With renewables gaining momentum, sectors such as the government need to continue to find ways to promote new renewables through creative contracting like aggregation structures or supporting policy for renewable development, notes Mardi Ditze, senior energy analyst for the City of Philadelphia. “Rooftop solar and geothermal have made recent advances with Hawaii, Arizona, and California working out challenges around how to incorporate onsite generation with regard to tariff structure and system availability,” says Ditze. “Hopefully more state and local policies will continue to develop to allow onsite generation to continue to grow—Pennsylvania is one such state.” Ditze assists in purchasing energy supply for Philadelphia’s portfolio and manages its utility bill management database, including 950 buildings with utility bills totaling $95 million annually. In one case, she helped Parks and Recreation save more than $110,000 annually through policy creation and behavior changes.
Ditze also has worked with the library staff to audit the 52 libraries for capital projects focused on lighting upgrades, building automation, and building controls. Her work with Philadelphia’s largest energy users has helped the city save more than $500,000 annually. It’s also earned her an honor in the 2017 Association of Energy Engineers Professional Development category. Philadelphia’s energy master plan focuses on energy and carbon reduction in city-owned buildings. By 2030, the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Philadelphia’s built environment by 50%, decrease its built environment energy use by 20%, and generate or purchase 100% of all electricity for its built environment from renewable resources.
Another goal: maintain or reduce its built environment cost of energy. “We can choose our energy supply,” notes Ditze. “Our distribution company’s energy mix is beholden to PJM’s generation, but deregulation allows buyers to choose who supplies the energy and its source. The city’s mix via our distribution company is, as of 2014 RFC East’s report, 40% nuclear, 31% natural gas, 23% coal, 4% renewable, and 2% miscellaneous fossil.” Philadelphia historically has purchased renewable energy certificates (REC), but the city’s master plan changed the course. “Instead of buying RECs, we are now working to buy about 20% of our load from a renewable source via a power purchase agreement,” says Ditze.
What She Does Day to Day
“Our office is a cornucopia of energy management tasks for the city, so each day is different, bringing specific tasks to be accomplished,” notes Ditze. “On a very basic level, data needs to be uploaded and cleaned, reports need to be generated, and bills need to be audited for payment. Additionally, some of my days are spent in the field talking with people from different departments about their building energy use and how it has an impact regionally. Some days include talking with people at city agencies about the city’s energy portfolio and what long-term strategies could look like. Some days involve meeting with building operators to talk about peak load management.”
What Led Her Into This Line of Work
Ditze earned a B.A. in sociology from Dickinson College. She was accepted into an environmental living space called The Treehouse. “The house was an experimental-type living space that incorporated efficiency and conservation into campus living,” explains Ditze. That experience had an impact on her—after graduation, she “gravitated toward a career path of environmental sensitivity with the ability to impact humans, starting with a customer service role at a renewable energy company,” says Ditze. She was promoted to a project developer position for that same company before taking on a position as an energy analyst for the city of Philadelphia in 2012.
What She Likes Best About Her Work
“This work allows me to apply my personal environmental passions to policies, projects, programs, and education with the hope of empowering people to have carbon reduction impacts,” says Ditze.
Her Greatest Challenge
“My greatest challenge is continuing to find the strength and vision to continue engaging communities,” says Ditze. “This work isn’t easy. We face various challenges every day: funding, policy, lack of support, lack of interest, and a lack of resources which puts strain on getting the work done. Fortunately, this field is filled with inspiring stories of goals being met and exceeded by amazing people.”