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New 'hub' to help local governments in Pittsburgh region bring in historic clean energy funds

Workers lay down solar panels on a roof.
Reid R. Frazier
The Allegheny Front
Workers install solar panels at a Millvale, Pa. community center in 2017. 

A new effort was launched this week to help local governments, school districts and nonprofits in the region get their share of the billions of dollars available from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 and other federal monies.

Southwestern Pennsylvania Municipal Project Hub, led by Sharpsburg Mayor Brittany Reno as CEO, encompasses the 10-county region of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.

“We’re not entirely sure what all that’s going to look like because we’re really building this ship as we set sail,” Reno said. Our primary focus for now is building trusting relationships with all these leaders.”

The IRA includes unprecedented clean energy investments and tax breaks for projects that include solar panel installations, electric vehicles, heat pumps, and other energy-saving measures. Along with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 and other federal investments, Reno calls it a “historic” moment to get federal assistance.

According to Reno, the Hub wants to help not only communities with shovel-ready projects, but those just starting to talk about these kinds of projects and those that don’t have the resources to even think about this kind of work.

“So many of our communities, especially the ones that most need this kind of support, are the ones that have the least capacity to even go looking for federal grants, let alone putting together these complex applications,” she said. “Sometimes they can be 100 pages.”

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With $1.25 million from The Heinz Endowments (which also funds The Allegheny Front) over two years, the SWPA Municipal Project Hub intends to hire three full-time staff members, according to Reno. The Hub has a new webpage, and she’s surprised at how many people she’s heard from already.

“We’re really wanting to provide people with the technical assistance and space and resources and connections to be able to not just apply for their own grants, but really work collaboratively with other communities that are dealing with the same challenges and opportunities,” she said.

Other states have been taking advantage of those funds. According to one report, Michigan, New York and Georgia each saw between 13,000 and 17,000 clean energy jobs created in the first year of IRA funding, while Pennsylvania had fewer than 500 new jobs.

Reno said the Hub wants to get to know what kinds of developments leaders in the region are thinking about and figure out how to help get those projects done.

“The need is here, the willingness is here, the excitement is here, the work is here,” she said. “We just need to connect these communities to the money that’s there. And it really does go over all sorts of issues that are super important to western Pennsylvania.”

Read more from our partners, The Allegheny Front.

Corrected: February 16, 2024 at 3:05 PM EST
Corrected to reflect the amount given from The Heinz Endowments
Julie Grant is senior reporter with The Allegheny Front, covering food and agriculture, pollution, and energy development in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Throughout her career, she has traveled as far as Egypt and India for stories, trawled for mussels in the Allegheny River, and got sick in a small aircraft while viewing a gas well pad explosion in rural Ohio. Julie graduated from Miami University of Ohio and studied land ethics at Kent State University. She can be reached at