Clean energy and building electrification require a trained and skilled workforce.* According to the Solar Futures Study, to achieve the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of an inclusive, equitable transition to a fully decarbonized electricity system by 2035, the solar workforce alone will need to grow from approximately 250,000 workers in 2021 to between 500,000 and 1,500,000 workers by 2035. Construction of clean electricity generation and storage facilities is key to achieving the goals set out in California as well. Senate Bill (SB) 100 established a landmark policy requiring renewable energy and zero-carbon resources to supply 100% of electricity in California by 2045 through sources such as solar and wind energy that do not emit climate-altering greenhouse gases.
Preparing for our renewable energy future requires a workforce ready for green economy jobs in building and maintaining clean energy facilities. Investing in local skills training programs provides pathways for workers from diverse backgrounds to participate in the transition to a greener future and ensures access to green technologies expertise as energy infrastructure expands.
Regional workforce development and training leaders are expanding their offerings to prepare for the needs of this growing clean economy. For example, the microgrid maintenance fellowship program through the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) provides an intensive eight-week course of study that prepares students to operate, deploy, and maintain microgrid components and software. Clean Power Alliance (CPA) funded the launch of this program – and the first cohort of students – to help develop talent ready to lead in the field of clean energy and community resilience.
Additionally, LACI’s Green Jobs Fellowship provides technical training, interpersonal skills development, and industry-recognized certifications to help underrepresented groups succeed. The program fosters student understanding of microgrid systems, high-level solar-plus-storage system sizing, feasibility analysis, operation and control software, and electrical design of distribution networks.
Beyond the development of new clean energy projects, the California Energy Commission (CEC) says a shift to electric end uses would need to be a major component of any plan to reach 2045 climate goals. Developing reach codes to decarbonize existing buildings is a key strategy and is supported through CPA’s new Reach Code Program for Building and Transportation Electrification. A reach code is a local building energy code that “reaches” beyond or exceeds the state minimum requirements for energy use in building design and construction. They are adopted by city councils and county boards of supervisors with input from builders, contractors, and community members. Reach codes typically require that a new building be constructed with additional EV charging locations, electric water heating, space heating, cooking or other appliances, and that existing buildings receive electrification upgrades at specific points like time-of-sale or when an old appliance is replaced.
Over 70 jurisdictions in California, including many in southern California, have now adopted a form of reach code to encourage decarbonization leading to the creation of local green jobs.
To advance electrician skillsets in preparation for the growing need of electrification, CPA is also partnering with the Ventura County Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (VCEJATC) to expand workforce development through training programs with trade unions. The Smart Building and Smart Cities program will support International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) electrical apprentice training in cybersecurity and network technologies.
To prepare for further electrification of our buildings and transportation it is critical that public agencies, utilities, community organizations, unions, and workforce development agencies continue to collaborate and invest to prepare the workforce of the future and ensure there are quality jobs available for graduates upon completion of these programs.
*USGBC-LA Note: Please join USGBC-LA’s LA Green Jobs – Virtual Career Fair on April 26, 2023 at 2:30pm. Looking for a job or exploring green careers? Just sign up! Want to present as a hiring company? Email email@example.com ????
About the Author
Joanne O’Neill serves as the Director, Customer Programs at Clean Power Alliance, leading a mix of programs promoting electric vehicles and buildings, demand response, energy resiliency, and low-income community solar. She has over 15 years of experience delivering customer programs within the utility and consulting space. This includes over 5 years of leading the California operations at CLEAResult, the largest provider of emission-reducing energy solutions across North America, and more than 10 years at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). When at PG&E, Joanne designed and implemented numerous customer programs and led the strategy for implementation of time-of-use rates.