Pennsylvania DEP to hold public meeting on use of funding to strengthen energy grid

Published on August 29, 2022 by Dave Kovaleski

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The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is seeking public input to inform its plans to use $40.5 million in anticipated federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding to strengthen the electric grid against extreme weather events.

State residents can offer their feedback at a virtual public meeting called, “Making Pennsylvania’s Electric Grid Stronger,” on Aug. 31. At this hearing, the DEP will present an initial draft plan for input. Both the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency are anticipated to attend.

“Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians experienced extended power outages during Hurricane Ida and other recent extreme weather events. As the climate heats up, these storms are increasing, threatening Pennsylvanians’ health, safety, and security,” DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh said. “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding provides a significant opportunity to make Pennsylvania’s electric grid stable when the weather is not. Through thoughtful investments now, we can ensure that all Pennsylvanians, and particularly our vulnerable and underserved populations, can depend on having heat, air conditioning, medical equipment, lights, refrigeration, web access, and other necessities during future extreme storms.”

Pennsylvania is expected to receive $8.1 million in IIJA funding every year for five years through the U.S. Department of Energy grant program. The DEP is required to submit to the U.S. Department of Energy a plan to use this federal funding to provide grants to in-state projects that will strengthen Pennsylvania’s electric grid. The DEP will draw on the 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan in determining the strategic direction for its plan.

“To develop a grid-strengthening support program that’s customized to meet Pennsylvania’s specific challenges and opportunities, we need to hear from a diverse range of Pennsylvanians, including residents, community leaders and advocates, local government leaders, small business owners, health care and emergency personnel, and educators,” Ziadeh said.

Examples of potentially eligible projects include grid weatherization and fire resistance/prevention technologies, such as undergrounding or hardening power lines, as well as distributed energy resources, such as microgrids, battery storage, and monitoring and control technologies. Further, vulnerable and underserved populations are a top priority.

The DEP must submit its plan to the U.S. Department of Energy by Sept. 30.