Friday, June 12, 2009

Electricians Lay Claim to Solar Market

Interesting article in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning. Now that Pennsylvania is gearing up for a lot more solar installations, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (the electricians union) is making it's feelings known about who will be qualified to install them.

They're concerned about a provision in the new legislation that requires contractors to be certified:

"Pennsylvania's Department of Energy, for example, wants solar contractors used in the Sunshine rebate program to be certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners."

In other words, the state is going to be investing a lot of money in this program and they don't want the work done by unqualified contractors, electricians or not.

I like what the union is doing. At the same time that they are staking their claim they are also incorporating new elements into their apprentice training so that electricians will have more working knowledge of solar technology installation:

"It's facilities include a solar structure that apprentices use to practice installing solar panels and connecting them to the structure's electrical system."

The union wants to avoid a situation where smaller contractors will need to go to the extra trouble and expense of bringing on a "journeyman trained in solar" in order to bid for jobs. Instead, they want the additional solar training done by apprentices to qualify them for solar certification.

I think both sides are right. Electricians can do this work but they should have extra training that the state is talking about. Although installing the components may not be much different than what electricians ordinarily do, the design of a system is a skill that requires knowledge and training -- at least that's how it looked to me when mine was going in.

It shouldn't take long to work this out.

1 comment:

Kira said...

Thanks for posting this - as a member of the solar indsutry in PA, we are seeing more and more of a conflict arise between small solar contractors (such as my company, which has been installing solar for nearly 40 years!)and the IBEW.

We all need to work together, realize that there is enough solar work to go around, and understand the cooperative dialogue is the best way to create sustainable jobs and grow the solar industry.