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NETL helps create Pittsburgh’s energy future today

State: Pennsylvania

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Agency: Dept. of Energy

National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) - Pittsburgh, PA

An ongoing partnership between the city of Pittsburgh and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is demonstrating how fossil-based energy technologies can support the safe, efficient use of energy and shape Pittsburgh into a "clean energy city of the future."

In 2015, the city of Pittsburgh partnered with NETL through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to transform the city's energy system and aging infrastructure with a focus on improve carbon emissions and improving the city's energy efficiency, transportation, and power generation and distribution.

Through the MOU, NETL — a Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in clean energy research — is providing expertise, innovation and advice, making a powerful impact toward the city's goals. NETL envisions this partnership as a model for other agreements and collaborations between DOE national laboratories and cities or local governments.

The effort is part of a growing movement to modernize and secure U.S. electric power systems by reducing cities' reliance on centralized grids supplied by distant facilities. 

NETL and the City of Pittsburgh have joined forces with other local organizations that have unique expertise and similar clean energy goals. These include the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Energy, Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne Light Company, as well as local private businesses, non-government organizations and foundations. 

Working with Pittsburgh and its regional partners, NETL is pursuing opportunities to demonstrate a network of small-scale distributed energy systems — described as a "grid of microgrids" —  to supply local residents with clean, reliable and cost-effective power. These systems can operate independently or in conjunction with the main electrical grid and incorporate a diverse mix of energy sources. 

The FLC recognized the partnership with two State and Local Economic Development awards — a Regional Award in 2018 and a National Award in 2019.

Other successes stemming from the first five years of this collaborative effort include: 

  • Studying consumption data from the Pittsburgh 2013 Energy Baseline report to discover new opportunities for reducing energy use and emissions in the city
  • Investigating how advanced fossil energy technologies could help the city meet its environmental, energy security and economic development goals
  • Conducting a study of geothermal energy extraction in Pittsburgh's Hazelwood Green district to discover potential alternatives to fossil fuels
  • Working internationally with the Danish Ministry of Energy to collaborate on smart city techologies
  • Recovering valuable rare earth elements from acid mine drainage at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
  • Demonstrating a fuel cell power plant on the Pittsburgh North Shore

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