By John Burgoyne, Philadelphia Green Capital Corp
This Earth Month, we want to reflect on the impact of climate change on Philadelphia, and how we can come together to make our city more resilient. As we all have felt, Philadelphia is growing warmer every year. In 2022, we experienced the hottest summer ever recorded, and this winter was among the five warmest. Unfortunately, experts predict this warming trend is only going to get worse. In the 1900’s, Philly had an average of four days above 95°F annually; that number is expected to soar to 52 days by 2100.
The adverse effects of climate change are not evenly distributed throughout our city. Due to the heat island effect, some neighborhoods can be as much as 22°F hotter than others. In hotter neighborhoods, buildings, roads, pavements, and black rooftops trap in heat, while a lack of trees and green space prevents areas from cooling down. Systemic racism contributes to some neighborhoods being more impacted by the heat island effect than others. Warmer neighborhoods are home to predominantly Black and Hispanic residents, along with low-income communities, exacerbating existing inequities.
Climate change leads to worse health, economic, and safety outcomes in Philly. Hotter temperatures, along with air pollution, are associated with greater occurrences of public health issues, such as dehydration, heat strokes, and respiratory illness. Additionally, low-income homes spend up to three times as much on energy bills as non-low-income households, with annual air conditioning costs projected to raise annually by $1M across the city.
While the complexity of the problem may feel daunting, there are concrete steps individuals, communities, and organizations can take to combat climate change and make Philadelphia more climate resilient. Climate resilience is the ability to prepare for, recover from, and adapt to the impacts of climate change. At Philadelphia Green Capital Corp, we are committed to building climate resilience in our city by offering low-cost financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
For all residents in Philly, our parent organization, Philadelphia Energy Authority, offers Solarize Philly, the largest solar program in the US, which makes it as easy and affordable as possible to install solar panels on your house. Signing up with Solarize Philly gives you access to fully vetted contractors to install solar panels, market-rate pricing, and top-tier equipment. By going solar, you can save up to $30,000 on electricity over the life of your system. Visit solarizephilly.org/ to sign up.
For those that already have solar or are in the process of installing it, you can help finance solar installations in low- to moderate-income households, who spend the most on their energy bills and have a much lower adoption rate of solar, due to prohibitive up-front costs. Our program, Share the Sun, allows you to donate your Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to finance solar in a low- to moderate-income home. Visit phillygreencapital.org/sharethesun/ to sign up.
Outside of our solar programs, there are many ways residents can access tax credits and rebates to go electric. Households that go electric will save $1,800 on average annually, enjoy health and safety benefits, and reduce their energy-related emissions. The Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest federal investment ever to fight climate change, offers up to $14,000 in up-front discounts to switch to electric appliances, up to $7,500 for the purchase of a new electric vehicle, and 30% discounts on solar installation. To see how much money you can get through the IRA, use this handy calculator from Rewiring America: rewiringamerica.org/app/ira-calculator.
Additionally, PECO offers virtual energy assessments, contactless pick-up of refrigerators for recycling, and rebates for purchase of ENERGY STAR certified appliances and HVAC systems. Learn more about these opportunities here: peco.com/waystosave.
Lastly, along with the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), PGCC is hosting additional programming and workshops that provide information on how residents, nonprofits, and communities can invest in our planet and our city. Learn more here: https://philaenergy.org/event/earth-week-2023/.
Climate change is not a problem that we can afford to ignore. The consequences of inaction are severe and far-reaching, affecting not just ourselves, but also future generations. This Earth Month, we have the opportunity to take concrete steps towards building a more resilient and sustainable future for our city. By seizing these opportunities and working together, we can make a real difference and secure a brighter future for ourselves and for generations to come. The time to act is now. Let us rise to the challenge and create a better tomorrow.
John Burgoyne is a graduate intern at the Philadelphia Green Capital Corp., the nonprofit green bank affiliate of the Philadelphia Energy Authority.