ICE began in 1980, right after the Iranian revolution caused the second major spike in oil prices. Representatives from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia, the Metropolitan Christian Council of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Jewish Committee met to see how the various religious denominations could cooperate to control rapidly rising energy costs. In the early days of ICE, two major Philadelphia utilities were also involved – the Philadelphia Electric Company (now PECO Energy) and the Philadelphia Gas Works.

On the hottest day of June in 1980, a group of reporters, and representatives of the utilities and denominations surveyed three religious buildings – Old First Reform, Temple Rodeph Shalom and St. Francis Xavier. The tour was conducted by a professional engineer, Lawrence Spielvogel, who has since volunteered a huge amount of time to ICE.

A year after the surveys, Larry Spielvogel gathered the energy bills and found that the average reduction in energy cost was 14%. With this information, ICE solicited funds from foundations and received seed grants from the Glenmede Trust Company. ICE formalized its Advisory Board and financially organized as a project of the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, which is still the case today. The Board felt that it did not want to become a separate non-profit corporation if it could be included within another. The ICE Advisory Board currently has sixteen members.

In 1981, the ICE Advisory Board advertised for a part-time staff person to run the program. They received fifty responses, interviewed several, and chose Andrew Rudin. Andrew had written a pamphlet about conserving energy in Vermont churches in 1978, and has been Project Coordinator of ICE since 1982.

Very soon, ICE had published the data gathered from religious buildings. The American Gas Association paid for publishing and distributing a booklet How to Start and Operate a Local Coalition on Energy. Soon, similar programs to ICE’s were attempted in other cities – the Buffalo and Arizona Interfaith Coalition on Energy were the first. Historic preservation programs started surveying religious buildings, following the ICE concepts – Inspired Partnerships in Chicago, the Landmarks Conservancy in New York City, the Cleveland Restoration Society, and Historic Boston. Other programs were tried in Houston, North Carolina, and elsewhere.

After a serious long range planning meeting, the Advisory Board decided not to solicit any funding from governments, utilities, foundations or corporations. Their intent was to be funded only by people of faith – denominations and congregations – because other sources of funding seemed trendy and fickle. For many years now, the only other source of funding for ICE has been from private donations and publication sales. ICE now has dozens of publications about energy and religious buidings. By far, most of ICE’s income comes from individual donations, denominations and congregations. The Board felt that if ICE could not be supported by those it served, that it should “fold its tent and move on.”

Over the years, ICE has achieved “standing” in front of utility commissions. In other words, ICE is recognized as representing all of the roughly 4,200 congregations in and around Philadelphia.

Previous issues of ICE’s newsletter, Comfort & Light, is in another section of this website. These issues were sent to about 6,400 congregations..

ICE has submitted suggestions to national codes and standards, and has successfully improved them. Examples are the national fire protection code, lighting standards for houses of worship within the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, the national Environmental Protection Agency, and various standards produced by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Since 1982, ICE has presented more than 300 training workshops for the operators of religious facilities.