3 Rivers Region Receives $5 Million Federal Grant for Energy-Related Training
On June 29, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the 3 Rivers Region would receive $4,964,534 to create a comprehensive recruitment, training, placement and retention program for high priority occupations in the natural gas drilling and production industry. The Westmoreland County Community College will serve as the Western "hub" for the project, called "Marcellus ShaleNet," which will create an industry-recognized uniform training and certification program for jobs related to natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale. 3,000 individuals are expected to enter employment as a result of the assistance provided through the program. The region was one of the 41 successful awardees nationally chosen from 323 applications. The application was prepared with the assistance of 3 Rivers Clean Energy, and received more federal funding than any other project.
Job Opportunities in the Marcellus Shale
What kinds of job opportunities will be created by the natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, and who will be able to take advantage of them? Download this presentation to learn more.
The 3 Rivers Region is a World Leader in Clean Energy
Demand for energy continues to grow, but concerns about the environmental impacts of energy are also increasing. The world needs cleaner forms of energy, and the Southwestern Pennsylvania/Northern West Virginia Region is a leader in developing both renewable energy sources and cleaner versions of traditional energy sources:
- Wind Energy. For example, Converteam in O'Hara Township is a global leader in electrical systems for wind energy. One of the world's leading wind energy companies, Gamesa, makes turbine blades in Ebensburg. Elwood Group in Lawrence County provides shafts and steel housings for turbines. PPG Industries manufactures high performance coatings and structural composites for blades. West Virginia University has developed a new wind turbine design that has a vertical axis, with blades that spin horizontally - the opposite of traditional turbine designs that operate like pinwheels. They require less wind power and are cheaper to operate and have far less wildlife impact.
- Solar Energy. For example, Solar Power Industries in Belle Vernon is a top international supplier of solar panels. Plextronics, a Carnegie Mellon spinoff, is developing cutting-edge technologies that could revolutionize the way solar energy is generated. German-owned Flabeg Corporation in Findlay is manufacturing glass and mirror components for solar panels in utility-scale solar power plants.
- Nuclear Power. This region started the nuclear power industry when Westinghouse built the first commercial nuclear power plant in the world here. Westinghouse, now headquartered in Butler County, remains the global leader in the field. Suppliers like Curtiss Wright EMD, Hamill Manufacturing, and Huntington Alloys, among a host of others, provide critical components for Westinghouse generator systems.
- Natural Gas. The largest new source of natural gas is the Marcellus Shale in Western Pennsylvania. The 300 trillion cubic feet of gas that scientists at Penn State University believe can be extracted has attracted new companies from across the country such as Range Resources and Chesapeake Energy and has provided new opportunities for existing companies like CNX. These companies are attracting scores of supply chain companies that provide drilling services and a host of other goods and services.
- Coal. Coal-generated power will still be the largest source of electricity in the U.S. and other countries for many decades. The Pittsburgh Region is a leader in finding ways to make coal cleaner, through the research being conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory. CONSOL Energy is an international leader in production and operates the largest private research and development facilities devoted exclusively to coal and energy utilization and production.
- Energy Efficiency. The region is a leader in creating energy-efficient green buildings, and a strong cluster of green building suppliers - companies like Appalachian Lighting Systems in Ellwood City and Berner Energy Recovery - are developing technologies to improve energy efficiency. CLT Efficient Technologies is one of the fastest growing energy services companies in the country, offering energy savings solutions to companies and institutions that bring value to the bottom line.
- Smart Grid. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh are developing technologies that will make the power transmission grid much more reliable and efficient. The region is also home to companies like BPL Global, a smart grid technology company recognized as an energy efficiency and reliability leader and innovator.
The biggest challenge most of these companies face is finding enough qualified workers. Most jobs in energy-related firms pay well and most don't require esoteric degrees in energy science. They're jobs like machinists, welders, electricians, carpenters, manufacturing technicians, quality inspectors, and many others that require associate degrees, apprenticeships, etc. Many of these would be considered "green jobs."
By ensuring that the region is energy business friendly and by helping to stock the worker pipeline with skilled individuals ready to work, the region can claim an even stronger leadership position as a provider of both energy resources and energy technology.
