California has been a national leader in promoting energy efficiency and clean energy for decades, and since the passage of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state has stepped up its efforts to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions even further. Including private dollars leveraged through incentive programs, California currently invests over $6 billion a year in energy efficiency and clean energy. Much of this is ratepayer investment controlled by public and private utilities. This energy investment also constitutes a workforce investment, creating and transforming jobs in the construction and utility industries. Utilities and their regulating agencies are now in the position of being drivers of economic development and implementers of environmental policy, as well as fulfilling their traditional mission of supplying affordable and reliable power. Utilities and energy agencies will increasingly be held accountable for achieving economic development goals, which include goals concerning the kinds of jobs being created, who is getting the jobs, and how workers are being trained.
These questions are critical in determining the achievement of both energy- and job-related policy goals. Energy savings targets are increasing; the quality of energy efficiency work is vitally important to whether or not those deeper savings targets will be reached. High-quality worker training and competency among the energy efficiency workforce are key to the proper installation, operation, and maintenance of energy efficient equipment and building systems. In addition, ratepayer funded energy efficiency work constitutes a public investment in job creation. From a policy perspective, it is important that the jobs being created pay decent wages and provide entry into real career paths. One innovative training program that makes strides in addressing these important goals is the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee (UPCT) program, developed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the utility electrical workers’ union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 18. The UPCT program provides a model of a successful program that provides pathways into real careers, while helping the largest municipal utility in the country decrease the city’s dependence on fossil fuels.