CITY-GREEN Update – May 4, 2014

CITY-GREEN – the Mid-State Community Advisory Group on Sustainable Energy – had its first meeting on April 29 at New Leaf Initiative.

The group’s mission is “to promote energy conservation by assisting in the phase-out of the use of non-renewable energy and to strengthen the use of energy from renewable sources which includes, but is not limited to, photo-voltaics and ground source heat pumps, so that Centre County will be energy independent, sustainable in its energy use, and a net exporter of energy derived from renewable sources.”

CITY-GREEN members plan to “promote a transition to energy independence for Centre County through the use of sustainable energy, that is, energy sources that are regenerative and non-depleting and the energy derived is the safest, cleanest, and longest-lasting option; advise and assist the Centre Region Council of Governments (COG) and the surrounding Centre County municipalities, in their transition to energy independence; promote education concerning the affordability and long term savings associated with renewables over centralized non-renewable energy use; and provide an open, completely transparent participation forum that welcomes all people from all backgrounds who live in Centre County.”

CITY-GREEN’s first specific project is assisting COG during its participation in the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize Competition. CITY-GREEN’s COG liaison is Pam Adams, Centre Region Refuse and Recycling Administrator, working through the CRCOG Public Services and Energy Committee.

CITY-GREEN meets again Tuesday, May 6 (7 p.m. at New Leaf Initiative, Third Floor Borough Building, 243 South Allen St.) and will attend the May 7 COG Public Services & Environmental Committee Meeting (8:30 a.m., 2643 Gateway Dr.)) to present preliminary information and seek official recognition as an advisory resource for COG.

CITY-GREEN will subsequently meet at least once a month, to continue collecting and formatting data to support the GUEP competition entry.

The GUEP competition is tightly focused on getting communities to develop programs that displace utility-supplied energy consumption, either by not needing the energy to begin with (conservation) or by getting the energy from renewable sources. GUEP seeks to promote “…innovative, replicable, scalable and continual reductions in the per capita energy consumed from local natural gas and electric utilities…”

Much of the benefit of going through the GUEP process will creating concrete local climate & energy scarcity adaptation and mitigation plans and budgets (an Energy Descent Action Plan, in the Transition Towns lexicon).

April 29 launch discussion participants included:

  • Andy Lau (PSU Engineering Faculty)
  • Andy McKinnon (Transition Town State College)
  • Bill Sharp (Transition Town State College)
  • Chip Mefford (State College Bicycle Transport)
  • David Stone (Stop the PSU Pipeline)
  • Elliott Killian (Ferguson Township Supervisor)
  • Janet Engeman (Stop the PSU Pipeline)
  • Jim Freihaut (PSU Architectural Engineering Faculty)
  • Joanne Santamaria
  • Joe Cusumano (PSU Engineering Science & Mechanics Faculty)
  • Johan Zwart (Stop the PSU Pipeline)
  • Jon Eich (State College Planning Commission)
  • Laura Cusumano (Happy Valley Time Bank)
  • Mark Maloney (Greenmoore Gardens CSA)
  • Mike Rybacki, (Convener, Author of PSU Renewable Energy Plan)
  • Scott Patterson (PSU Organizing for Action)

And three other people whose names/affiliations I didn’t catch.

Mike Rybacki kicked off the meeting with a brainstorming activity, asking participants to create their own $5 million energy system spending spree wish lists.

Ideas pitched – including some ideas that won’t meet the GUEP guidelines (tightly focused on residential and municipally-owned buildings) but will be part of overall regional energy conservation programs.

