At the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ida, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) seeks public input as it develops a plan to use $40.5 million in anticipated federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding to strengthen the statewide electric grid against extreme weather events.
Pennsylvanians are invited to share their views and experiences at a virtual public meeting, “Making Pennsylvania’s Electric Grid Stronger,” on Wednesday, August 31, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM. People can participate online via Microsoft Teams or call in. Log-in and phone information is provided at the DEP web page on Pennsylvania IIJA funding.
DEP will present an initial draft plan for input, and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency are anticipated to participate.
“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,” said DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh.
“Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding provides a significant opportunity to make Pennsylvania’s electric grid stable when the weather is not,” Ziadeh continued. “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 anticipated to receive $8.1 million in IIJA funding every year for five years through the U.S. Department of Energy grant program for states called “Preventing Outages and Enhancing the Resilience of the Electric Grid.”
DEP is required to submit to the Department of Energy a plan to use this federal funding to provide grants to in-state projects that will strengthen Pennsylvania’s electric grid and, in doing so, bring health and safety benefits as well as workforce development and job opportunities to Pennsylvanians. See background on federal guidelines.
In determining strategic directions for its plan, DEP will draw on the 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan, which identifies the risks of flooding, heat waves, and other extreme weather events.
Vulnerable and underserved populations are a top priority, including Pennsylvanians who live in Environmental Justice areas, patients in smaller nursing homes and hospitals, and small businesses that don’t have the resources large companies have.
“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,” said Ziadeh.
DEP is also in the process of informing industry members of the technical parameters attached to the U.S. Department of Energy funding. Electricity generators and distributors, electric grid and storage operators, transmission line owners or operators, and fuel suppliers are among those who will be eligible to submit project grant applications.
Examples of potentially eligible projects include but are not limited to grid weatherization and fire resistance/prevention technologies, such as undergrounding or hardening power lines, and distributed energy resources, such as microgrids, battery storage, and monitoring and control technologies.