The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) has over 300 schools and related facilities and spends about $45 million a year on energy. The District has a backlog of over $4.5 billion in deferred maintenance and much-needed capital improvements that have accumulated over decades due to persistent budget constraints. PEA partners with SDP to use energy efficiency and solar as tools for subsidizing and addressing these capital needs and improving learning environments.
$$ invested in GESA energy makeovers
Schools receiving energy makeovers
M/W/DSBE project participation
Annual energy savings (GESA 1 and 2)
SDP approaches its comprehensive energy makeovers using Pennsylvania’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA.) GESA enables Commonwealth governmental entities the ability to enter contracts with Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) to use performance contracting for energy efficiency projects. The benefit of the program is that it allows entities (1) to contract for energy conservation measures without requiring an up-front budget allocation, (2) to wrap together the design and build components in project implementation, and (3) to pay project debt using utility and operational savings over a maximum 20-year contract term.
As of 2022, SDP has initiated a GESA pilot and has authorized three subsequent phases of projects for a total of 24 schools. The combined annual guaranteed cost savings for the School District across approved GESA Pilot, GESA-1, and GESA-2 projects is nearly $1,000,000. The projects have achieved high M/W/DSBE participation with each phase meeting or exceeding 60%.
PEA provides technical and process support to SDP on these and other energy-related projects.
GESA Pilot – COMPLETE
PEA supported the district to develop an energy performance contracting pilot that demonstrated real energy savings, established a scalable model, and is easily replicable across the district. The $23MM pilot project, awarded to NORESCO, yielded an average of 38% energy savings across three high schools: Walter B. Saul Agricultural School, Strawberry Mansion High School, and Northeast High School. The energy efficiency upgrades implemented at these schools included installation of new boilers, windows, daylight-controlled lighting, and ventilation units to circulate fresh air into the classrooms. Energy efficiency renovations save the district more than $375,000 a year in energy costs. Construction was substantially complete in 2020.
GESA-1, Phase 1: COMPLETE
Construction is complete on the first non-pilot phase of GESA energy makeovers , which included three schools: Conwell MS, Gompers ES and Lincoln HS. Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI) was selected via a public procurement for up to 20 schools. The selected schools will be addressed in 5 phases. JCI must provide an energy performance guarantee, which makes it possible to ensure that the energy savings offsets the debt incurred as projected during the project development process.
The buildings received significant HVAC, lighting, building envelope and other upgrades, including adding air conditioning at both Conwell and Gompers, and updating ventilation to ensure needed airflow for health and safety, especially important in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. This phase reflects a roughly $26MM investment.
GESA 1, Phase 2: Energy Makeovers
Construction began on GESA-1, Phase 2 in early 2021. The phase includes 4 schools: Carnell ES, Willard ES, Feltonville Arts & Sciences (6-8) and Juniata Park Academy (K-8). This phase reflects a roughly $23MM investment. As in other schools, improvements will include lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, hazmat remediation and building envelope. Construction is expected to be completed in 2022.
GESA 1, Phase 3: Energy Makeovers
Phase 3 of the JCI GESA-1 project is currently underway at Lowell ES and includes a lighting upgrade and a new boiler and chiller. This phase reflects a roughly $19MM investment and is on track for substantial completion by the end of 2023.
GESA-2: Energy Makeovers
SDP issued an RFP for a second round of GESA projects (GESA 2) in 2021. It was awarded to The Efficiency Network (TEN.) Work began on Phase 1 at three schools–Mary McLeod Bethune ES, SLA Beeber and Joseph H. Brown ES–in June 2021, with expected completion in 2023. Project costs will total up to $37MM across the three schools.
GESA-3: Energy Makeovers
The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) was awarded $1.1 billion in ARPA Federal
Funding to address the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. A portion of the funding was
deployed toward safely reopening and sustaining in-person learning. Given the tight
timeline to expend the funds, the SDP elected to use the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act
(GESA) model for procurement and project delivery.
In February 2022, SDP released a GESA Request for Proposals to complete roughly $125MM in energy efficiency projects at up to 10 schools – Hackett. Locke, Washington Grover, Franklin ES, Clemente, Ellwood, Randolph, Kirkbride, Heston, Loesche- to improve indoor air quality and comfort. This investment doubles $124MM committed to GESA Projects to date. PEA participated in the vendor selection process as a non-voting reviewer.
Noresco was selected by the committee and approved by the Board of Education in May 2022. Construction will be completed by September 2024.
PA’s 1st CTE program in Solar and Weatherization
In 2019, PEA was awarded $1.25 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to help create a new vocational training program focused on youth and young adults for solar installation and weatherization. With the leadership of the District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) team, the District won approval from the state Department of Education to launch their first new CTE program, and the first of its kind in PA.
The Bright Solar Futures CTE program launched for 10th graders in Fall 2020 at Frankford High School. Students receive 1,080 hours of content between 10th and 12th grade, making it the most advanced solar training of its kind in the nation. Students receive extensive instruction in solar installation, design, and sales, as well as energy efficiency and weatherization, electrical basics and construction safety. Students graduate with field experience, internships and industry certifications, and will receive job placement support.
For more information on solar training and the Bright Solar Futures program: Learn More
Solar Schools Report (2019)
In 2019, with additional funding support from PECO, PEA commissioned a study to assess the viability of installing solar rooftop configurations on a sample set of public schools. The study was conducted by two of the top region’s subject matter experts, Ron Celentano of Celentano Energy Services and Roger Clark of Roger Clark Consulting.
The study analyzed electric bills for 2017 and 2018, along with usage of 4 schools. Solar PV roof layouts were designed for each building. The assessment overall usage patterns showed 1,218,234 kilowatt-hours could be generated in the first year of operations, which would offset approximately 45% of the electricity consumption for those schools.
Since the release of this study, the project economics of solar has only improved with a restoration and expansion of the Investment Tax Credit under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). For projects that meet labor and low-income requirements, tax benefits can reach as high as 70%. And though school districts have no tax liability, they are now also eligible for direct payment of these credits under the IRA, making this an opportune moment to explore a solar schools pilot.