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Parishes apply ICE to reduce energy costs.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Philadelphia churches, schools and synagogues save cool cash by using ICE.

ICE is the Interfaith Coalition on Energy, known above all for the audits it conducts to identify ways congregations can reduce energy costs.

ICE's energy wizard, Andrew Rudin, said recently, "We're up to about a million dollars a year now (in savings) just for the 400 congregations we've worked with so far." Rudin conduct analyses and workshops on energy saving.

Among other things, ICE may advise a parish to use setback thermostats to conserve heat when buildings are empty or to insulate underground heating pipes that lie between church and school. Congregations often are told to switch to more advantageous gas or electric rates, such as an off-peak rate for churches, that are used most heavily during off-peak periods.

Founded in 1980 and funded in large part by the Philadelphia archdiocese, ICE consults about 50 congregations a year. Its scope is the 4,200 congregations of the Delaware Valley, about 320 of them Catholic parishes. The group's quarterly, Ice-Melter Newsletter, goes to every parish in the Philadelphia archdiocese.

Generally, congregations want to cut energy costs, "so they can have more money for ministry and educations," Rudin said. "It's still mostly an economic issue." But more and more, he said, that is being accompanied by "a greater sense of responsibility for the environment." Eventually, said Rudin, "I think it's going to be looked at as a program of stewardship."

St. Malachy's, an inner-city Philadelphia parish, saved more than $6,000 in the two years following its 1985 ICE energy survey. That "and other types of good management" enabled the parish to wean itself off support from the archdiocese, Rudin said.

And St. Helena's saved $30,000 from 1990-91 to 1991-92.

Father John McNamee, St. Malachy's pastor, told NCR, "I think the savings can be sustained if one is disciplined enough to keep up attention to it."

Winterized windows and thermostats that reduce temperatures when a building is not in use are among the most effective energy-saving measures for St. Malachy's, he said. And his parish uses the fluorescent lights that ICE recommends.

Over the years, Rudin said, he has learned to "keep tabs on the amount of energy that's used per square foot" in big buildings, then to compare their fuel and electricity use with that of similar buildings. "It's like an automobile ratting system," Rudin said, "so many miles per gallon, so much fuel and electricity per square foot per year. So we're able to identify a church that's wasteful and one that's efficient."

Rudin recently was invited to assess six congregations in Cleveland, including St. Michael the Archangel Church. Rudin said it was likely that the church, built a century ago by German immigrants, was on the wrong gas rate, he said. "Just by changing the rate, they could save several thousands of dollars," he said.

ICE can negotiate with public utilities to change rates. To favor churches, "we negotiated rate changes twice with Philadelphia Electric," Rudin said. "Also, the Arizona Interfaith Coalition on Energy had a successful rate change with Arizona Public Service."

The Philadelphia Electric Co. is "a large supporter of ICE," Rudin said, explaining that utilities respond when told that "maybe 80 percent of their responsible rate payers are members of congregations," as are "maybe even a higher proportion of their employees."

ICE has also produced savings for churches by changing fire-protection codes related to lighting houses of worship and energy standards applying to public assembly that more accurately reflect the realities of church buildings, he said.

ICE, though one of the first interfaith coalitions on energy in the nation, is not unique. There are similar efforts in Buffalo, N.Y., Cleveland, Houston, Chicago and Arizona.

ICE's two-member staff (who work part time out of their homes) operates frugally, on an $87,000 annual budget supplied by the religious community. The coalition is a nonmembership service project that also involves the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia, the Metropolitan Christian Council of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia chapter of the American Jewish Committee.
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Title Annotation:Interfaith Coalition on Energy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Author:Gibeau, Dawn
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Dec 11, 1992
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