NEW REPORT: Updating Workforce Programs Can Lead to Big Energy Savings

May 15, 2014

California’s utility companies can increase the State’s energy savings by encouraging workforce development programs to update their skills requirements and certifications. A report titled Workforce Issues and Energy Efficiency Programs: A Plan for California’s Utilities published by the UC Berkeley Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy and co-authored by the Career Ladders Project, identifies programs offered by community colleges, trade apprenticeships, and university programs to refresh their curricula with the latest skills that impact energy use. The report offers a detailed action plan for the investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to develop and engage a qualified workforce with the capacity to achieve the state’s energy efficiency targets.

“Energy-efficiency jobs in the near future will require additional knowledge, skills and abilities to complete this more complex work than were required for past (energy-efficiency) success,” says the Vial Center report. IOUs, such as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison, administer most of the state’s energy-efficiency incentive programs, which are intended to encourage the adoption of upgraded heating-ventilation and air conditioning systems, solar and advanced lighting installations and other energy-saving measures. The plan prescribes a set of energy efficiency program requirements and strategic training investments that the IOUs can implement to build and support an industry of qualified contractors and workers. Strengthening certification requirements for contractors and their workers will lead to paying real dividends for Californians trying to reduce energy consumption.

In addition, the plan proposes that IOUs establish a dedicated workforce inclusion program for the specific purpose of expanding access to living wage jobs, expand economic opportunity for disadvantaged workers and rewarding career pathways in energy efficiency programs.

Recommendations from the report include:

  1. Workforce Standards:  The IOUs should incorporate a set of contractor and workforce standards into the program requirements for their EE incentive programs. These requirements can help ensure that ratepayer-subsidized EE measures are properly installed, operated, and maintained, and that the energy savings potential from ratepayer subsidies is fully realized. Such requirements also signal the state’s training institutions to develop or update curriculum in order to provide workers with necessary skills.

  2. Skills Building: The IOUs should restructure their workforce education and training (WE&T) investments to move toward greater alignment with California’s main training and education institutions—trades apprenticeships, community colleges, and university architecture and engineering programs—in order to incorporate EE-specific skills and knowledge in the broader skills sets of workers in key occupations. We also recommend a dedicated funding stream for job preparation for workers from disadvantaged communities.

  3. Inclusion: The IOUs should create a workforce inclusion program to expand opportunities for workers from disadvantaged communities to enter and advance in rewarding careers related to EE. This program should leverage the IOUs’ influence over EE job creation to help broaden access, and to ensure that the jobs generated by ratepayer investment provide living wages and defined pathways for advancement.

To read the full report visit this link.

>Press Release