Ørsted and U.S. Building Trades reach a national agreement for workforce planning in Offshore Wind

A November 18  press release from the North America Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and Ørsted Offshore North America  announces a “Landmark MOU for U.S. Offshore Wind Workforce Transition” , which “represents a transformative moment for organized labor and the clean energy industry. This framework sets a model for labor-management cooperation and workforce development in the budding offshore wind industry.”

According to the NABTU  press release, “The partnership will create a national agreement designed to transition U.S. union construction workers into the offshore wind industry in collaboration with the leadership of the 14 U.S. NABTU affiliates and the AFL-CIO.”    The newly-announced MOU is based on the model of an agreement developed by the Rhode Island Building Trades for the Block Island Wind Farm project – the first offshore wind installation in the U.S. which came online in December 2016, and is now operated by Ørsted .

No text of the new agreement is available yet, but the press release specifies:

“As part of this national framework, Ørsted, along with their partners, will work together with the building trades’ unions to identify the skills necessary to accelerate an offshore wind construction workforce. The groups will match those needs against the available workforce, timelines, scopes of work, and certification requirements to fulfill Ørsted’s pipeline of projects down the East Coast, creating expansive job opportunities in a brand-new American industry for years to come and raising economics for a just transition in the renewable sector…..Ørsted and NABTU, along with their affiliates and state and local councils, have agreed to work together on long-term strategic plans for the balanced and sustainable development of Ørsted’s offshore wind projects.”

North America’s Building Trades Unions is an alliance of 14 national and international unions in the building and construction industry that collectively represent over 3 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada.  Previous NABTU model national agreements are available here .  Labour-affiliated BlueGreen Alliance issued a press release immediately, “lauding” the agreement between NABTU and Ørsted .  BlueGreen is also a partner in  New England for Offshore Wind , a civil society coalition which advocates for regional collaboration in New England, and urges state Governors to make commitments to power one-third of New England with offshore wind by 2022.

The Block Island Wind Farm has been described as “a case study in high-quality job creation” by the Center for American Progress in Offshore Wind Means Blue-Collar Jobs for Coastal States  (April 2018). Massachusetts Offshore Wind Workforce Assessment,(2018) is a detailed  study by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Centre, focusing on job-related issues, and highlighting the experience of Block Island.

Energy efficiency policies could create 1.3 million job years in the U.S.; jobs require skills standards

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released three reports in September. Growing a Greener Economy: Job and Climate Impacts from Energy Efficiency Investments considers policy proposals for investments in homes and commercial buildings, electric vehicles (EVs), transportation infrastructure, manufacturing plants, small businesses, states, and cities. Those investments are projected to achieve 660,000 added job-years in the U.S. until 2023, and 1.3 million added job-years over the lifetime of the investments and savings. In addition, the proposed programs would result in 910 million tons of lifetime reduced carbon dioxide emissions and $120 billion in lifetime energy bill savings for consumers.  A 3-page Fact Sheet summarizes findings.

A second  ACEEE report released in September identifies the skills required to ensure a workforce prepared to build and maintain highly energy efficient buildings.  Training the Workforce for High-Performance Buildings: Enhancing Skills for Operations and Maintenance is summarized in this blog . The report includes a literature review and responses to a survey of 111 building owners/managers, operators, tradespeople, technicians, and service providers. 92% of survey respondents ranked operations and maintenance (O&M) skills as most critical. The report provides an insight into the job duties and tasks, as well as an overview of the state of education and training in the U.S., and case studies of exemplary training programs . The main recommendation: utilities, program administrators, and policymakers should establish skill and credentialing standards .  Training the Workforce for High-Performance Buildings: Enhancing Skills for Operations and Maintenance is available from this link  (registration required).

