Kevin Walker: Now is the time to embrace electric mobility
President and CEO of Duquesne Light Holdings explains benefits of transportation electrification
November 15, 2021
When I moved to Western Pennsylvania in the spring of 2020, I immediately learned that we’re a region of opportunity. This has been true since the Industrial Revolution established Pittsburgh as the steel capital of the world and solidified our reputation for being a driven, innovative and resilient community.
Pittsburgh may no longer be the industrial powerhouse it once was, but our thirst for innovation remains as strong as ever. In recent years, our region has carved out a leadership role in areas such as higher education, health care and robotics and is surging in autonomous vehicles, electric mobility, clean energy and sustainable technologies.
The timing of these advances is critical as we face a pivotal moment for our planet and the economy.
This summer, we saw devastating wildfires in the west and in other parts of the world; record-breaking heat, cold, droughts and floods; and more frequent severe storms across the country, including in our area. No matter what you call it — climate change, climate crisis, global warming, severe weather anomalies — there’s insurmountable evidence of an increasingly unstable environment resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases. This is a fact that impacts each of us in one way or another, and we can’t afford to deny or ignore it.
I realize this is a complex issue that requires a collective, large-scale and multi-layered response. One way we can overcome this challenge is by putting the right infrastructure in place, especially when it comes to electric mobility.
There are 12 million registered automobiles in Pennsylvania alone, with gas- and diesel-powered vehicles emitting nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulate matter and hydrocarbons at great cost to our environment and public health. Electric vehicles (EVs), on the other hand, have no tailpipe emissions. They don’t emit greenhouse gases that disrupt our climate, reduce air quality and can impact the health of children, senior citizens, outdoor workers and people with lung conditions.
Aside from environmental and health benefits, there are also economic upsides to EVs. A growing EV market means more jobs in manufacturing and charging infrastructure installation. As of 2019, the electric transportation supply chain accounted for nearly 4,400 jobs in Pennsylvania — a figure that’s expected to grow by 24% through 2024. Furthermore, a consumer who spends $1,200 a year on gas would likely spend about $400 a year on electricity for a comparable EV.
For the past three years, Duquesne Light Co. has worked with community partners to make electric mobility more accessible in our communities. We have helped install more than 100 charging station ports throughout Pittsburgh and are powering Port Authority of Allegheny County’s first two all-electric buses, with six more expected to hit the road within the next year.
These are crucial steps DLC is taking to ensure that everyone has equal access to clean power. We’re actively advocating for more renewable energy options that benefit all customers and working closely with stakeholders, regulators and policymakers to make sure the costs of a clean energy future are shared equitably. Overall, we’re committed to developing a comprehensive sustainability strategy that will benefit the environment, our communities and every customer.
While the progress we’re making is worth noting, there’s still work to be done. The encouraging news is that the Biden administration’s expansive infrastructure bill is prepared to address our struggling environment head on.
The bill is one of the largest federal efforts in history to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and help the country achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It includes $174 billion to enhance the EV market and expedite the shift from gas-powered vehicles, as well as $100 billion to improve the electric grid and make it more resilient to severe weather.
This is our chance to build a cleaner, healthier and more equitable world for our children and grandchildren. I want my kids to live in a world where we have rejected the false premise that we must sacrifice our environment and health for economic gain. We can have both. We can power a new era of mobility through electricity. We can create good-paying jobs in manufacturing, trades and other areas that focus on clean energy and sustainable technologies.
Like before, our region is primed to lead the way in this latest age of innovation. What an incredible time to be a Pittsburgher.
This article first appeared in the Tribune-Review on Nov. 11, 2021.