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A Master Plan for the Energy Mecca of Pittsburgh

By District Energy posted 11-02-2021 15:27


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


In the words of Megan Zeigler, Oakland is Pittsburgh’s energy mecca.

“It’s the largest energy user in the city,” said Ms. Zeigler, vice president of planning and policy at the Green Building Alliance.

For the past two years, she has been meeting with those massive energy users — the universities, the hospitals, Phipps Conservatory — in a first-of-its-kind effort to jump-start the Oakland Energy Master Plan.

Just as neighborhoods have comprehensive plans for land use and development — in fact, Oakland is going through that process right now — the city of Pittsburgh decided energy planning should have the same kind of consideration.

Too often, energy features aimed at reducing emissions or generating renewable energy are tacked on to the end of development projects, said Grant Ervin, the city’s chief resilience officer.

“When they go to develop something, they assume that the plugs and the pipes are going to be there,” Mr. Ervin said. “And when they get to the end and ask, ‘Could we make this a more sustainable decision,’ they’re often 12 to 24 months too late.”

In the spring of 2020, the city put out a call for consultants that could help craft a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase resilience, and accommodate the rapid institutional and private development in Oakland. Ms. Zeigler and the Green Building Alliance are facilitating the process.

They are finalizing a contract now and expect the first phase to launch next month.

Learning from Uptown

The decision to tackle an energy master plan for Oakland stands on the shoulders of the work done in Uptown, where the city and other stakeholders worked to establish an eco-innovation district, with a shared district heating and cooling system. 

“Uptown was the first time that we asked the question: as we’re developing a neighborhood plan, what are the energy impacts?” Mr. Ervin said.

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