Finally, Programs to Promote Zero-Energy New Homes and Buildings identifies and analyzes twenty programs in British Columbia, Washington, D.C., and 12 other U.S. states. British Columbia’s Zero Energy Challenge is briefly highlighted-  an incentive program and juried design competition for buildings built to the highest standard of the B.C. Building Energy Step Code .  (Much more detail is available at the Net-Zero Ready Energy Challenge website and the BC Energy Step Code website, which includes case studies). The ACEEE report highlights as “particularly notable” the Energy Trust of Oregon commercial program, NYSERDA multifamily and commercial programs, and Efficiency Vermont programs addressing single-family housing, multifamily housing, modular housing, and commercial buildings.  

Green skills training for recovery

Many green recovery proposals have recognized the importance of energy efficiency and retrofitting. Below, some examples from voices within the Canadian building sector itself, focusing on green skills training:

Workforce 2030 is a practical initiative launched in Toronto on July 23 –  a cross-sectoral coalition of employers, educators, and workers in Ontario’s  building sector, coordinated by by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC).  John Cartwright, President of Toronto and York Region Labour Council, and a member of the 14-person Advisory Council states:  “Workforce 2030 is a collaboration that will increase the capacity of the skilled trades to meet the low-carbon standards required in the built form of tomorrow. We need to continuously improve low-carbon skills for the entire sector, deepen our commitment to high-quality training, and grow our workforce through equity and inclusion.”  The Statement of Principles outlines values of collaboration, accountability, and equity.  More details are here.  

Canada’s Green Building Council published Ready, Set, Grow: How the green building industry can re-ignite Canada’s economy in May 2020.  Some of its proposals are endorsed in Efficiency Canada’s Pre-budget submission to the Government of Canada (August 5)  – specifically, a call to allocate $500 million ($1000 per employee) to access existing training programs, and a further investment of $1 billion to attract and train new people to create energy efficient and green building careers. The pre-Budget submission states:  “The multiple benefits of energy efficiency can help Canada manage both demand and supply shocks from COVID-19 while improving the operation of our buildings to reduce virus transmission.”   Its recommendations also include $1.5 billion in government funding to expand green building workforce training.  

In September, Efficiency Canada released Tiered Energy Codes: Best Practices for Code Compliance , which “explores the evolution of energy codes, reviews compliance regimes, and provides high-level recommendations to assist in the compliant expansion of advanced tiered energy codes nationwide.” As the paper explains, codes and practices vary widely across jurisdictions in Canada. The report points to the British Columbia Step Code, B.C. Hydro projects, and Toronto Ontario as best practice models. Regarding training, it focuses on  the training needs of builders and  building inspectors, rather than on the skilled trades.

The Pembina Institute published recommendations for British Columbia, in Accelerating B.C.’s economic recovery through building retrofits Submission to the Government of British Columbia (July 28). One of its Guiding Principles is : “Build the workforce: Partner with public and private organizations to deliver subsidized training programs, develop design guides, conduct integrated design sessions (charrettes), create data tools (e.g. remote energy audits), etc. Provide retraining support for impacted economic sectors to join the retrofit economy workforce.”

Much more detail is provided by Pembina in Training up for deep retrofits (July), which enumerates what green skills are needed, how governments can help, and where existing training opportunities are currently available in Canada.  The Pembina Institute is one of the partners in the Reframed Initiative, which works with designers, builders, owners, financiers, and policy-makers to scale up deep retrofits.

The  Toronto Atmospheric Fund, partner in Workforce 2030, submitted a formal Presentation to the federal Pre-Budget Consultations, calling for the federal government to invest at least $50 billion over five years in climate-focused clean stimulus measures, including at least $27 billion in climate resilient and energy efficient buildings, with at least $2 billion over 5 years to support deep retrofits that maximize carbon reduction and community benefits.

On July 22,  the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery released  its Interim Report ,  costing out five key policy directions for the next five years, with a total price tag of just under $50 billion.  The Task Force lists key actions and actors to achieve five broad goals:  “Invest in climate resilient and energy efficient buildings; Jumpstart Canada’s production and adoption of zero-emission vehicles; Go big on growing Canada’s clean energy sectors; Invest in the nature that protects and sustains us; Grow clean competitiveness and jobs across the Canadian economy .  As part of #1, investment in climate resilient and energy efficient buildings, the Task Force calls for “investing $1.25 billion in workforce development for energy efficiency and climate resiliency, including for enhancing access to training programs and for developing new approaches.”  The Task Force Final Report is scheduled for release on September 16 at their website .

