A critical moment in Pittsburgh's development

The City of Pittsburgh is developing new models for energy infrastructure and performance. With a city of just over 300,000 people at the center of a region of 2.5 million people, Pittsburgh has already begun to experience the effects of climate change with harsher winters, hotter summers, record setting precipitation, and increased numbers of invasive species. Coordinated, concentrated, and comprehensive carbon mitigation action is needed to reduce the severity of regional impacts and to prepare for a future with a low carbon economy.

To address these challenges, Pittsburgh has created a Climate Action Plan, a neighborhood planning program, and is embarking on a citywide comprehensive plan, among other policies, to address the climate crisis through reducing pollution, improving access to healthy food, and integrating the environment into daily decisions. Pittsburgh is aiming high. It plans to halve its carbon emissions by 2030, only ten years from today. This ambitious strategy includes the implementation of district energy systems for both heating and cooling as well as an increase in electric vehicles, the decarbonization of electricity, upgrades to existing buildings and incentives to promote an active public transit system.

Learning from others, leading by example

The City of Pittsburgh has partnered with cities throughout the US, North America, and the world to understand what has worked elsewhere and can be a part of Pittsburgh's energy future. Most recently, the City of Pittsburgh signed an agreement with the Danish City of Aarhus and the Danish Embassy to share strategy and information on each city's respective work on climate and energy. The City of Aarhus is a global leader in decarbonization and identifying related industries as a core component of their economic growth. During 2020, the Danish District Energy Advisory in Washington DC provided district energy planners to work with Department of City Planning staff to develop a five year energy agenda that will be shared on this page as it is developed.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) and our partner agencies and departments are in the process of working with institutions and organizations across Pittsburgh to incorporate energy into strategy, policy, legislation, and regulatory tools including the Zoning Code that are key components on energy delivery infrastructure. These changes should support infrastructure for district heating systems, installation of solar PV, and better insulation of homes. These efforts will improve the efficiency of local heating and cooling systems and make homes more efficient and comfortable while reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality. This work will also support job creation by prioritizing sustainability in new public and private investments in sectors related to high performing buildings, resilient infrastructure, and renewable energy systems.

Prioritizing district energy

District Energy (DE) has existed in Pittsburgh for more than one hundred years with little involvement from City Government. Over the last 5-6 years, the City has undertaken strategic planning initiatives, leading to the most recent Climate Action Plan 3.0 that recognizes the importance of DE:

  • As a critical tool to improve efficiency for real estate development in the most energy dense urban areas;
  • Improve air quality; and
  • Reduce energy burden for residents.