Fri, 30 October 2009
Shortly before she left on her tour of green Germany, PennFuture's Director of Outreach, Christine Knapp, interviewed the major speakers for our podcast at this month's Urban Sustainability Forum in Philadelphia.
The Forum's topic, Green Infrastructure Financing, was a perfect fit for the speakers: Patrick Starr, senior vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), who discusses the “green dream” for Philadelphia; Howard Neukrug, PE, director of the Philadelphia Water Department’s office of watersheds, who discussed the view from inside government, and how the city will invest $1.6 billion over 20 years in a sustainable water system; Peter Sortino (currently, president of the Danforth Foundation), who as president of St. Louis 2004 led the charge for Proposition C, a referendum passed to create a Regional Parks District (across two states) with riverside trails and greenways, funded by a one-tenth of one cent sales tax; and Steve Wray, executive director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, who discussed their new report (done in conjunction with PEC) on ways Philadelphia (and other areas) can fund green infrastructure.
PennFuture works every day to bring experts together with policy makers and advocates to make a difference for Pennsylvania's environment and economy. Isn’t it time to join us and make a difference yourself? Go to our secure website to join PennFuture, and make sure you sign up for our publications. And remember, you can make sure you don't miss any podcasts by subscribing to them through iTunes.
Fri, 30 October 2009
by Christine Knapp, Director of Outreach
We arrived in Hamburg, our third and last destination on Thursday. Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany with 1.8 million people and 4.5 million in the region. Hamburg is unique in that it is a city and one of the 16 German states. This allows the city to assume a larger role in state issues like policing and schools. Hamburg is a shockingly big city, especially in comparison to quaint Leipzig, and for the first time in our trip, we used public transportation to go everywhere.
After having lunch with local experts who gave us a general overview of the city, we traveled to visit the Plus Energie Haus- a winner in the Solar Decathlon competition. The model home is open to the public and features passive design features such as high insulation, solar gains, and intelligent sun protection as well as active features like energy efficient appliances, solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic arrays. With an estimated cost of 1.5 million euros, the house is not cheap, but for a long-term owner the energy savings as well as the ability to sell electricity to the grid would make it more attractive.
The delegation next visited the Hamburg Stadtmodell (a
building housing a full city model) and learned that Hamburg has been named the
European Green Capital of 2011 by the European Union. The aim of the award is
to recognize city with high environmental standards, encourage other cities to
adopt ambitious goals and to highlight best practices. (On a side note,
Pittsburgh has been named the latest North American Green Capital).
Cities are rated using many indicator areas, including
transportation, ambient air, waste water, land use, noise pollution and open
areas. Hamburg rated well in all areas,
and out of 35 cities that applied, they were included in the top eight and
ultimately won the 2011 title.
But, Hamburg is not an eco-topia. They still struggle with several major challenges. As their need for residential and industrial space increases, land is becoming scarce. To address this, Hamburg is finding innovative ways to reuse industrial areas, such as the HafenCity development (which we will tour on Friday).
Hamburg is also a major port city, which can lead to many air pollution and other environmental problems. They are addressing this by increasing use of container taxis (one taxi replaces 66 trucks) and creating a land electricity supply for ships.
Another challenge is increasing traffic, so Hamburg officials are building new train lines to the airport, to the new HafenCity development, as well as doubling their network of bicycle paths and creating low emission zones.
And lastly, Hamburg recognizes its vulnerability to climate change, especially the risk of rising sea levels as Hamburg is intersected by waterways. To address this problem, they have created a comprehensive climate policy.
The Hamburg Climate Action Strategy was presented to us by Peter Lindlahr, from the Coordination Center for Climate Issues. This ambitious plan includes 350 projects and initiatives to reorganize the energy supply in a sustainable way, to provide economic stimulus and to be proactive in climate protection.
Peter shared with us 5 "Drivers of Change” within the Action plan:
1) Retrofitting public buildings, exemplified by installing photovoltaic arrays on a cultural center and working with fire and police stations to be more energy efficient.
2) Public Transport projects, such as pursuing a fuel cell hydrogen powered bus (to be toured on Friday), providing automatic driving recommendations for energy efficient train operation, returning of braking energy into electricity network and building new train lines.
3) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) including innovation through smart grid, smart homes and smart meters
4) Potential energy savings for historic buildings is being studied in a report, and thermopictures of buildings are demonstrating the leakage of old buildings
5) Combined Heat and Power (CHP) in which Hamburg is pursuing the implementation of up to 100 gas-driven power generation units with CHP technology
With just two days left, the delegation is starting to
compile our takeaway ideas and thinking about how to apply what we have learned back
in our home cities. And of course we're all eager to shop for souvenirs and to
sample the local beer and chocolates!
