Chester Co. volunteer recognized with Green Building United’s 2020 Groundbreaker Community Leader Award

Paula Kline

The Clean Energy Planning Series, developed by volunteer Paula Kline, was one of five projects and community leaders celebrated at Green Building United’s 2020 Groundbreaker Awards, a virtual award ceremony on Thursday, December 17. Green Building United’s annual Groundbreaker Awards recognizes and celebrates green building leadership, innovation, and impact in greater Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and Delaware.

Paula Kline was honored to receive recognition for her vision and commitment to supporting the 30 plus  Southeastern Pennsylvania Ready for 100 municipalities whose elected officials have passed resolutions that establish 100% renewable energy goals. Uwchlan, West Vincent, Tredyffrin, East Pikeland, East Marlborough, Downingtown, and Schuylkill were among some of those who participated from Chester County.

“Every community needs a roadmap – a plan for their clean energy future. Even under normal circumstances a clean energy transition plan would be challenging. Our communities are small townships and boroughs without sustainability departments or energy managers. Under COVID, with financially strapped budgets and overworked staff, there was a risk the urgency of the climate crisis could be overlooked. It did not make sense for each community to research their options when we could offer them a set of planning tools and access to civic minded energy practitioners,” said Paula Kline.   “The unexpected opportunity was to see energy planning as a team sport. We offered these trailblazing local leaders the opportunity to work together as we walked through the steps of creating the playbook.”

“This year’s community leadership and project awardees include net-zero construction, affordable housing, best practice tools and training, and to programs that engage youth and build the next generation of green building advocates” said Alex Dews, Executive Director of Green Building United. “The breadth of the work that this year’s awardees are being recognized for is testament to the growing emphasis on sustainability in our region and is indicative of the role that it will play in our future. We’re pleased to recognize their hard work and dedication to innovation and green building and commend the impact they are making on our communities.”

In the case of the Clean Energy Award winner’s program, each municipality selected a planning team made up of elected officials, municipal staff, Environmental Advisory Council members, and Ready for 100 volunteers. Through a live and recorded online training platform and follow-up assignments, the initiative showed local governments how to develop both municipal and community-wide actionable energy efficiency and renewable energy transition plans.

“We started out asking ‘What belongs in a clean energy plan?’ Where are you now in terms of energy use and spending? What is your long-term vision for becoming carbon neutral and by when? And then we were able to get specific about goals and strategies for conservation and efficiency, electrification of buildings and vehicles, where to buy renewable electricity or how to produce it yourself. The technology we need is available now, we just need a plan to integrate it into our planning and decision making, ” explained Paula Kline.

The series utilized the U.S. Department of Energy’s Guide to Community Energy Strategic Planning Guide and enlisted regional energy experts to share best practices. The sessions covered developing goals and selection criteria for recommendations, how to work with stakeholders and conduct effective meetings and created municipal and community wide energy baseline energy profiles. Habitus Incorporated, a facilitation and training organization with extensive B Corporation and nonprofit experience, generously co-facilitated the training and assisted in guiding the planning process.

Joy Bergey, a participant, was thrilled to see the program recognized by Green Building United. “The course has been incredibly helpful. As lead for RF100 in Springfield/Montco, I can’t imagine how I would ever have figured out how to organize our efforts and move forward without having taken this course. It came along at exactly the right time.”

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