In true marathon spirit, IREC has had its running shoes on this spring, hitting conferences and meetings on all sides of the country.  These events have been most fruitful and rewarding – well worth the long TSA lines and full planes.  Having face-to-face time with many colleagues has given us new insights to make our work more meaningful.

marathon runner

First leg was on Saturday, March 29 when IREC set up a booth at the annual National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) Forum in Washington, DC.  The IREC Credentialing team reports below on their engaging conversations with Workforce Investment Board members from across the U.S., all looking at how to ensure that students graduate from training programs with skills that match employer needs.

For clean energy, they see good value in identifying training that holds IREC accreditation. Pat Fox reports that there was ongoing interest in replicating what the San Bernardino County WIB is doing – asking training programs about IREC accreditation when they apply to be included on their Eligible Training Provider List.

Up I-95 a bit in Baltimore on April 1st was Laure-Jeanne Davignon speaking at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy National Symposium on Market Transformation.  The session focused on innovative commercial facilities personnel training programs, from both a national and regional perspective, moderated by Julianne Meurice with Navigant Consulting and joined by Jennifer Allen of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and Patrick Dail with CUNY’s Building Performance Lab.  Laure-Jeanne discussed national standards and efforts for implementation and standardization of workforce development training for the clean energy industry in general, and specifically in the commercial energy efficiency space. Jennifer Allen cited that “trained and motivated operations and maintenance staff can reduce facility energy use by 5-15 percent.”

On April 28 and 29, our new regulatory director, Sara Baldwin Auck, traveled to Chicago to represent IREC on the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Energy Efficiency and Grid Modernization Public Advisory Group.  Sara will serve a three-year term on this distinguished group, whose primary purpose is to provide input, advice and perspectives to inform EPRI’s Power Delivery & Utilization research teams on timely and pertinent topics, such as grid modernization, integration of distributed renewables and energy storage.  The group also provides an important forum for open dialogue among a diversity of electricity sector stakeholders, including utility regulatory commissions and staff, state and federal research centers, consumer advocates, non-governmental organizations and utilities.

And, the last week in April found IREC at two additional conferences.

In downtown Detroit, IREC set up a booth at the Affordable Comfort, Inc. (ACI) Home Performance annual conference.  Laure-Jeanne Davignon and Kristen Ferguson networked with weatherization training centers and private sector trainers and employers.

Laure-Jeanne moderated the panel on “Setting the Standard: What Training Organizations Need to Know.”  Steve Baden, Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), John Jones, Building Performance Institute (BPI), and Wes Davis, Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), shared their current activities as standards developers for home energy performance work and provided tips on how training organizations and other stakeholders can make their voices heard through the consensus process.  Laure-Jeanne was also a panelist on a credentialing session talking about the value of credentialing for the industry.

Kristen and Laure-Jeanne reported back on the work the U.S. Department of Energy and the weatherization network has done to make the Standard Work Specifications for the home performance/weatherization industry more accessible and usable in the field. They have designed an impressive online catalog that can be used to generate work orders, a QC checklist for jobs, and can even generate and publish field guides for individual states, with a growing database of ‘before and after’ instructional photos and illustrations.

Heading to southern California, more than 40 students and faculty from universities across the country participated April 28 in the first annual student-centered conference on developing the power engineering workforce of the future, which you can read more about below. The conference is a project of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative’s  new program, Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Development (GEARED), administered by IREC and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).  Among the highlights was a student poster session, in which about half of the attending students presented research.

Student and faculty attendees also had the opportunity to network with professionals in conjunction with the opening of SEPA’s annual Utility Solar Conference.  Bob Gibson, Joe Sarubbi, Mary Lawrence and Jerry Ventre made the event a resounding success.  The students were clearly the winners.

Earlier in the month, on Thursday, April 17, the White House held a Solar Summit and recognized “Champions of Change” who inspire and empower members of their communities by bringing jobs and economic advantages with solar energy.

It was a beautiful, crisp spring day in DC.  The Summit was held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, an impressive building located next to the West Wing which houses a majority of offices for White House staff.  The granite, slate and cast iron exterior shows off the French Second Empire style of architecture. It took 17 years to build.  It is a striking structure inside and out.

I was invited and honored to lead a panel discussion on Solar Jobs, Training, and Workforce, a topic at the core of IREC’s culture and one where IREC has taken a leadership and determined role over the past 14 years, promoting quality training, third-party assessments and credentialing, and consistency through standards and best practices.  Even with a perfect balance of good products, profitable pricing, and proactive policies, poor workmanship can crash a market in no time.  Capable and competent workers taught to the right skill sets provide a solid foundation for market stability, acceptance and growth.

Receiving the Champions of Change distinction on this panel were Donnel Baird, Bloc Power; Kate Bowman, Utah Clean Energy; Elyse Cherry, Boston Community Capital; Henry Red Cloud, Lakota Solar Enterprises; and Tim Sears, GRID Alternatives.  IREC extends its congratulations to all of the solar Champions of Change and applauds their innovation, resolve and successes.

It was a busy March and April crisscrossing the country.  May and June hold a similar fast-paced schedule.

Image credit: warrengoldswain / 123RF Stock Photo