Pittsburgh’s Downtown district energy network, which delivers steam to about 45 buildings in the Golden Triangle, is one step closer to becoming part of Clearway Community Energy’s expansion plans for the city.
On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission approved the company’s request to widen its utility territory to service Downtown and to buy a series or pipelines, valves, tunnels and other assets from Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal, a nonprofit cooperative headed for dissolution in 2023.
A district energy system — an old concept that has recently gained steam as cities try to mitigate their carbon footprints and steel their infrastructure against weather and other disruptions — is, in this case, a network of underground pipes beginning at a facility that burns natural gas to make steam and pushes that steam through pipelines that run to buildings.
Clearway, which operates three such systems in Pittsburgh — one on the North Shore, formerly called NRG Energy Center, and two in Uptown — also provides chilled water to its current customers.
It wants to do the same in the PACT territory, the company told regulators.
Clearway plans to spend $11.75 million rehabbing the PACT assets that will be transferred as they are upgraded. Full transfer of steam service is expected in 2023.