed not only on voluntary targets, but also transparency on the info. Our governments are obligated to review and ratchet commitments. My translation – we can demand more transparency from PHL.
my-pin
Pin awarded to each person completing the Climate Reality training. Photo: Meenal Raval

The Climate Reality Project has focused on training presenters. In 2017, they tried forming chapters, many across the globe. Of note is that the Pittsburgh chapter has 500 members. And a Mayor who is on-board with the transition. The Southeastern PA chapter, which would include Philadelphia, is gearing up. 

See this post from another attendee: THREE MOVING MOMENTS FROM CLIMATE REALITY’S TRAINING IN LOS ANGELES.

I’m now a member of the Climate Reality Corps, able to give presentations on climate science, and able to customize for audience and geography.

 

Posted in clean renewable energy

A suburban oasis

Today I visited the home of Ed & Priscilla in Hatfield PA. As part of the national solar home tour, they showcased their brick ranch home built in 1960, modernized with solar hot water, solar electric, an electric car in the garage, and day lighting.

Years ago, Ed teamed up with Alan Rushforth and learned about the installation of large scale solar hot water systems. And about 8 years ago, he installed 2 solar hot water panels above their porch roof. The generated hot water is piped into a 400 gallon tank that he custom-made from his experience with Alan. This non-pressurized drain-back system needs no antifreeze because all the water drains back when the pump shuts off. The panels are US-made by Soleen.

 

Two years ago, Ed decided to install a rooftop solar electric system, also known as PV (photo-voltaic). The 16 panels, each rated for 345 Watts, results in a 5,520 Watt system, generating about 6,600 kWh, enough for this household.  The panels are Canadian-made by Silfab Solar; the inverter is a Sunny Boy 5000.

In the garage, they’ve got an electric car, a Nissan Leaf. They need never go to the gas station with it, since the car is powered by a rechargeable battery and electric motor. The amount of electric required to keep the car charged is covered by the amount generated by the solar panels. So one could say the car is powered by the homegrown electricity.

In the kitchen, they brought in more daylighting with Solatubes fitted into the roof.

Being avid gardeners, we also got to see their rain barrel, their vegetable garden, and their composting area. In addition, we were surprised to see their bee-keeping operation along the back fence, complete with fish pond providing water for the bees, and a pollinator garden supplying food for the bees. I returned home to savor some of their scrumptious honey.

 

 

Posted in banking, clean renewable energy, divest, no fossil fuels, pipelines, solar, transition

Marcellus Shale – A Blessing or a Curse?

Our state has been blessed, some say. Possibly cursed, say some others. I’m talking about the abundant gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale. Cursed because of issues during Extraction, Transportation & Consumption.

Extraction is also known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. When chemicals are forced into the ground, they contaminate the water table, affecting the well water of rural townships. As the gas is forced out & captured, there are leaks. Leaks that affect the local air quality and detrimental to the health & property values. The same methane leaks are an important contributor to climate change, worse even than carbon dioxide. 

Transportation of fracked gas is typically by pipelines. Pipelines that are known to leak or explode, with cleanup expenses left to the taxpayers. Rights for these pipelines, going thru wetlands, woodlands and private property, are gained via eminent domain in the name of public utility.  but are really for private gain by fossil fuel companies. Permit applications are shoddy, and fragmented construction begins in communities with the least resistance. Communities are not compensated for the devastation, nor the liability.

There are several pipeline developments, all headed to or through the greater Philadelphia area – the Mariner East 2 pipeline slated to carry fracked gas liquids from west to east, ending up in nearby Delaware County, and destined for export, to be made into plastic bags in Europe. How does this qualify the pipeline builders to claim in the courts that they’re a public utility? 

