By Andrew Winslow | Wed, April 19, 23
Completing and scaling comprehensive home energy retrofits has long been a goal of many programs within the energy efficiency industry. In 2020, NEEP continued to rethink home retrofits in collaboration with The Building Performance Professionals Association of Vermont and Energy Futures Group (EFG), launching the second phase of the Zero Energy Now (ZEN) pilot.
ZEN is different than single-measure programs because it includes weatherization upgrades, conversions to heating electrification technologies, and the installation of renewable energy. The theory is that ZEN combines measures to find the perfect balance between energy and carbon reductions as well as project cost and return on investment. The ZEN model took the complexity of a comprehensive retrofit out of the hands of the building owners and put it into the hands of building experts. Instead of building owners going out to shop for three different contractors, they needed only one project manager. The program was a success. Thirty five homes were retrofitted and are achieving an estimated 94 percent reduction in GHG emissions. NEEP highlights the preliminary results in a new blog post. In the ZEN pilot, however, we identified one key barrier to scalability – a robust workforce.
Total Energy Pathways: Workforce
The demand for deep energy retrofits is growing, as evidenced by New York Governor Hochul’s target to retrofit two million homes by 2030. With this comes the need for a skilled, trained workforce to execute these projects. To meet this need, NEEP and its partners, EFG, Building Performance Institute (BPI), and Building Performance Association (BPA) launched a new project – Total Energy Pathways: Workforce. This project is geared towards growing and diversifying the home retrofit contractor workforce. To accomplish this goal, the team is creating and launching an online resource hub that houses training resources, internship programs, and educational materials. The materials can be accessed at any time to accommodate busy schedules of those that may be interested in them. Another key outcome of the project is a nationally recognized BPI certificate called the Total Building Performance Certificate, and the accompanying training modules. The modules cover a wide range of topics to prepare contractors and employers with necessary information to think holistically about home retrofit. The Training modules are free to the public and will be accessible in NEEP’s Online Resource Center.
EE Jobs Baseline Data
Utilizing information from E4TheFuture, NEEP performed a regional energy efficiency jobs benchmark in 2021 to set a baseline for the current state of the workforce and to track progress. The team recently performed another assessment to see how the workforce has evolved over time. At the time of the original 2021 benchmark, the NEEP region had a total of just under 463,000 energy efficiency employees. Of these, 23.9 percent were female and 62.9 percent were white. With that information, the TEP Workforce project was created with a core goal of increasing the diversity of the workforce across the region. The Project Advisory Committee consists of stakeholders from around the region including state energy offices, utilities, and others representing the contractor workforce. Members of this committee are well-connected to their individual state workforce programs and are helping to make sure the project is being advertised in many different locations to attract a diverse group of workers.
In 2021, the workforce grew by 2.57 percent reaching just under 475,000. The data also shows that the workforce became slightly more racially diverse, while the gender split remained about the same. The percent of the total workforce that is white decreased by 0.87 percent which was made up by a 0.36 percent increase in the Hispanic workforce, 0.27 percent increase in the Asian workforce and 0.26 percent increase in “other”. The Asian demographic was the fastest growing demographic in the industry, adding on 2,043 new workers - a 7.12 percent increase. All employment data was sourced from E4TheFuture’s Energy Efficiency Jobs in America reports.
Although the energy efficiency workforce is growing, the country is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting downstream impacts on supply chains and the overall economy. In 2020 the industry lost ~63,000 energy efficiency jobs, a decrease of 12 percent. While the job market has grown by 34,000 new jobs since that time, the number of workers in the industry is still down seven percent since pre-pandemic levels.
NEEP is committed to expanding the workforce to meet the growing demand for energy efficiency improvements and comprehensive retrofits through TEP Workforce and other initiatives. In late 2022, NEEP launched a clean energy internship program called ReMaine, funded by the Maine Governor’s Energy Office to help Maine meet its goal of doubling the clean energy workforce by 2030 – that’s approximately 30,000 new jobs in the state alone. The program will place 32 interns in short-term paid positions and seek to expand in subsequent years.
On-the-job experience is incredibly valuable for newcomers to the industry and allows employers the opportunity to train and assess new workers’ abilities before committing additional resources to them. The program is subsidizing 50 percent of intern wages and is providing other training opportunities to candidates as well. Like the TEP Workforce project, ReMaine has a strong emphasis on diversity, with goals to place 40 percent female and 30 percent BIPOC candidates. NEEP is working closely with local partners to achieve these goals through active outreach and an engaging application process.
Learn more about what NEEP is doing to engage the workforce and accelerate energy efficiency in the region on our website. Contact Andy Winslow for more information on the TEP Workforce project and Chase Macpherson for information on the ReMaine project.