Philadelphia has been announced as a winner of an award that could total $2 million or more from the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge for its efforts to address climate change and sustainability.
The award is given out to 20 cities with ambitious plans to tackle climate change and promote sustainability. Atlanta and Seattle were also recently announced as winners by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is run by Michael Bloomberg. After Philadelphia, 17 others will also be announced. The amount of the award has not been finalized and officials might not know exactly how much they'll get until all the other winning cities are announced.
"We're really excited about it," said Christine Knapp, director of the city's sustainability office. "It gives us a lot of juice to move forward with things we've been working on for a while. When Bloomberg came here, they were really impressed with the collaborative nature we had with residents and businesses. They thought everyone in the city was rowing in the right direction."
Philadelphia won for a plan that outlined key areas that needed to be addressed to rein in energy use in buildings and transportation.
The money could be used for helping reduce carbon emissions in commercial buildings, Knapp said. Currently, Philly's 3,000 biggest commercial buildings account for 17 percent of all carbon emissions so bringing those numbers down could seriously reduce the city's carbon footprint, she said.
For the last six years, the city has mandated that owners of buildings bigger than 50,000 square feet report energy and water usage to establish benchmarks. Though compliance was initially good, Knapp said, it has waned among some owners. The city could use the money for a program that requires commercial properties to make energy changes without requiring major retrofits. For example, she said, some buildings run air conditioning all weekend even though few workers are in the building. Cutting that down could save 5 percent to 20 percent of total energy use without much cost.
The money also could be used for a collaborative power purchase agreement. Currently, the city is negotiating a contract to supply renewable energy to power its buildings. A collaborative could extend that to businesses.
Knapp said the money could also be used to meet transit energy use programs by 2025. Last week, Philadelphia released its CONNECT strategic transportation plan. As part of that, the Indego bike share program will be expanded in 2019 with as many as 250 stations potentially equipped with technology such as electric bikes and other features.
Also, Knapp said the city needs to increase its community engagement regarding transportation to educate residents.