Then there’s the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline destined to travel north to south, going through farmland in Lancaster County. And the PennEast pipeline thru Bucks County into New Jersey. And smaller segments across the Delaware River (which supplies the drinking water for 15M people), and into the Pinelands in South Jersey.

gas burning from a kitchen gas stove

Which leads us to …Consumption. The pipeline going thru the Pinelands is headed to a gas power plant, where the fracked gas will be burned to generate electricity. Much like the SEPTA gas plant locally in Nicetown that 350 Philly and others are fighting. Advertised as clean burning at point of ignition, the industry ignores the devastation left in its wake. 

Once you realize that natural gas is the same as methane, and that methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide (86 times), you’ll agree, it’s no longer clean burning.

Who’s doing this extraction, transportation & building up the large scale demand for fracked gas? The same companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline:  

Sunoco Logistics, Williams Company, Energy Transfer Partners

Who’s funding these companies?

Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, Citizens Bank, HBSC Bank, TD Bank

And many of us thru our personal accounts, our investments and our retirement plans.

It’s time to #divest and #reinvest all of our funds into clean energy from #solar and #wind, and leave the Marcellus Shale reserves resting safely underground.


Initially presented at Indivisible NW Philly meeting on March 12 2017.

Posted in clean renewable energy, solar, solutions

We went solar – You can too!

Originally published on the Northwest Philly Solar Co-op site, here.

Months ago, we learned of DC SUN, a neighborhood solar co-op in Washington DC. Some of us met with Anya Schoolman, their founder, and decided to bring their model to our neighborhood of Northwest Philadelphia.
See this early video to understand how DC SUN helps neighbors negotiate with utilities, contractors and the government to get solar energy installed on residential rooftops.
Looks like the solar co-op can not only assist with bulk buying, i..e a volume discount from the installer, but other ways to help with the installation costs, such as…
  1. the DC Rebate program, basically a subsidy from utility funds, now called Affordable Solar
  2. the Federal tax credit for renewable energy
  3. option to sell the green value of clean energy, or SRECS (solar renewable energy credits), earning the household about $900 per year
  4. option to lease the system, where the household pays 1/3 less than the utility rate for 25 years.

If you or your organization is in the vicinity of Northwest Philadelphia, come join us!

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, solutions, transition

Solar in the Northwest

I’ve been hearing about solar panels since I was in high school, over 3 decades ago. But yesterday, as a member of the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, I interviewed a Mt Airy couple who have had solar panels on their roof for a year and a half now. Both were eager to talk about their experience.

They raved about their installers. Showed me their 2 electric meters; one for electricity coming from PECO and the second one added to track the electricity that their rooftop was pushing back onto the grid. bud-n-mollie-1

I asked where all their other equipment was that I’d read about: the inverters and batteries and such. And realized that when a solar installation is grid-tied (meaning not off-the-grid), it’s a lot less involved. All they had were the 13 panels on the roof, and the second meter. No other equipment on the porch or basement.

For 7 months of the year, I learned, this system produces in excess of the household’s consumption. During this time (April thru October), their bill is about $7 per month. The other 5 months, it triples to about $20 per month.

They have monitored their production and consumption via an online application, and once noticed a spike in their usage. Concerned that someone was tapping into their system, they drilled into the data and discovered usage during one month, in the wee hours of the night.  A month that coincided with a visit from their teenage granddaughter with all her electrical devices!

When asked why they invested in this solar installation, it was simply… Why, for the common good! Sitting on their serene back porch, I realized the beauty of this. There was no need to explain the horrifying effects of climate, nor of the immediacy of action required.

Weavers Way Co-op and The Shalom Center have teamed up to get solar-coop2more solar installed in Northwest Philadelphia, by forming the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, explained on the flyer here. We all benefit from increased reliance on renewable energy and it is important to develop community-based initiatives that increase its use.

Know that a solar photo-voltaic (PV) system generates clean electricity using a free energy source that will never run out and never go up in price. The fuel requires no mining, no drilling, no mountain-top removing and no transporting, doesn’t require burning or processing, and is never in danger of spilling, emitting, or polluting. In fact, the clean energy produced by your solar energy system emits no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and helps reduce global climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels and the volatile fossil fuel market. As with all manufacturing, there is some waste in that process.