Category:Green Cities -- posted at: 9:26 AM
Wed, 28 October 2009
by Christine Knapp, Director of Outreach
On our second day in Leipzig, the delegation was treated to a professional tour guide, who showed us around the city center. It seems every step in this city has a historical reference- and with just a few years to go until celebrating its 1000th (that's 3 zeros!) anniversary, it's easy to understand why. From St. Thomas Church where Bach served as choir director for 23 years, to the place where Russian tanks once stood, to the amazing architecture restored and rebuilt after the wars, Leipzig is a history buff's dream.
But it is also, at its core, a well planned city. Walkable and bicycle-friendly, the city center is also currently building additional stops for the light rail. Major industries in the area include automotive (BMW and Porsche), healthcare and biotech, media and creativity, and power and environment.
As we learned from several speakers, renewable energy has become a recognized cluster- employing 50,000 employees in solar and 25,000 in wind in the the greater Leipzig region. Leipzig also has two biomass plants using wood that is only provided through sustainable forest management- not through clear-cutting, as well as grass, straw, manure and other materials.
In the afternoon our group split into two, with half visiting Q-Cells AG and my group visiting Juwi Solar and Waldpolenz Solar Park. About an hour drive into the German countryside, the solar park does not look like much upon first glance. Built upon a military air base built under orders from Hitler and later used by the German Democratic Republic, the property is dotted with bombed out hangars, barracks and other buildings. Once inside, however, 528,000 individual thin film solar panels line a plot of land 2 kilometers by 600 meters. Solar as far as the eye can see, and the plant produces enough electricity to power 12,000 homes.
With 130 euros in up front capital costs, the plant broke ground in April of 2007 and was completed in December of 2008. Juwi has a 20 year lease with the local town, but expects to fully recoup costs in 13 years. Hundreds of electricians and construction workers were employed in the building of the plant, but only about 20 workers, mostly locals, are employed full-time now. They provide an academy for new workers, to the tune of 10,000 euros per employee to fully educate them on energy systems.
The surrounding community has been supportive of the facility, as other proposed plans included a shooting range and an amusement park, both of which were opposed due to noise. Juwi has learned an important lesson informing residents and using it as an educational opportunity.
Some additional interesting facts:
- Juwi contracts with First Solar to provide the arrays, which were manufactuerd in Phoenix, Malaysia and Frankfurt.
- They have a plant in New Jersey, and hope to expand further into the American market.
- There is relatively low maintenance as the arrays are mostly self-cleaning. Only problems come from local sheep that break in and chew power lines and the occasional wayward golf ball from a near by range.
- They do work with some individual homes and small businesses although it is not their focus. There is no need to encourage these homes to do energy efficiency first because they can earn more money by selling excess energy into the grid than they pay for energy. In this way, the feed in tariffs have not only helped this industry grow, but have made it affordable for people to invest in it.
Unfortunately, my camera battery died today! I have great pictures to share, as do other delegates, but they will not be available just yet.
Tomorrow: On to Hamburg!
Category:Energy -- posted at: 1:59 PM
Tue, 27 October 2009
by Christine Knapp, Director of Outreach
Today, our delegation traveled by train to the city of Leipzig, about an hour from Berlin. Transportation enthusiasts would be delighted to see the grandiose train stations of both cities, and train systems that run very much on time through clean stations bustling with commerce.
After arrival and check-in, our group was treated to a lunch meeting with Gisela Kallenbach, a former member of the European Parliament representing the Green Party.
Gisela gave us a brief introduction to the city of Leipzig and the region. Leipzig has a long and storied history, serving as the home to such cultural luminaries as Bach and Goethe among others. But like many former manufacturing cities in the US, Leipzig suffered from a period of decline while shielded behind the Iron Curtain, and even after the wall was torn down.
Gisela herself became involved in political action during the months leading up to November of 1989. She organized peace prayers at local churches that helped motivate those who were previously too fearful to publicly demonstrate. And once the wall came down, Gisela was called to run for local office to help her city and her people recover and develop a strategy of revitalization. She ran with the emerging Green Party because of her own suffering due to environmental degradation. But she also explained that the Green Party represents more than environmental equality- human rights and the ideals of sustainability, economic, social and environmental balance.
