The CSPA Q&A: Autumn Anderson

The Critical Investments administrator spoke with City & State ahead of the 2024 Energy Summit

Autumn Anderson looks to help PA’s government help people.

Autumn Anderson looks to help PA’s government help people. Provided

Autumn Anderson, who has a background in economic and community development, has served as deputy director of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Office of Investments for nearly a year – connecting state agencies and ensuring federal funds are properly disbursed and utilized. Lately, Anderson has been busy coordinating with agencies to best deploy monies from 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which has breathed life into the country’s clean energy economies.

In advance of her appearance as a panelist at the 2024 City & State Energy Summit, Anderson spoke with City & State to chat about how the commonwealth is working to make headway in economic development when it comes to the energy sphere.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What does your office do? 

In the Governor’s Office of Critical Investments, we coordinate with the commonwealth agencies deploying the IIJA and IRA funds. And we also coordinate with agents who work on transformative project programs to creatively deploy those funds.

What successes are you seeing in economic development in the energy sector? 

As an all-of-the-above energy state, right now, the IIJA and the IRA are incredible opportunities for Pennsylvania to invest in and diversify its energy sources. And we have a fantastic energy programs office at the Department of Environmental Protection – under Gov. Shapiro’s leadership, we’re able to put together plans and strategies to make sure that that funding is used effectively to buy our energy portfolio.

What challenges remain – and are there any that are unique to Pennsylvania?

There are four things that I would name as challenges – all of which I think we’re addressing – but there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

So the first thing would be local capacity; some of this funding relies on local governments being able to apply for it, and having the resources to do that is not always the case. 

I would also say trying to regionalize these off of the local capacity base. In Pennsylvania, if we can regionalize these efforts and have more regional ecosystems that are doing these federal opportunities, we’ll be able to more effectively achieve industrial decarbonization and move to more diverse energy sources.

The third thing would just be permitting processes, which the governor has made a priority to improve – eliminating project backlogs and removing red tape to ensure that we can get these projects done quickly. 

The fourth thing is workforce development. Pennsylvania is receiving a lot of money; all the states are receiving a lot of money, and this is an incredible opportunity. But if we don’t have the workforce to do projects, then they’re not done on time.

Regarding local capacity, is there anything your office can do in that area?

Our office does educate local municipalities on the tax credit programs and some of the IIJA programs. But yes, a lot of that falls on the individual agencies, which are all doing a really big lift in getting this information out to the public and communicating that out there. 

I think a lot of this will depend on our ability to work with our partners around the state. It is important that we engage with stakeholders around the state and partner with local organizations to help us get a lot of the information out about the IIJA and the IRA.

As far as our Energy Summit goes, what are you hoping to bring to the event – and to get out of it?

Well, I’m hoping to learn about some of the challenges and solutions that other folks in the area have thought about – around how we can best diversify our energy sources in Pennsylvania, invest in our workforce and maybe build up local capacity. 

I’m hoping to speak to the workforce development piece, and some opportunities that we might be able to bring to bear to build out the labor pool that will ultimately end up doing the jobs that will build our energy infrastructure across the commonwealth. 

Can you share a preview of one of those opportunities?

Sure. So Pennsylvania just submitted an application for what has been called RISE PA (short for Reducing Industrial Sector Emissions in Pennsylvania, a program to provide funding for industries to reduce carbon and benefit the health and safety of surrounding communities). This is for industrial decarbonization – for example, decarbonizing steel production or decarbonizing cement or concrete production – and it’s estimated that Pennsylvania received funding for this program that over the next several years will create around 6,000 job opportunities – and those are largely skilled union opportunities.

City & State’s Energy Summit takes place April 16 at the Hilton Harrisburg. For more information, including tickets, click here.