The Energy Co-op was started by the Weaver's Way Food Co-op in 1979 and has been serving the Philadelphia area for 35 years. It began in the West Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia where many of the older homes still use oil for heating. The Board of Directors of Weavers Way Food Co-op wanted to lower the price per gallon of heating oil by leveraging the buying power of its membership with area oil dealers. Participation in the oil program grew year after year, eventually resulting in a new organization - The Energy Co-op.
The Co-op gradually expanded its geographic footprint to the four Pennsylvania counties surrounding Philadelphia, and by the late 1990s, The Co-op's Board of Directors decided to extend its energy offerings to include electricity. Shortly thereafter, EcoChoice100 and the Solar Buyback Program were introduced at a time when no other electricity supplier was offering a renewable option.
Most people's electricity comes from one of the many polluting power plants across North America. But the Energy Co-op’s members receive electricity sourced from local and renewable energy providers. Co-op members are consumers who have decided to positively impact Pennsylvania’s economy and environment by purchasing local, renewable energy. Under the EcoChoice 100 program, electricity is sourced from local wind and solar energy providers.
In 2002, The Energy Co-op established the Solar Buyback Program to source solar power from the rooftops in the area. Members receive electricity generated from local rooftops. The program has encouraged new solar generation in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, repurposed space people already owned and allowed members of the community to support solar even if they were not able to install it on their own roofs.
In the early 2000’s, The Co-op also expanded its mission to include production of biodiesel derived from waste grease. With assistance from USDA, Co-op staff spent many years researching and testing at a small pilot plant facility in Northeast Philadelphia biodiesel derived from trap grease. In 2005, BlackGold Biofuels (formerly known as Philadelphia Fry-O-Diesel) was formed and later in 2007, was spun-off as a separate entity. The Co-op also developed Southeastern Pennsylvania's largest biodiesel distribution business, which has allowed major area fleet vehicles to transition to biodiesel without modification. KDC was a minor partner in the Co-op’s biodiesel development through small grants and technical assistance.
The Energy Co-op currently has three energy product offerings for its members: Electricity, Heating Oil and Biodiesel. Most recently, KDC assisted The Co-op with a strategic marketing study in support of The Co-ops efforts to expand membership.
By: Cathy Smith