It’s been six months since the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law, earmarking $1.2 trillion for a “once-in-a-generation” investment in our country’s physical infrastructure. The scope and scale of resources made available by the IIJA is unprecedented, representing the importance of the systems that connect people, businesses and communities as well as the opportunities, barriers and needs to sustainably modernize our infrastructure conventions.
Over the coming years, Pennsylvania will receive $11.3 billion for highways, $1.6 billion for bridge replacements and repairs, $2.8 billion for public transportation, $171 million for an electric vehicle charging network as well as millions of dollars to clean up abandoned mine lands, improve water systems, support low-income residential home efficiency, and many more formula allocations across various sectors.
Although the IIJA may appear narrowly focused on physical infrastructure, viewing the legislation through a multi-sector lens illuminates a roadmap with numerous pathways for participating in a common mission. Dozens of new programs for a variety of sectors are available through the IIJA, and there isn’t a single sector that represents the full breadth of possibilities available.
A central theme found throughout the IIJA is the goal of decarbonization, or the removal of carbon from human systems and activities. According to our analysis, at least $38.5 billion is available in nationally competitive programs across multiple sectors for work on decarbonization. In addition to the formula allocations, Pennsylvania can compete for dozens of new grant programs in clean energy manufacturing, efficient building operations, grid modernization, mobility and transportation, energy storage supply chains, sustainable buildings for nonprofits and public schools, circular economy infrastructure, and dozens of other programs that hold a key to unlocking the potential of a comprehensive, multi-sector decarbonization strategy.
To make the most of the IIJA, Pennsylvania needs cross-sector partnerships that work toward the common purpose of decarbonization. Take beneficial electrification for example. Beneficial electrification offers a decarbonization pathway for many sectors, including the buildings sector. For some buildings, the IIJA’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program will be available to install energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy installations. Leaders like PITT OHIO provide a strong example for how beneficial electrification creates a cost efficient and healthy workplace for employees. And if a building is owned by a nonprofit organization, such as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and is committed to contributing to a decarbonization strategy, then the IIJA’s Energy Efficiency Materials Pilot Program, specifically designed for nonprofit building owners to integrate energy efficiency upgrades, could help implement beneficial electrification strategies for heating and cooling systems. For each of these examples, up-skilling the workforce and up-tooling local supply networks will be needed so that systems are installed by a locally trained workforce and supported by local supply chains in communities across the region. Once again, the IIJA can be leveraged to provide Career Skills Training to train the clean energy workforce needed for this scenario. This is just one small, discrete example in $1.2 trillion worth of opportunities.
Multi-sector participation and coordination is vital for an infrastructure system to support a lasting decarbonization strategy. To maximize the transformative potential of the IIJA, every sector in Pennsylvania that has opportunities in our decarbonization journey needs to engage. The clear interconnectedness of the IIJA’s competitive programs showcases how the innovations available today to improve climate resilience, environmental justice, and energy security can enable a forward-looking, multi-sector, equity-centered decarbonization strategy across projects, operations, partners, and networks for generations.
Now that you know what we think, we’d like to know what you think! Please take our brief 3-5 minute survey on regional decarbonization!