Case Studies

Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia Inc.

Conserving water and energy while promoting a sustainable future

In one of America’s oldest cities, the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia – widely known as ECA – is on a mission to help residential buildings and small-scale commercial properties conserve energy and promote a sustainable future throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Serving the tristate area, ECA is a leader in energy efficiency, professional training, water conservation and stormwater management for both new and existing buildings.

To the energy crisis rescue

ECA was formed in 1984 with just four staff members and an $80,000 grant from the City of Philadelphia. The organization was created as a nonprofit to help solve Philadelphia’s energy and poverty crisis in the beginning of the decade as other state programs proved ineffective in dealing with the dramatic rise in utility service terminations.

Since inception, ECA has focused on reducing energy and water consumption in low-income homes and the affordable housing market. Over the course of the last 30 years, ECA has helped tens of thousands of homes save more than $250 million by improving the energy efficiency of more than 43,000 homes; repairing or replacing 50,000 heating systems; and performing some 37,000 water conservation projects. ECA has also prevented more than 75,000 tons of carbon emissions through its work.

With a 26,000-square-foot LEED Gold-certified training center, the only IREC-accredited center in the mid-Atlantic region authorized by the U.S. Department of Energy, ECA has trained more than 3,600 new professionals for the growing clean-energy industry.

Industry-leading training

Liz Robinson, executive director of ECA, heads up the organization’s 70-person team. “We are a provider and trainer within the space of small building energy efficiency,” she explains.Most of our work is in residential homes and small commercial propertieEnergy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia, Inc.s. We do just about everything energy-wise, including administering large scale programs – both utility and publicly funded – to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings.”

Robinson says ECA also shines in terms of education. “The Knight Training Center is a state-of-the-art facility where we training professionals to the highest level, incorporating the new national standards for Home Energy Professional [HEP]certification,” she says.

The center has won numerous accolades, including an approved apprenticeship program by the U.S. and Pennsylvania Departments of Labor and was recognized as a “Center of Excellence” by the city of Philadelphia in 2012. “Also in 2012 ECA became one of the first training centers in the nation to be accredited by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council [IREC] to the new national standards,” says Robinson. “In 2013, ECA won the prestigious IREC award as the Clean Energy Training Program of the Year.”

But for ECA, the goal isn’t recognition; it’s getting quality green professionals out into the field. “We believe this kind of training is going to really improve the quality of work being done across the country,” adds Robinson. “We’re trying to expand the market while responding to and meeting the market demand. Training is vital to develop highly-qualified workers to ensure that customers are satisfied and getting the energy savings they’re paying for.”

A total transformation

ECA is making a positive impact in the low-income market, where many residents cannot afford to make necessary repairs and upgrades. “Our niche is really in the low-income market, where many homes are in very poor or hazardous condition,” says Robinson. “Our city is one of the oldest in the country. There are many old row homes occupied by low-income families which suffer from decades of deferred maintenance.”

In response to the need in this market, ECA has launched a pilot program called EnergyFIT Philly, designed as a housing preservation initiative, targeted at affordable housing. “As a pilot program, we’ve had more freedom to implement new technologies,” says Robinson. “At each job, we’re data logging, which is giving us the data we need to solve a whole range of problems, such as moisture, mold, high relative humidity and other conditions that exacerbate asthma. The goal is to determine which technologies and methods are the most cost-effective and capable of providing deep energy savings as well as a healthy home. We hope to gather measurable data to share with the health and utility industries as well as the public sector to target support for more effective approaches.”

After successfully completing phase one of EnergyFIT Philly in 30 homes in the city’s old Mantua neighborhood, ECA conducted a citywide contest to determine the location of phase two. “We’re addressing problems that are persistent, unhealthy and very real for many families,” adds Robinson. “We’re taking these homes and bringing them into a condition that’s dry, durable, safe and energy efficient. It’s quite the transformation.”

After 30 years of tireless work, the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia continues to transform the city’s residential sector, delivering more than energy savings and conservation, but also peace of mind for residents.

Published on: September 30, 2015

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