The Duquesne Light Co. (DLC) may not be among the best-known electric power companies in the U.S., but for its customers in Allegheny and Beaver counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, the company has been a steady presence in the community for more than a century.
“We are a Pittsburgh-based utility company. We’ve been in operation for over 140 years, serving the Pittsburgh area,” Kevin Walker, CEO of DLC, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “We are very entwined with our community, doing a lot of community service and corporate giving. And since we’re a small but mighty utility, we know, live, and work with all of our customers. I see many customers in the supermarket and in the barber shop and those kinds of places. And so, I love to feel that we are really making an impact for the people we know and serve.”
Pittsburgh was the site of the Global Clean Energy Action Forum (GCEAF) in late September. Delegates from around the world gathered at the event hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and Carnegie Mellon University. It was the first time the GCEAF was held in the U.S.
The three-day event featured high-level plenary sessions and topical roundtables with energy and science ministers, CEOs, and other experts and leaders (Figure 1). There were also various side events, technology demonstrations, and other activities throughout the week. Walker was a member of the host committee.
“We’re still riding the high off of that event. It was so exciting to have people from across the globe, here in Pittsburgh, really, to showcase the evolution and continuing evolution of Pittsburgh,” Walker said. “It was a great knowledge share both ways. We learned things from around the globe, as well as sharing our wisdom with folks around the globe.”
Walker said innovation and creativity are in Pittsburgh’s DNA, as is a willingness to collaborate. “I think that’s our secret sauce here as a region—we really collaborate well and there’s a low-to-no barrier to the folks helping each other,” he said. Walker felt the collaborative spirit extended to attendees from across the globe during the event and has continued even after the conference ended.
DLC has collaborated with other power companies, too. In late July, for example, the company announced that Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), an Exelon Corporation unit, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) had joined the first phase of DLC’s public crowdsourcing innovation challenge, called “Monitoring Electrical Cable Challenge: The Future of Underground Inspection.” The challenge was devoted to creating a more reliable and safer underground electric network in the Pittsburgh region.
With a total prize of $750,000, the challenge was shared with entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, students, and more, and it drew submissions from around the world. ComEd and PG&E are collaborating with DLC in two areas: guiding the challenge finalists on solution testing and evaluating the phase-one results. The winning solution is expected to strengthen the underground electrical grid and improve worker and public safety in DLC’s service territory, with the potential for further implementation in ComEd’s and PG&E’s networks.
Yet, if you look at DLC’s website, the first thing listed under its “About Us” heading is “Community,” and Walker seems well-focused on that aspect. “We just really have this giving spirit and we want to be an important partner for our community,” he said. Part of that includes charitable giving, while addressing social and economic inequities, workforce development, and sustainable communities also play a role.
DLC has also made efforts to improve supplier diversity and work with more local suppliers. “Oftentimes, we have national and even international diverse suppliers. That is good, but it doesn’t put money back into our community. So, we’re happy and proud with the advancements we’ve made there,” Walker said.
To hear the full interview, which includes examples of work DLC has done to improve infrastructure, to add solar power to its resource mix, and to prepare its grid for the future, listen to The POWER Podcast. Click on the SoundCloud player below to listen in your browser now or use the following links to reach the show page on your favorite podcast platform:
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—Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).