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NETL and the City of Pittsburgh Memorandum of Understanding

NETL and the City of Pittsburgh
Memorandum of Understanding

Advancing Solutions for a Sustainable Energy Future and a Brighter Tomorrow

On July 17, 2015, officials representing the City of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) entered into a historic agreement to transform the City’s energy landscape.

By signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Pittsburgh and NETL started work to establish a City for the 21st century where game-changing technologies to produce clean and reliable energy are developed and implemented to support a vibrant, eco-friendly community and generate economic opportunity.

Leveraging NETL and
DOE technical expertise,
Pittsburgh will become a model to:

Develop strategies that can be replicated across the nation to build efficient and affordable energy systems.

Create good-paying union jobs in clean energy industries.

Advance technologies needed to meet U.S. goals for a net-zero carbon emissions economy by midcentury.

NETL’s major initiatives
for the future are:

Artificial intelligence/machine learning for addressing energy challenges

Carbon Management

Integrated energy systems to enable deep decarbonization

Hydrogen as a key enabler to national decarbonization


The MOU supports priorities set by
the City of Pittsburgh, and those advanced by
NETL, the DOE Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management,
and the Biden-Harris Administration

  • Modernize delivery of utility services through new business models and markets.
  • Grow technology research and development opportunities and product manufacturing.
  • Reduce environmental impact.
  • Enhance energy resilience and security.
  • Address affordability for consumers.
  • Encourage workforce development.

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Key partners, stakeholders and agencies whose work
aligns with objectives of the MOU agreement include:

The Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization

The IWG was established by President Biden to ensure no communities are left behind in the nation’s transformation to renewable energy. NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., serves as the IWG’s executive director.

The IWG has designated much of western Pennsylvania and nearby areas in West Virginia and Ohio as among the nation’s 25 coal and power plant communities at greatest risk of experiencing severe economic downturns due to the decarbonization of the energy sector. This designation positions Pittsburgh as a hub to create clean energy technologies to generate economic growth.

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Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM)

The NETL-City of Pittsburgh MOU strategies align with research undertaken by DOE’s FECM, whose scientists and engineers are developing technologies to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s call for net-zero carbon emissions in the energy sector by 2035 and the broader economy by 2050.

FECM and its partners in academia and industry also are working to improve conditions in communities in the Pittsburgh region and elsewhere impacted by the legacy and continued use of fossil fuels. These efforts include converting captured carbon dioxide into value-added products and extracting critical mineral

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Marshall Plan for Middle America(MP4MA)

Research led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Sustainable Business found that the Ohio Valley stands to lose 100,000 jobs in the coming years as the fossil-fuel economy continues to decline in the face of the economic and environmental realities of superior, cost competitive renewable energy development.

The NETL-City of Pittsburgh MOU supports the strategies outlined in the MP4MA to revitalize communities, transform the region with climate-friendly growth and create jobs with family-sustaining wages. The plan is backed by a coalition of mayors from cities in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia

Preliminary results suggest public and private investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy supply expansion will need to total $60 billion per year over the next 10 years to meet IPCC targets for climate change reduction. If implemented successfully, these investments could result in 410,000 new jobs annually and reduce household energy costs across the four-state region.

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Pittsburgh’s OnePGH Resilience Strategy addresses long-standing challenges facing Pittsburgh through a partnership with city nonprofits, the corporate community and Pittsburgh’s largest philanthropies. Priorities to be addressed, including climate action, are supported by the NETL-City of Pittsburgh MOU.

OnePGH 2030 climate goals for internal city operations call for 100% renewable energy use and a 100% fossil fuel-free fleet. City-wide goals for 2030 include a 50% reduction in energy use and a 50% transportation emission reduction.

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Emerging technologies supported by the
NETL-Pittsburgh MOU include:

Rare Earth Elements (REEs)

REEs are vital materials used to produce key components for windmills, solar panels and other green energy equipment, as well as medical equipment, computers, electronics and systems to support the nation’s defense and security needs. NETL is advancing technology to extract REEs from mining and power plants wastes to create a reliable domestic supply of these materials, end U.S. reliance on foreign producers and create opportunities for high-tech manufacturing.

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Carbon Ore

Emerging technologies offer opportunities to use coal in new ways that do not involve combustion to manufacture carbon-based computer chips, carbon fiber that’s significantly stronger and lighter than steel and more. NETL is advancing research to manufacture carbon additives that enhance the durability of cement and carbon-based graphene nanomaterials for use in composite plastics, batteries, water filtration systems and 3D printing.

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Opening Doors to Revitalization

NETL and Pittsburgh share a rich, productive history. When the Pittsburgh area was a major center for mining and coal production, NETL, then called the Pittsburgh Experiment Station, investigated electricity and its applications in mining, safer use of explosives, and improved procedures for mine rescues.

Starting in the mid-1970s, NETL’s predecessor supported R&D on directionally-deviated drilling techniques to enhance petroleum and natural gas recovery. Directional drilling together with innovations in hydraulic fracturing led to the Marcellus Shale drilling boom and the region’s resurgence as a major energy producer.

Since then, NETL’s commitment to the region has remained unwavering.

Agreement Builds a Grid of Microgrids

Capitalizing on five existing energy districts and the City’s unique geographic features, NETL is working with Pittsburgh and regional partners to create a network of small-scale distributed energy systems that supply residents, businesses and institutions with clean, reliable and cost-effective power.

Rather than relying on a centralized grid supplied by distant facilities, these systems can operate independently or in conjunction with the main electrical grid and incorporate a diverse mix of energy sources, including advanced energy technologies pioneered by NETL and other national laboratories.

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Funding Opportunity Announcements

NETL identifies financial opportunities for the partnership. These include funding opportunities found on the NETL website ( others issued by various federal agencies and non-federal organizations.


NETL envisions that its partnership with the City of Pittsburgh can serve as a model for other collaborations between the DOE national laboratories and other cities. Awards received by the NETL-Pittsburgh collaboration include:

  • 2018 Federal Laboratory Consortium Mid-Atlantic Regional Award for State and Local Economic Development
  • 2019 Federal Laboratory Consortium National Award for State and Local Economic Development
  • Honorable Mention in the 2019 Smart 50 Awards for Smart Cities


Collaborators of NETL - City of Pittsburgh Partnership