Greenworks walking and talking at 1 year old

By Thomas J. Walsh
For PlanPhilly

It wasn’t scheduled this way, but Thursday was a timely day to take a look back on one full year of the city’s new “Greenworks” sustainability program. Earlier in the day, Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed law creating a new Municipal Energy Authority in anticipation of deregulation set to take effect next winter.

The legislation “will allow the city to invest in and develop policies around an energy future that’s different from what we have now,” said Rob Stuart, a member of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and president of Evolve Strategies, which champions citizen involvement and alternative energy initiatives.

The bill awaits Mayor Michael Nutter’s signature, and the appointment of five unpaid members who will have the power to create “power-purchasing” areas and to nullify City Charter rules regarding long-term energy contracts.

Stuart said he was proud that Council rebuffed an attempt by PECO Energy Co. to delay the bill. “It was very clear, and was stated, that they didn’t want competition,” Stuart said of PECO. “It really was City Council at its finest.”

During the Greenworks discussion that followed at the Urban Sustainability Forum held at the Academy of Natural Sciences, the city’s Sustainability Director, Katherine Gajewsky, praised Nutter and said each city department was on board with the year-old program.

“It was a challenging year and a challenging time to take this big, ambitious, forward-looking, visionary plan,” Gajewsky said. “At times I think we were nervous that we were going to be slowed down by the recession. … It’s to so many people’s credit that they took it on and they made it move forward anyhow.”

Also speaking Thursday night was Christine Knapp, director of outreach for Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), giving an overview of the past year through the lens of the monthly Urban Sustainability Forums.

The evening’s guest was Adam Freed, deputy director of New York City’s “PlaNYC” sustainability effort, on which much of Greenworks was based. Freed earned a few audible gasps from the audience as he described a predicted fourfold increase in the number of days each year in New York City when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees – from an average of 14 such days to more than 60.

“That is a tremendous impact on our infrastructure, on our ecosystem and on public health,” Freed said.

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