Weatherizing low-income homes has long been standard practice in Philadelphia with strong policy support. Service delivery systems have been refined over decades of in-field implementation. A nascent industry has matured, and an organizational infrastructure has been built that reaches into low-income neighborhoods, does workshops about how to save energy in the home, and signs up eligible residents for weatherization and energy assistance programs. Homes get weatherized, energy bills get reduced, and fewer households are faced with “heat or eat” decisions.
New challenges and opportunities lie ahead in this domain. Federal funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program increased tenfold in the Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act of 2021. ECA currently weatherizes 400 homes a year; what will it take to increase this number to 4,000? Workforce development will be critical. Through its Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses, Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships is working the School District of Philadelphia to connect graduating high school seniors with training programs and entry-level green jobs.
Weatherization has also demonstrated health benefits. New funding streams from the Children’s Health Insurance program (CHIP) for innovative Health Service Initiatives offer the possibility of having weatherization providers incorporate healthy home repairs such as mold remediation, lead abatement, asbestos removal, and integrated pest management with the suite of energy efficiency measures currently delivered. Issues on the horizon for ECA include switching homes from gas heat to zero-carbon alternatives (are heat pumps a solution?), and with heat waves increasing in frequency and duration, what’s the best strategy to keep homes cool in the summer? Excessive heat has major health impacts, especially for elder populations.
Please join Dr. Andrew Huemmler, Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering & Applied Science in conversation with Steve Luxton, the Executive Director of the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia, Sara Hayes, the Director of Health and Environment at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and Alina Ho from the Netter Center for Community Partnerships to discuss what’s ahead for weatherization, a form of climate justice that can be delivered to many of the 300,000 rowhomes in Philadelphia, the poorest of America’s ten largest cities.