After Gisela's inspiring presentation, we traveled about 90 minutes to the industrial town of Jena, to the headquarters of Schott, a leader in solar technology for 51 years. We were guided in a tour by Grit Petholdt-Guhne, the Head of Human Resources. Our focus here was learning about building a workforce for twenty-first century jobs, such as is done by Schott and its sister corporations.
Schott employs 700 people in their solar division, the largest percentage in their 1200 total employee workforce. They produce concentrated solar, crystalline photovoltaic and thin film photovoltaic. In the US, you can see their work at their location in Albuquerque, New Mexico and at their largest PV installation at Stillwell Station in New York.
After the fall of the wall, companies like Schott in East Germany had a hard time attracting a skilled work force due to lower wages and other factors. In order to combat this, Schott engaged in a marketing campaign in which they provided additional health benefits, work from home flexibility and child care for families, gym and museum memberships as well and other opportunities to attract workers.
But most impressively, Schott worked with the state government to create a robust worker training program on site. Here, students as young as 16 are hired into a dual apprenticeship where they spend 30 percent of their time in theoretical education at school and 70 percent of their time in practical education programs at the business itself. The state government provides funding for the training, and the company pays 100 percent of the monthly salary (600-800 euros).
Lastly, we had dinner at Auerbachs Keller, an elaborate
restaurant made famous by Goethe, who frequented the wine bar. We were able to view the cellar in which, according to legend, Faust rode a wine barrel with the help of the devil himself. Of course we got to taste a bit of the local rose wine, which was dry but delicious!
Category:Energy -- posted at: 2:59 PM
Mon, 26 October 2009
by Christine Knapp, Director of Outreach
We jumped right into our day by meeting with R. Andreas Kraemer, Director of Ecologic Institute, a private not-for-profit think tank for applied environmental research, policy analysis and consultancy. A wealth of information, Mr. Kraemer is well versed in sustainable development and environmental policy.
Mr. Kraemer gave our delegation an overview of German and European Union climate and energy policy, and how it differs from US policy. The first and most startling difference from the US is that all parties have found consensus on energy and climate issues and work together to meet goals collaboratively agreed upon. German politicians are also more willing than American ones to enter into imperfect legislation, knowing that it can and will be fixed later.
Rahm Emanuel famously said: "Let no good crisis go to waste", and Germany took that advice to heart during the energy crises of the 70s. Facing the crisis first in the mid-70s, Germany did little to react. But the reoccurrence later that decade and into the 80s was the impetus needed to start breaking their dependence on foreign energy.
In 1986 the first Federal Environmental Ministry was created with the intention that its policy directives would help business development- a very different approach than traditional environmental work in the US.
Since then 280,000 jobs have been created in the renewable energy industry alone, with almost half just in the last four years. Mr. Kraemer noted that it takes time to build a workforce that large and that forcing it too quickly can be damaging. Organic growth vs. a replication model (a la Starbucks) will ensure sustainability.
The German "game-changer" was the introduction of feed-in tariffs, started in 1991. These tariffs ensure utilities capital subsidies for renewable energy projects, and are credited with accelerating wind and solar production.
So what can the US learn?
For starters, the potential for wind and solar in Germany ends where it begins in the US- so it is certainly possible for us to achieve and exceed their progress so far.
Mr. Kraemer also suggested that a recession is a good time to make transitions. With an unemployed workforce, new training can be more easily done, to ready workers for emerging jobs. When there is less competition among businesses, there can be an effort to help the "greenest" ones succeed over the others.
Our host also suggested that President Obama review and implement the blueprint put forward by John Podesta and Bracken Hendricks as part of his economic development strategy.
We were also treated to meetings with Jorg Meyer of the Renewable Energy Agency- an agency supported by the federal government and renewable energy companies. We also took a tour of HOWOGE, a public housing project that is Germany's largest low-energy apartment building. And lastly, we enjoyed dinner with local experts from government, non-profit, and private sectors. What a day!
Category:Energy -- posted at: 2:32 PM
Mon, 26 October 2009
Day 1: Jet lagged first impressions
by Christine Knapp, Director of Outreach
I have been fortunate enough to be invited to join a study tour of Germany through the German Marshall Fund, which is a non-partisan American public policy and grant-making institution dedicated to promoting greater cooperation and understanding between the United States and Europe.
This study tour brings together leaders each from Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, all states with strong industrial and manufacturing heritages and ones particularly affected by the economic crisis, to explore the ways in which German cities and regions have designed and implemented policies, technologies, and infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate economic growth.
