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Training Grants Help Put California Wiremen ‘Ahead Of The Curve’ On Microgrids

Published Tuesday, April 13, 2021
by IBEW News
Training Grants Help Put California Wiremen ‘Ahead Of The Curve’ On Microgrids

(THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA) - Keeping ahead of the latest electrical technologies has helped International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Members capture work and market share for 130 years.  Now, a timely new grant program for Electrical Storage and Microgrid (ESM) System Training in California will help Members and Locals there continue to stay ahead of the curve of the green energy revolution.

The grant program, managed by the California Workforce Development Board, is making available ($1.25 million) to help boost training efforts toward the IBEW-led Electrical Storage and Microgrid Training and Certification (ESAMTAC).

“This certification will allow our Members to provide customers with an extra measure of confidence that the IBEW Electricians who are handling ESM installations will get every aspect of those jobs done safely and properly,” said IBEW International Vice President John O’Rourke, whose Ninth District jurisdiction includes California.

The IBEW and its partners at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) have been working over the last few years to put together the ESAMTAC initiative, with input from expert organizations such as the American National Standards Institute, the National Science Foundation and the Electric Power Research Institute, as well as professors at Penn State University.

ESAMTAC also has support from energy storage and battery manufacturers, along with contractors having experience with data centers, where safe battery installation and maintenance are crucial.

Microgrids are becoming increasingly attractive because they can provide power, usually from solar or wind, cleanly and efficiently to places like remote neighborhoods and college campuses that are not connected to the grid.

Microgrids often combined solar and wind to generate power with batteries to provide liability.

An effective way to capture work in a new and emerging market like ESMs, O’Rourke said, is to help set the standards for that work and then gain certification in it.

Doing so sets IBEW Members apart from other contractors who claim, without evidence, that they are qualified to do the work.

“Pretty much every state now has some sort of renewable energy standard that they’re trying to achieve,” O’Rourke said. “We’re trying really hard to make sure all of this work goes to us.”

Some of the equipment needed for ESM training can be expensive, though, so having access to the grant money should help offset those costs and encourage Electrical Training Alliance Centers in California to adopt the ESAMTAC curriculum.

Johnny Simpson, an IBEW International Representative in the Ninth District who specializes in green energy issues, compared ESAMTAC training to the certification many IBEW Members are getting through another program the Union also helped develop: the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP).

“The certification in these things might not help you today, but the IBEW is successful when all of its Members are ready for the future,” Simpson said. “We have to take every opportunity and put it all together.”

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