Urban Sustainability Forum: the push for cleaner energy

Across the country, state and local governments are pushing for clean and more efficient energy use. Rising energy prices, a troubled economy and an increasing interest in sustainability and conservation issues have created momentum for energy policy reform. What such reform might look like, and how it should be implemented in Pennsylvania, were the topics of a program hosted by the Urban Sustainability Forum Thursday night at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Speaking first was Steve Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, who discussed the preliminary findings of a comprehensive assessment of Pennsylvania’s energy conservation, efficiency and solar resources. The study recommendations include creating state versions of federal efficiency standards on certain appliances, imposing energy codes and energy efficiency resource standards on new buildings, and training engineers to help factories and manufacturers conserve energy.

Also on the agenda Thursday was a presentation by Dan Griffiths, Assistant Secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, who explained the details of two bills recently passed in Harrisburg that address energy issues. One of the bills, the Alternative Energy Investment Act, will invest $650 million in solar, wind and other alternative energy industries, as well as energy efficiency programs, over the next eight years. Some of these funds will be set aside for low-interest loans to homeowners and small businesses to make improvements that reduce energy use. The other bill recently passed by lawmakers forces utility companies to employ energy efficiency programs that will reduce the energy consumption of their customers, in addition to other requirements.

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown talked about an ordinance currently before City Council that will require all new city buildings to be LEED Silver certified. The law is a necessary step, said City Director of Sustainability Mark Alan Hughes, before attempting to implement energy efficient codes citywide.

Posted by John Davidson. Contact him at jddavidson9@gmail.com

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