  1. Weatherization – insulation and other measures to reduce household energy consumption.
  2. Financial incentives: zero interest loans and other income-based, prorated financial help for homeowners and landlords of rental units to improve building energy efficiency.
  3. Residential-scale wind turbines
  4. Purchase and install insulating polymer film on Penn State’s single-pane dorm windows
  5. Energy audits – before and after improvements – to measure and demonstrate energy savings publicly.
  6. Public awareness campaign: “What does conservation mean?”
  7. Labor-for-Skills Program – Penn State students providing free installation labor in exchange for training in energy-related installation skills.
  8. Door to door distribution of LED lightbulbs to launch one-on-one conversations with homeowners about energy and conservation.
  9. Promotion of David McKay’s TED Talk about energy the UK: data-based analysis
  10. Crowd-funded support for 50 kW solar project at Greenmoore Gardens CSA as preparation for a community-owned 1.5 – 2 MW solar array located on two donated acres at the farm.
  11. Solar weather panels installed over the main State College arteries (College Ave., Beaver Ave., Atherton St. and University Dr.) with the solar power fed into the local electric distribution grid, also providing all-weather protection for pedestrians and bicyclists, “like a gerbil tube.”
  12. Hybrid buses – currently in use in York, PA – combining diesel and solar.
  13. Weather shelters for bus stops in outlying areas.
  14. Traffic control to improve safety for pedestrians coming to and from bus routes on busy roads, i.e., East College Ave. “Trying to cross five lanes of traffic, you’re taking your life in your hands.”
  15. Focusing on “sexy” projects (not boring old insulation) on the theory that, in five years, home heating costs will be so high that people will insulate anyway, but in the meantime, attention-grabbing projects will “give people the direct feeling that they’ve done something good, even if what they’re doing makes no difference whatsoever.” Cheeky suggestions: piezo-electric pole dancing facilities, converting the friction from pole dancing into electric power. Also piezo-electric dance floors.
  16. Setting up an online community energy dashboard sp people can track energy consumption decreases alongside their own behavioral changes. Oberlin already has a version of this.
  17. Setting up and maintaining friendly competition programs – sometimes already done between PSU dorm buildings – to encourage, measure and reward energy-saving behaviors, and to track the durability of behavior changes over time.
  18. Installing coin-operated room heaters in Penn State dorms and in homes, to increase direct awareness of the cost of power for space heating. Cheeky suggestion: low voltage shock collars to discourage energy-wasting behaviors.
  19. Weatherize and install solar hot water systems in State College homes purchased through the new flipping-for-neighborhood-stabilization program. (Note: West Penn Power is required to invest $2 million each year in energy conservation measures. This program might be eligible.)
  20. Beneficial reuse of water /geothermal systems in two to three commercial buildings to take advantage of water’s capacity as a heat sink.
  21. Scaleable manufacturing units to build highly-efficient modular homes, and other sustainable, potentially worker-owned businesses.
  22. Energy aggregation programs, allowing consumer groups to broker deals with energy companies.
  23. Organize energy fairs to bring consumers and renewable energy companies together for information exchange.
  24. Lobby West Penn Power to establish lease-to-own residential and commercial renewable energy systems, enabling the energy company to shift assets and revenue streams away from fossil fuels and into renewables.
  25. Establish time management/mentoring programs to teach people how to plan weekly laundry cycles to air dry clothes. Establish programs to install outdoor clotheslines and distribute clothes drying racks, to promote solar outdoor drying of clothes and indoor rack drying of clothes in winter, and remove electric and gas clothes dryers from homes, with a goal of 50% of homes off the grid for clothes drying. Track progress toward goals. (“We’re not going to ever get to sustainability unless we change the culture of convenience.”)
  26. Set up joint energy conservation & renewable system installation curricula with State College Area School District schools.
  27. Involve SCASD kids in documenting the GUEP process through reporting, videography, etc.

There was some discussion about the formality of CITY-GREEN as an advisory organization. Participants seemed to favor keeping it as informal as possible – recognized by COG for the purposes of the GUEP competition, but without formal incorporation or bylaws at this time. COG reportedly anticipates Penn State and energy-related area nonprofits will participate in the GUEP application process as well.

Timeline from here:

  • May 7 – COG-PSE Committee meeting
  • June 7 – COG-PSE Committee meeting
  • June 17 – Draft basic GUEP application package  – including supporting documents, and standardized support forms from the local utility and municipal leaders – due to COG Executive Committee for review and revision.
  • June 23 – GUEP application package due to the COG General Forum for approval.
  • June 30 – GUEP application package due to GUEP; online filing.
  • August – November – All “credible” plans submitted by June 30 will go into the quarter-finals, with detailed program plans due between August and November 2014. Throughout the process, GUEP will match community planners with technical energy consultants for advice and support.
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