Ask Eartha: A call for clean energy professionals
Dear Eartha, I just had an energy assessment done, which got me really excited about completing energy efficiency projects for my home. But now I’m having trouble getting anyone scheduled to come do the work. Why is it so hard to line up contractors for these types of projects?
The demand for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements has spiked in Summit County in recent years and it’s no coincidence. Greater awareness about the health and safety and indoor comfort benefits of these upgrades is driving interest. Along with that, rising utility prices and ever more apparent effects of climate change are causing many local homeowners to decide it’s time to do something about their energy use at home. In terms of sustainability and raising the collective motivation needed to drive change, this is fantastic news!
What’s not so fantastic is that the industry is continuously running into a shortage of qualified contractors to meet and fulfill this increasing demand, as it sounds like you’ve experienced firsthand. I don’t know about you, but when I see demand outpacing supply in this way, I see big opportunity. If you or someone you know is considering a new line of meaningful work, it may be worth looking into a career, or even starting your own business, in this field.
A win-win profession
There is a ton of value circulating around work in the spheres of energy efficiency and clean energy — and it flows both ways between professionals and their customers. The nature of this work is such that improvement projects generally save customers money down the road, along with many other benefits. The value there is clear, and you can feel good about providing that to happy clients. On top of that, professionals in these areas enjoy fulfilling work that has tangible, beneficial impacts in the greater fight against the climate crisis.
Here’s the best part: Jobs in these areas pay very well. A report published in 2020 called “Clean Jobs, Better Jobs” proved this claim.
“According to the report, workers in renewable energy, energy efficiency, grid modernization and storage, clean fuels and clean vehicles earned a median hourly wage of $23.89 in 2019 compared with the national median wage of $19.14,” says the summary on the report Environmental Entrepreneurs.
You may be wondering what types of work are even out there for a career in energy efficiency or clean power. These jobs will hold many similarities to other work in the trades, but with a directed focus on energy conservation, renewables and the technology specific to these areas. Here are a few examples to get you started in your search:
- BPI building analyst: Conducts home energy assessments to provide homeowners with information and direction related to the health, safety, comfort, and efficiency of their home.
- Air sealing and insulation installation team: Helps create tighter, more efficient buildings by completing insulation contract work to improve the building envelope.
- Certified HVAC contractor: Specializes in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment and processes. Consider a focus on high efficiency, cold-climate systems for our area and a sustainable edge.
- Heat pump installer: Specializes in installing heat pump systems to satisfy primary heating and cooling loads in homes and businesses. Newer cold-climate heat pumps work well even at low temperatures, and there is growing demand for this highly efficient technology in our area, while currently there are very few installers.
- Electricians and solar installers: Electricians are always needed in this line of work and having a specialty in newer energy efficient technology will provide a leg up on the competition for bidding jobs you want. Photovoltaic solar has exploded recently in Summit County and installers are in high demand — having an electrical background will also be a huge plus in these jobs and could even open up the opportunity of building your own company.
You’re not alone
Many skills from parallel professions translate well and provide an advantage in the clean energy industry, like those with prior experience in HVAC or mechanical systems. It’s not necessary however, and often some additional training is required. There are already programs in place to help support and grow the network of professionals in these fields.
Energy Smart Colorado offers tuition reimbursement for qualifying training and certifications to help would-be energy professionals get started and grow their skills.
High Country Conservation Center provides ongoing support to local contractor networks through their sustainable energy programs and has funding available to assist in training and education as well.
Contact either of these organizations for help, guidance, and additional resources. Spread the news from the rooftops — will you be on the forefront of the energy revolution?
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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