Our first stop is in Berlin, just days away from the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. While many of the tour participants were still arriving, Matt Mehalik from Sustainable Pittsburgh and I walked from the hotel to the Brandenburg Gate, where President Reagan famously gave his "tear down this wall" speech, and where the wall later first began to crumble. We also walked around the former Reichstag, now Bundestag, parliamentary building. Many pock marks are still visible on the building, but the surrounding plaza and memorials are beautiful.
Later in the evening Ursula Soyez of the GMF led a brief walking tour through East Berlin, along which we saw public bike sharing, rain gardens and plentiful park space, flower boxes from every window, and light rail.
As we viewed statues of Marx and war-damaged buildings completely renovated, we learned of plans to entirely reconstruct a Prussian palace torn down by the German Democratic Republic. It was an interesting discussion on how cities deal with their histories- good and bad- in their architecture and urban planning.
Check back for regular updates.
Category:Energy -- posted at: 9:25 AM
Fri, 23 October 2009
Pennsylvania's great environmental leaders -- from Rachel Carson to Maurice Goddard to Gifford Pinchot and William Penn -- all had a passion for preserving our state's natural beauty. The same can be said about State Representative Dave Levdansky (D-Allegheny and Washington), whose heroic leadership in the General Assembly made the difference in stopping the legislature from allowing wholesale drilling for natural gas in our state forests.
This podcast features PennFuture’s President and CEO, Jan Jarrett, as she talks with Levdansky about his passion for protecting the forests and his support of the severance tax on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Levdansky now plans to create a widespread conservation movement in the state, linking hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, and environmental groups and their members, creating a strong citizens lobby for Penn's Woods.
You can put your passion to use, too, by joining PennFuture. PennFuture was called the state's "leading environmental advocacy organization" by the Philadelphia Inquirer. So join the leader on our secure website, and sign up for our publications. And remember, you can make sure you don't miss any podcasts by subscribing to them through iTunes.
Fri, 16 October 2009
This week's podcast brings home the reality of French gourmet and lawyer Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's oft misquoted, "You are what you eat." We visit a special educational farm that helps us understand the circle of life and the need to pay attention to where our food comes from.
The Lands at Hillside Farms is a non-profit organization working to restore its farm estate to create an educational center for the community. Hillside Farms offers school programs that teach children about healthy eating, and the Peace and Carrots Day Camp that promotes nonviolent communication by getting kids out into the garden. This podcast features PennFuture intern Sarah DeCesaris as she interviews farmer and educator, Christine Dorherty about the educational programs at Hillside Farms. Hear Christine explain why it is important to teach children and their parents about healthy eating and sustainable agriculture.
If you aren't already a member of PennFuture, what are you waiting for? PennFuture was called the state's "leading environmental advocacy organization" by the Philadelphia Inquirer. So join the leader on our secure website, and sign up for our publications. And remember, you can make sure you don't miss any podcasts by subscribing to them through iTunes.
Fri, 9 October 2009
One of the toughest issues urban areas face is vacant land, and what can be done with that land. Sometimes the land was abandoned as families and businesses move on. Sometimes the ownership of the land was transferred to the city when taxes aren’t paid. But however the land becomes vacant, it creates problems for the city. Often overgrown with weeds, and full of trash, the vacant land becomes a blight on the city and drags down property values and quality of life for everyone who lives, works, or plays nearby.
Fortunately, Philadelphia is doing something about the problem. Our podcast this week is from the September 9, 2009 Urban Sustainability Forum, “No Vacancy: Reimaging Vacant Land in Philadelphia.” PennFuture’s Director of Outreach, Christine Knapp, finds out about Philadelphia’s plans from Terry Gillen, senior advisor to Mayor Nutter for economic development (and executive director of the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia) and Farah Jimenez, executive director of Mt. Airy•USA, a nonprofit real estate development corporation leading efforts to strengthen the residential and commercial environment in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia. We then listen in to a presentation by Daniel T. Kildee, Genesee County (Michigan) treasurer, who discusses how the city of Flint Michigan handled its vacant land problem.
Did you know that PennFuture has staff throughout the state – in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, West Chester, and Wilkes-Barre? We’re ready to help you protect Pennsylvania’s environment and economy.
If you aren't already a member of PennFuture, what are you waiting for? PennFuture was called the state's "leading environmental advocacy organization" by the Philadelphia Inquirer. So join the leader on our secure website, and sign up for our publications. And remember, you can make sure you hear our podcasts first by subscribing to them through iTunes