From Carbon Reduction to Job Creation: The Philadelphia Energy Campaign

In our “Going Solar” series, we wrote about Solarize Philly, a citywide program from the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA) to help Philadelphians go solar. Solarize Philly helped 654 households and businesses go solar since 2017, but the program is only part of PEA’s 10-year initiative to create 10,000 jobs and to invest 1 million dollars in clean energy and clean energy projects in Philadelphia. 

Philadelphia’s Investment in Clean Energy

The initiative, called the Philadelphia Energy Campaign (PEC), kicked off in 2016 with a plan to achieve its goals by 2026. Laura Rigell, a Solar Manager for Solarize Philly at PEA, pointed out that investment in clean energy projects is particularly important. “In many cases these projects are able to create local jobs, drive down electricity costs for those who need savings the most, and reduce our emissions. There are many reasons that these projects make sense,” Rigell said, adding that while climate goals motivate the 10-year campaign, economic development is the primary driver. In its aim to create jobs and invest in clean energy, the Energy Campaign specifically focuses on municipal buildings, public schools, small businesses, and low-to-moderate income (LMI) housing.

Solar panels on the flat roof of a Philadelphia rowhouse. Photo via Solar States

JOn January 6, 2020, City Council President Darrell Clarke began his 2020 inaugural address by commending the work the Philadelphia Energy Campaign has done in the four years since the campaign launched in early 2016. To date, the campaign has created over 1,000 jobs and over $100 million has been invested by companies and government agencies into clean energy projects. Additionally, energy makeovers have been done to three Philadelphia high schools. “We’re still on pace to reach out jobs goal and more energy-efficient projects are coming on board,” Clarke said. 

Solar Energy Provides Job Opportunities

Energy makeovers aren’t the only thing the Energy Campaign has done in Philadelphia high schools. Noting high demand in recent years for solar installers, the campaign has also committed to establishing vocational solar training programs in local high schools. In the summer of 2017, PEA organized its first Solar Training Program, which was so successful that the training program received $100,000 from PECO to continue. Two more sessions were carried out in the spring and summer of 2018 at Ben Franklin High School. In the fall of 2018, more funding came in: “We were selected…for an award from the Department of Energy for 1.25 million dollars for the job training work we’ve done,” said Rigell. “We are now working with the school district to do what they had originally imagined…a permanent clean energy program that’s going to be the first solar energy program for vocational high school students,” Rigell explained. The 1.25 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy will help establish a vocational solar program that trains students in solar work for three years. This year, PEA hopes to launch a solar training program at Frankford High School.

The Energy Campaign has big plans for 2020. Photo via Solar States

New Year, More Energy Projects

2020 will be a big year for PEA and its Energy Campaign. Rigell says it best: “We care about job creation here in Philadelphia because we are the poorest big city in the nation, and we see clean energy projects as win-win opportunities where we’re able to address some of the biggest issues facing Philadelphia including poverty, our unemployment rate, as well as climate change.” 

For information on enrollment for energy job training for adults, click here