On Inauguration Day, City Council President Darrell Clarke announced in a semi-mayoral speech that he would soon unveil an energy savings program that would create more than 10,000 jobs. “Stay tuned for more on that,” he said.
On Monday, with numerous bigwigs flanking him in the Mayor’s Reception Room, Clarke finally revealed the details of the massive, $1 billion, 10-year plan. Well, sort of. Here are five things you need to know about it:
- It’s ambitious. The plan, known as the Philadelphia Energy Campaign, seeks to use $1 billion in public and private dollars to make tens of thousands of properties throughout the city more energy-efficient. Clarke says that includes all city buildings, such as libraries, recreation centers and police stations. It also means all school district properties, 25,000 homes in low-income neighborhoods, and 2,500 small businesses. All in all, Clarke says that will create more than 10,000 jobs throughout the next 10 years, including many in the building trades and energy retrofitting sector. The plan will be coordinated by the Philadelphia Energy Authority, a body that was created in 2010 by legislation sponsored by Clarke.
- It’s short on details. How will the project be financed? Officials say they’ll spend the next six months figuring out that and other key details. A bond could be floated, Clarke says, or city dollars could be “leveraged.” Another possibility, he says, is that the city could work with private businesses “that actually invest into these type of activities, where essentially we dedicate the savings from the utility costs to repay the money to the entity that invested the money.” Details about how the plan would be implemented were scant, too. Officials did provide some additional information on the 10,000 promised jobs: They say 3,000 positions would be created by implementing the energy-savings plan, while 7,000 more would be formed as a result of people spending more money because of the cost savings they achieved.
- It sounded somewhat mayoral. A massive jobs plan? Announced in the Mayor’s Reception Room? That was teased on Inauguration Day? It’s all very mayoral-sounding, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed Clarke in recent years. Mayor Jim Kenney, who attended Clarke’s news conference on the plan, assured the audience that the administration and Council are a “team,” and “we’re not going to have competing interests.”
- There’s a precedent for the plan. Officials say they are basing the Philadelphia Energy Campaign on the city’s successful “Quadplex” project, which implemented energy-savings measures in City Hall, the Municipal Services Building, the Criminal Justice Center and One Parkway Building. The city says it is currently saving more money from that project than it costs to pay off the bond that financed it.
- If Clarke and officials pull off the plan, it would be a big win for a lot of people. It would help Kenney fulfill his campaign promise to invest in city neighborhoods. It would retrofit city schools, which the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has long said are in dire need of repair. (PFT president Jerry Jordan was at Clarke’s press conference Monday, along with PECO president Craig Adams, PGW president Craig White and several Council members.) It would fix up recreation centers, which Kenney has been hinting at doing for some time. It would also theoretically make housing upgrades for tens of thousands of poor Philadelphians, many of whom lack the means to pay for improvements themselves. That, in turn, could keep those homes from being abandoned eventually, says Clarke. To him, this plan is a no-brainer. “We’re literally watching dollars fly out of the window every day because of the inefficiencies associated with those facilities,” he says. “So it’s time to get this rolling. And we’re going to get it done.”