When will solar become the norm, so that every Philly structure with the solar potential achieves this potential? To get to this tipping point, we’re sharing stories from people who already have solar installed at their home or workplace. Each installation will be summarized on a Solar Facts sticker, shown below, for easier comparison.

As you’ll see, the 30% Federal tax credit really made this investment affordable and economical. I remember when we got an estimate 11 years ago, a 2kW system was priced at $18,000. And there was no Federal or State incentive that we could apply for. That’s going from $9 per watt to $2.8 per watt!  With the industry scaling up, and government policies to support & encourage us all, this one example looks to be a third cheaper than what we were quoted.

solar facts

Want to join NPSC? Or simply share your story? Please contact NPSC via Barbara Bloomfield at (215) 247-9204 or barbbloomfield2 [at] aol.com.

What is it that’s keeping people from installing solar on their rooftop? Some of the responses we’re heard are:

  • We’re tenants.  Have your landlord contact NPSC.
  • We’re in a condo. Have your condo association contact NPSC.
  • We have plenty of sun, but are short on cash. The Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op is looking at financing, perhaps thru the Free Loan Association of Germantown (FLAG). Please contact NPSC.
  • We have too many trees and not enough sun. No solar potential. I hear you. Keep the trees. Maybe you’d like to lend through the Free Loan Association of Germantown for other solar installations.

The Earth needs YOU!

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, pipelines

Break Free actions in Philly

The week of actions around Break Free from fossil fuels began in Philly with the Right to Breathe mobilization on Saturday May 7th. If you missed it, you must see it storyboarded here, just to see the giant sunflowers and the hundreds of people who participated. A Huffington Post piece explains the action quite well. Our Right to Breathe action was also reported on by Democracy Now.

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Two days later, the People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force claimed eminent domain by forming a human pipeline at an industry conference. See the press release from this action, a video documenting this, and media coverage by Penn Live. Online, this action was seen by almost 10,000 people.

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To give you a bit of history… Having seen gas pipeline projects tear apart the Pennsylvania countryside, digging thru private property, oftentimes farmland and preserved green spaces, blatantly ignoring the protests of rural citizens, and all behind the shield of eminent domain, the People formed the People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force, and had disrupted the Governor’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force meeting in January, documented on this video. As you’ll see from the video, some People were arrested when they tried to state our perspective, and still need help paying for the ensuing fines & legal fees.

The People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force tactic of creating a human pipeline was used later in the week at another Break Free action in Washington DC.

Later, several members of the People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force joined up with friends at Earth Quaker Action Team for their action outside the PECO headquarters, which was reported on by the Metro and Newsworks.

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A report by the Guardian deems the Break Free protests against fossil fuel expansion were the largest ever global disobedience. I think we’re all heartened to be in the company of people on the side of truth.

Coming up next, a Town Hall Meeting on Oil Refinery Expansion. It’s on Thursday, May 19th at 7pm at Kingkessing Park4901 Kingsessing Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19143. For details and to join the online discussion, see this

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, pipelines, Uncategorized

Human Pipeline brings message to Gas Profiteers

I had a bit part in a direct action today. See news release and photo.


NEWS RELEASE
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Contact: EDGE Angela Vogel 206-579-9309 or Elizabeth Arnold 267-745-7041

HUMAN PIPELINE BRINGS MESSAGE TO GAS PROFITEERS:
WE DON’T WANT A FOSSIL FUEL FUTURE – RENEWABLE ENERGY NOW!

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Philadelphia – A group of Pennsylvania residents claimed eminent domain today for a right-of-way through the lobby of a Penn’s Landing hotel during two energy industry conferences. Using their own bodies and lengths of industrial tubing, they built their own pipeline to carry their message to industry and government officials who want to double down on investment in fossil fuels and fracking instead of shifting to  renewable energy sources.

The Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing is hosting two conferences this week: The Natural Gas for Power Generation (NGPG) Summit on the conversion of coal-fired electrical generation plants to gas, and the Association of Energy Services Professionals spring conference.

“Converting coal-fired plants to gas often really means building a new gas-fired plant. It’s another investment that justifies more fracking, more pipelines to Philadelphia and more pollution,” said Meenal Raval, a Mt. Airy business owner. “Using fracked gas for power causes a path of destruction from wells, pipelines, and compressor stations through thousands of communities.”

The chairman of the NGPG Summit is Michael Krancer, who served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and then returned to his partnership at Blank Rome, where he heads the law firm’s Energy, Petrochemical & Natural Resources Practice. Krancer is also a member of the Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team, a trade group that recently announced plans to seek public funding for a massive natural gas pipeline to Philadelphia.

“This is the revolving door in action,” said Angela Vogel of EDGE (Ending Dirty Gas Exploitation). “The same people go back and forth between government and industry, working together to keep profiting by poisoning us.”

On Monday an NGPG session called How to Overcome Environmentalist & Community Opposition and Accelerate the Approval Process included the topic “How to influence regulators and dominate the regulatory review and permitting process.” Tuesday morning featured pipeline proponent Philip Rinaldi, CEO of Philadelphia Energy Solu tions, whose refinery has suffered multiple fires in the past two years and produces two-thirds of the toxic air emissions from industrial sources in Philadelphia.

Built along two tidal rivers, Philadelphia is the city second-most at risk to power outages from climate-change-fueled storms. Members of the public who brought their message to the conferences say that reliance on fossil fuels undermines global efforts to slow climate change and locks the city and the state into decades of fossil fuel use while the rest of the world shifts to energy efficiency and renewables.

“Monday’s presenter on community opposition said, ‘Listen, listen, listen’ to what communities tell you. We are telling these industries that Philadelphia wants clean energy, not the fossil fuels that are making Philadelphia the asthma capital of the Northeast, poisoning our drinking water, scarring our state with pipelines, and destroying our planet,” said Elizabeth Arnold of EDGE (Encouraging Development of a Green Economy).

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Posted in clean renewable energy, climate, solutions

Uniting around our climate target

Last Thursday, a few of us met at a Quaker facilitated discussion on climate targets, specifically around the international Paris agreement last December, about getting our planetary temperature well below 1.5 degrees centigrade.1449778748021

The topic? Uniting around targets.

We represented research & policy folks from regional environmental non-profits plus grassroots & faith-based activists.

Professor Donald Brown of Widener Law School, and blogger at Ethics & Climate,  spoke about the need to set a carbon budget, asking us to keep in mind not just the business of reducing our carbon emissions, but to also maintain an ethical & moral perspective as we go forth.

We learned that this meant weaving in responsibility to future generations, equality for the current generations as well as the rights of developing nations.

Given all this, he suggested that the US target is not 80% carbon reduction by 2050, but the more equitable one of 100% carbon reduction by 2035.

In other words, we need to be carbon neutral in 18 years. Gasp! Apparently, speed matters.

In the discussion that followed, I learned that the Sierra Club’s goals include a carbon-free electric sector for 2030, and carbon neutral by 2050.

We had some excited discussion about targets that are politically acceptable versus those that are demanded by physics and ethics.

As we parted, I sensed an agreement that we need to work together, despite our divergent tactics, but still reeling in shock at the carbon budget for our state and the speed by which we need to get there.

A follow-on solutions-based public meeting to discuss getting our state of Pennsylvania to this goal of carbon neutral in 18 years, is set for the evening of Wednesday May 18th. It’s from 7 to 9 in the evening at the Friends Center at 1501 Cherry Street in Center City Philadelphia. If Center City is too far for you, you can also join via a webinar. Details and registration here on EventBrite, and here on Facebook, too, for up-to-the-minute dialog. Please join me & others for this discussion.