This pivotal global climate forum will happen in a deregulated energy state. How the host city’s 140-plus-year-old electric provider, Duquesne Light Company (DLC), is adapting its grid and convincing consumers to adopt clean energy tells a story about the critical role public utilities play in ensuring a successful energy transition – one that gives consumers reliability without bankrupting the most vulnerable.
Utilities are the backbone of the energy transition. They must provide and maintain reliable infrastructure to make it practical for everyday people to change their relationship with carbon-unfriendly cars, stoves and heating and cooling systems. And they must make these investments while balancing the need to keep rates reasonable. Kevin Walker, president and CEO of DLC, is one of the highest-ranking Black executives in the energy industry who moved to Pittsburgh from a state that couldn’t be more polar opposite (California). He is available to provide insights on these challenges:
- Increasing grid capacity equitably: DLC worked with the region’s largest university (Pitt) to decarbonize buildings and launched a pilot program with a senior affordable housing community in the city’s poorest neighborhood to create community solar and increase grid load.
- Inexpensive grid investments that keep rates low: As transportation becomes electrified, Walker anticipates a significant increase in grid load over the next 10 years. Who’s going to pay for investments needed to manage this increased load? High-tech line rating sensors installed last year have seen an average 25% additional capacity on transmission lines equipped with the tech.
- Electrifying transportation: Consumers, especially in western Pennsylvania, have been slower to adopt EVs and solar than in coastal cities. But this is changing due in part to a massive education campaign led by DLC that promotes non-Tesla EVs as affordable solutions. The number of EVs tripled in Pennsylvania from 2019 to 2021 and DLC has installed more than 100 charging stations across the region to date.