2008 Regional Energy Industry Workforce Summit
On June 5th and 6th, 2008, 3 Rivers Clean Energy and Duquesne University's Center for Competitive Workforce Development, with support from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, hosted a workforce development summit focusing on the energy industry in Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia. One hundred and thirty two (132) participants from industry, education, government, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector convened to address the industry's workforce challenge.
Following presentations and panels of industry representatives, participants worked in small groups to address issues of recruitment, training, and retention. The reports of these working groups, as well as general themes and concluding recommendations can be accessed here. It is our hope that the Summit Proceedings and appended materials will function as an effective map of the workforce challenges facing the energy industry, and that they will serve to provide practical directions in addressing these challenges.
$400,000 State Award for Clean Energy Industry in SW PA
On October 23, 2008, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry awarded $400,000 to the 3 Rivers Clean Energy Partnership to support efforts to expand the clean energy industry in the southwestern Pennsylvania region and transform it into a research, development, and clean energy technology leader. The partnership will combine efforts with the International Union of Operating Engineers, which has delivered green building operator training, energy conservation training, and on-site energy efficiency training to more than 500 individuals over the past three years. Combined with $350,000 in private matching funds, the total investment is $760,000.
"Southwestern Pennsylvania was at the heart of our nation's industrial revolution," said Labor & Industry Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development Fred Dedrick. "Through the outstanding efforts of the 3 Rivers Clean Energy Partnership, and organizations like it, this region will be at the heart of our nation's clean energy revolution. By investing in today's advanced technologies and by training today's workforce to use them, Pennsylvania is working to ensure its place as a leader in the clean, sustainable energy industry of tomorrow and for years to come," Dedrick said.
The Economic Opportunity of Carbon Capture and Sequestration
One of the major energy challenges facing the world is creating cleaner energy from coal. Concerns about global warming have led to demands for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, particularly from coal-fired power plants. There is now broad agreement that it is impractical to eliminate or even significantly reduce the use of coal in the foreseeable future, and instead the priority should be finding ways to reduce the CO2 emissions that coal plants produce.
The most promising approach is what is called "carbon capture and sequestration" - capturing the CO2 before it enters the atmosphere, piping it to a storage location, and injecting the CO2 into the ground ("sequestering" it) permanently. The first two of these steps - capture and transport of CO2 - are already used commercially in other parts of the country for enhancing recovery of oil and gas from wells. The third step - sequestration - has been pilot-tested on a small scale, but not yet on the scale needed for a typical power plant. However, even long-term underground storage is not a new concept - there are already large underground storage facilities for natural gas both here and in other regions.
The region that pioneers the implementation of production-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology will likely be the region that reaps the economic rewards of that expertise in the future if the U.S. puts limits or taxes on CO2 emissions and when countries like China and India finally seek ways to reduce CO2 emissions from their coal plants. Southwestern Pennsylvania is well-positioned to be that pioneer because of a unique set of assets: many of our thousands of former oil and gas wells are "underground brownfields" that can be reused for sequestration of CO2; the proximity of those storage locations to major CO2 generation sites minimizes transport costs; and we have some of the best energy and environmental expertise in the world at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and West Virginia University.
However, as important as they are, these assets are not enough. State government needs to create a clear legislative and regulatory framework that enables private investors to pursue CCS projects. Two things are particularly important: (1) the state should enable the use of the geologic structures under state-owned gamelands and parks as sites for carbon sequestration; and (2) the state should provide a system for dealing with liabilities associated with sequestration, analogous to what the federal government did in the early days of the nuclear power industry. Other states are already working to put appropriate legislation in place, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly needs to move quickly if we are going to maintain a leadership position.
A detailed briefing paper on Carbon Capture and Sequestration and the opportunities for Southwestern Pennsylvania can be downloaded here.
Formation of the 3 Rivers Clean Energy Partnership
The 3 Rivers Clean Energy Partnership (3RCEP) was formed to bring together southwestern Pennsylvania companies that are part of the supply chain for the energy generation industry, with a particular focus on the members of the nuclear industry supply chain. The mission of the 3 Rivers Clean Energy Partnership is to ensure that the workforce needs of local energy businesses are met, and that the skills and talents of the workforce are developed such that the workers not only benefit as individuals, but that the workforce collectively serves as an economic engine to help grow and attract energy-related businesses. The 3RCEP works to accomplish this mission through:
- Coordination of worker training programs across strategic businesses and programs in southwestern Pennsylvania that participate in the energy generation or conservation supply chain
- Communication of industry challenges and development of strategies to address them in coordination with regional programmatic and policy initiatives
- Coordination with regional energy industry workforce initiatives, the other energy Industry Partnerships across the state, and the efforts of the newly created statewide energy industry consortium.