Seven renewable energy co-ops send a 9-page Letter to federal ministers on June 24 , titled  “Federal Post COVID 19 Recovery Stimulus to Unlock Community Investment in Clean Energy”.  While their suggestions focused on clean community power , they also called for incentive grants of $100 million over 5 years for community- financed mass, deep retrofits of community, institutional, and multi-residential buildings.  Participating co-ops include the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op (OREC)/CoEnergy, SES Solar Co-operative Ltd. in Saskatoon, Bow Valley Green Energy Cooperative in Calgary area, Colchester-Cumberland Wind Field Inc. in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, the Solar Power Investment Co-operative of Edmonton, Wascana Solar Co-op in Regina, and SolarShare in Toronto. 

U.K. energy workforce will need 400,000 workers to reach net-zero emissions by 2050

building the net zero workforceThe U.K. has a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. A new report,  Building the Net Zero Workforce , forecasts the likely employment and skills impacts of that goal for the energy industry, assuming that it will require a 50% increase in low carbon electricity generation; installation of low carbon heating systems in approximately 2.8 million homes; installation of  60,000 charging points to power 11 million electric vehicles (EVs); and development of  carbon capture usage and storage technology as well as hydrogen networks  – all by 2030. 

To accomplish all this, the report projects that the energy industry will need to recruit for 400,000 jobs between 2020 and 2050 – 260,000 in new roles, and 140,000 to replace those who will be leaving in what is an anticipated retirement crunch. The report forecasts both time dimensions and regional needs, concluding that jobs will be available in all regions of  the U.K. and for a diverse range of skills, “from scientists and engineers, to communications professionals and data specialists.”  More specifically,  “The roles included in this analysis are those involved in the operation, generation, transmission, distribution and retail of energy in the UK, as well as those in the supply chain related to building, upgrading, maintaining or operating infrastructure required to reach net zero.”

The report emphasizes the role of young people and a need to encourage women in STEM professions.  In general, there is a need for training and re-training for the emerging technologies such as AI. The report notes, without details, that : “ By investing in retention and retraining, and working collaboratively with government and unions, the sector can help ensure a fair energy transition, one in which workers of all ages and backgrounds and from every community in the UK can play their part.”

The report was written by an independent research company, Development Economics, under a commission by National Grid, a U.K. organization which owns and operates electricity transmission in parts of the U.K., and invests £7.5 million per year in training.

U.S. cities are training young workers for clean energy jobs

The American Council for and Energy-Efficient Economy released their 2019 City Clean Energy Scorecard in the summer of 2019 , surveying and ranking clean energy policies amongst U.S. cities. Workforce development programs were included in the survey, and the report found that 37 out of 75 cities surveyed had clean energy workforce development programs, many in partnerships with utilities, non-profits, colleges, and others. The programs include  clean energy and energy efficiency job training directed at traditionally underrepresented groups, as well as clean energy contracting programs promoting minority- or women-owned businesses.

In January 2020, the ACEEE released an update in a Topic Brief titled Cities and Clean Energy Workforce Development  . It offers an overview of best practices, along with brief case studies of Orlando, Florida and Chattanooga, Tennessee.  An accompanying blog, “How are US cities prepping workers for a clean energy future?” summarizes  other equity-driven initiatives  –  for example: the Work2Future program in San Jose California which trains young adults from disadvantaged populations in energy-efficient building construction, achieving an  82% job placement rate; and Birmingham, Alabama, which offers energy efficiency training opportunities to Minority Business Enterprise contracting partners.

The blog and Topic Brief update a larger 2018 ACEEE report, Through the Local Government Lens: Developing the Energy Efficiency Workforce, available from this link (free, but registration required). Even more information is available from an ongoing ACEEE database, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Workforce Development ,which lists cities by name and provides descriptions of their programs.