In 2010, the Philadelphia Office of Sustainability (OOS) created the Greenworks Sustainability Fund (GSF) to help City departments lower their energy use.  In 2016, it expanded from its original energy reduction focus to include broader sustainability initiatives.  GSF, managed by OOS’s Energy Office, provides funding to departments for projects that support the City’s overall energy and sustainability goals, as laid out in Greenworks: A Vision for a Sustainable Philadelphia and the Municipal Energy Master Plan. To date, projects completed with the help of GSF have saved the city over $2 million in energy costs!

Examples of eligible projects include:

  • LED lighting
  • Building control systems
  • Building envelope upgrades
  • Energy efficiency improvements
  • Occupancy comfort enhancement
  • Indoor air quality improvements
  • Waste diversion
  • Climate resilience

GSF is funded partly by energy savings projects, from the PECO Smart Ideas program and the Capacity Reduction Program offered by our region’s electricity grid operator, PJM.  The City also participates in PJM’s Demand Response program which aims to keep the grid reliable when energy is in high demand. The City is paid to reduce electricity consumption during times of high demand to ensure grid reliability.


GSF Project Highlight- Greenland Nursery Ditches Oil Heat

Greenland Nursery is responsible for natural area restoration and management projects across Philadelphia. The century-old building grows tens of thousands of native tree and shrub species each year.

These sensitive saplings need ample warmth to thrive, but the oil-burning furnace in the 750-square-foot greenhouse was failing and the building was in need of a heating system upgrade.  The Energy Office worked with Parks and Recreation and Greenland Nursery Manager, Max Blaustein, to replace the system with an electric one that is more reliable, cheaper, improves indoor air quality and reduces carbon pollution.

Paid for by the Greenworks Sustainability Fund, the Greenland Nursery project:

  • Replaced oil heat with two 100% electric heating units.
  • Added insulation to the greenhouse.
  • Replaced existing lighting with LED lighting.
  • Replaced existing inadequate space heater in the office.

Blaustein shared that before the upgrades, a disruption in oil delivery was a huge threat to the tiny plants, but now they have a consistent heat source. In addition, Blaustein notes the improvements to air quality. “We were having air quality issues in the greenhouse because of burning fuel oil,” says Blaustein, “so eliminating that was huge.”

The switch from oil to electric heat also provides other benefits by:

  • Reducing carbon pollution by 14%.
  • Increasing staff comfort in the offices.
  • Creating more space in the greenhouse due to the removal of the boiler.
  • Providing a more reliable and cheaper heat source.

This project is one of many the Energy Office hopes to undertake throughout buildings maintained by City government to help Philadelphia reach its clean energy goals, as laid out in Powering Our Future: A Clean Energy Vision for Philadelphia.  Part of that vision calls for using low carbon energy sources for heating in Philadelphia.  By switching Greenland Nursery from oil (a high-carbon energy source) to electricity (a lower carbon energy source), the City of Philadelphia is realizing its own vision.

The City is also supporting one of its four main clean energy goals—to reduce carbon pollution from City-owned buildings and streetlights 50% by 2030.  As the regional power grid continues to get cleaner through low- or no-carbon electricity sources, such as wind and solar, replacing high-carbon electricity sources, such as coal, Greenland Nursery will continue to reduce its carbon pollution now that it is fully electric.


Interested in learning about other projects that are helping Philadelphia reach its clean energy and sustainability goals?  Check out the Greenworks Sustainability Fund story map.