An industry partnership is a multi-employer collaborative effort that brings together management and labor around the common purpose of improving the competitiveness of a cluster of companies or organizations producing similar products or services and sharing similar supply chains, critical human resource needs, infrastructure requirements, business services, and/or retention/recruitment challenges. The purpose of partnerships is to concentrate attention and resources on particular clusters of industries that provide good wages and benefits, have the greatest potential for economic growth and/or which face serious challenges to growth or retention. By bringing together employers and their workers, the public sector can learn more about the opportunities and challenges facing a set of similar companies. Since 2004, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry has been developing industry partnerships in targeted clusters to organize workforce development strategies and focus training funds. Other partnerships include Advanced Materials and Diversified Manufacturing, Agriculture and Food Production, and Business and Financial Services.
The Demise of FutureGen: An Opportunity for the 3 Rivers Region?
Coal-fired generation represents about half of the electricity that is used in the United States and about 26% of the total world energy consumption, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA predicts that coal consumption will increase by 2.6 percent per year on average from now until 2015, and then will slow to an average increase of 1.8 percent annually from 2015 to 2030. Coal's share of total world energy consumption is projected to increase to 28 percent in 2030, and in the electric power sector, its share is projected to rise from the current 43 percent to 45 percent in 2030.
Although coal currently is the second-largest fuel source of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (behind oil), accounting for 39 percent of the world total in 2004, the EIA projects it to become the largest source by 2010. The two key factors underlying the increase are a more rapid projected growth rate for world coal consumption than for oil consumption, and the fact that carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy output are higher for coal than for oil or natural gas. In 2030, coal's share of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions is projected to be 43 percent, compared with 36 percent for oil and 21 percent for natural gas.
All of this tells us that not only is coal utilization here to stay, but that it will be growing into the future. The need to make coal clean, safe, and efficient has never been greater. It is unlikely that those countries whose coal usage is growing the fastest, such as China and India, will be investing in clean coal research and development, as their resources are being consumed in trying to keep up with the public infrastructure needed to support their exploding middle classes. So the burden for finding ways to reduce the problems caused by coal falls on the United States.
A recent Wall Street Journal article ("After Washington Pulls Plug on FutureGen, Clean Coal Hopes Flicker," February 2, 2008) says that "there is no way the U.S. will be able to meet a targeted 80% reduction in CO2 levels below 1990 levels by 2050 - the goal of major legislation favored by several presidential aspirants - unless it develops benign ways to burn coal." It goes on to note that more than 50 conventional coal-fired plants across the country were canceled or delayed due to concerns about the environmental impact or through fear that carbon legislation is coming that could make their output uneconomic.
FutureGen was conceived as a public-private partnership to build a first-of-its-kind coal-fueled, near-zero emissions power plant. It would combine advanced technologies related to coal gasification, electricity generation, emissions control, carbon dioxide capture and storage, and hydrogen production. Although the dual-turbine system used to create electricity from gasified coal (known as Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology) has been proven at commercial scale, the technologies listed above have yet to be put together and tested at a single plant - an essential step for technical and commercial viability. The FutureGen project was therefore intended to prove that it is possible to produce economical, coal-fueled electricity with carbon capture at a commercial scale. It should be noted that CONSOL Energy is a member of the FutureGen partnership.
The U.S. Department of Energy recently canceled the FutureGen project, but has indicated that it intends to support multiple, smaller demonstrations. This could represent a significant opportunity for the 3 Rivers Region. FutureGen was "the" demonstration project for clean coal, with plans to spend in excess of a billion dollars. If the federal government redirects the funds toward the advancement of the individual technologies, and this region, with its premier coal-related research assets, could be a major beneficiary. With coordinated advocacy and outreach, the 3 Rivers Region could become the center of the next generation of clean coal technology.
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