Empowering Everyone to Experience the Benefits of Electric Mobility
Sarah Olexsak, manager of transportation electrification at Duquesne Light Co.,
discusses how Pittsburgh is pursuing an equitable transition to electric transportation.
August 24, 2021
Three years ago, I packed my bags, left Washington, D.C., and moved back home to Pittsburgh with little hesitation and a lot of pride.
Like so many others here in town, you could call me a “boomeranger” — those of us who were born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, departed for other cities as young adults and then at some point returned home to Pittsburgh.
There’s a reason we come back — and, sure, you could say it’s the place we know best, but I’m here to assure you that it’s so much more than that.
Let’s start with why we left the ‘Burgh in the first place. For many, it’s opportunity and new perspective and that’s exactly what I found in D.C. For the first decade of my professional life, I developed my electric mobility career and saw the world through a new, holistic lens from the nation’s capital.
Over the years, friends and colleagues would share news articles of exciting developments happening in the Pittsburgh region. I observed the opportunity brewing back home in Pittsburgh, and it wasn’t just the opportunity to advance my career. It was the opportunity to empower people in my hometown with electric mobility.
In Pittsburgh, time and again we’re reminded that no idea is too outrageous. Through history, we’ve been on the cutting edge of manufacturing and, if you take a look around today, you’ll see Pittsburghers leading the way on autonomous vehicles, healthcare technology, research and so much more.
This inspiring work reminds me of a quote from Pittsburgh’s own Henry J. Heinz — the entrepreneur behind the beloved Heinz Ketchup. It reads, “To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.” While he was talking about a condiment, the application of his words goes much further here in Pittsburgh.
From my seat as the transportation electrification manager at Duquesne Light Company (DLC), I celebrate every time I see a Pittsburgh-based company using their expertise to enter the growing electric transportation supply chain simply by doing common and sometimes even uncommon things uncommonly well. I’m talking about companies like Eaton producing circuit breakers for electric vehicle (EV) charging; PPG making specialty coatings for EV batteries; and Lanxess developing high-performance polymers used in EVs.
As a Butler County native, I’m especially proud of the work I see Saxonburg-based II-IV doing, such as creating the semiconductor lasers, optics and materials needed for the LiDAR systems found in many EVs. In an area made prominent by industrial manufacturing, they are capitalizing on the opportunity brought by the transition to electric transportation.
The examples don’t stop there either as there are many other companies in and around Pittsburgh contributing to the electric transportation supply chain, and even more well positioned to enter into it as it continues to grow rapidly.
This is the kind of potential we seek to unlock in our customers at DLC: to take something as common as electricity and use it to help them operate uncommonly well for the benefit of people, the environment and business.
The progression of electricity has been nothing short of amazing, from powering light bulbs and small appliances to homes and businesses to now the movement of people and goods throughout our community.
Electricity has long fueled transportation in Pittsburgh, with the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines being well-known examples. They’ve been powered by electricity for nearly a century. While the concept itself isn’t new, electricity is well on its way to fueling a new and cleaner era of mobility in the Pittsburgh region and that makes me thrilled to be here.
Since I moved back to Pittsburgh, DLC has given me the opportunity to work on empowering everyone in the region to experience the benefits of electric mobility. In doing so, we’re facilitating a smooth and equitable transition to electric transportation.
In the past five years, we’ve seen EV adoption in our service territory increase by 480%. Additionally, DLC has:
- Helped install nearly 100 public charging station ports throughout the city.
- Worked with the Port Authority of Allegheny County to bring the first two all-electric buses to the region.
- Launched an EV time-of-use rate to help customers save on charging.
And we’re not done yet. In the coming years, we plan to continue to support the growth of safe and reliable charging infrastructure and encourage electric mobility access for all through equitable programming and the advancement of electric public transportation and micro-mobility options, including electric bicycles and e-scooters.
And most importantly to us, we will always be a trusted energy advisor for our customers, especially as we all make the exciting, sustainable and rewarding transition to a transportation future powered by electricity. While there’s so much opportunity here in Pittsburgh now, it’s clear there’s even more waiting for us in the future.
This blog first appeared in Pittsburgh Region: Next is Now on July 21, 2021.