Green energy has a problem There aren't enough electricians. Here's one


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This article originally appeared in Nexus Media News and Reasons to Be Cheerful. Before he joined the Civilian Climate Corps, Robert Clark assumed building and electric work was all low-skilled labor, akin to “working at McDonald’s,” he said. That was before he learned to install electric heat pumps, maintain electric vehicle charging stations and perform 3D image modeling of spaces about to get energy upgrades. The apprenticeship program has been life-changing, Clark said. Before joining, he struggled to find work, in part because of a felony conviction for burglary. “It’s a no-brainer,” he said of joining the Civilian Climate Corps, which pays him $20 per hour to learn skills and receive the certifications that he needs to get work. He hopes to go back to school to become an engineer. Clark is one of 1,700 New Yorkers who has gone through the Civilian Climate Corps, which was developed by BlocPower, a Brooklyn-based building electrification startup, and the city of New York. The program, launched in 2021 with $37 million from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, has a heady dual mandate: develop a workforce that can help the city meet its ambitious climate goals and bring those jobs to neighborhoods affected by gun violence. How does climate change affect you?: Subscribe to the weekly Climate Point newsletterREAD MORE: Latest climate change news from USA TODAY“The labor supply is a big problem, but it’s also a massive opportunity,” said Donnel Baird, CEO and founder of BlocPower. Baird grew up in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, where he said many Black and low-income families like his own would turn on their gas stoves in the winter to make up for inefficient heating systems.“We are going into the lowest-income communities, where folks are at risk of gun violence — personally, their families, their communities — we’re training them on the latest, greatest software to install green infrastructure in urban environments, in rural environments,” Baird said in 2021. In several studies, access to jobs has been shown to correlate with lower crime rates; one study of youth employment in New York City revealed a 10% drop in incarceration for those who had summer jobs. New York has ambitious plans to decarbonize its buildings, the city’s largest source of emissions. It has banned gas connections in new buildings and put caps on how much existing buildings can emit. By 2027, all new buildings will need to be fully electric. Officials say those changes will help the city reduce building emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. New federal tax credits that are part of the Inflation Reduction Act provide additional incentives for developers and homeowners to replace outdated gas furnaces and boilers for electric upgrades. There’s just one problem: there aren’t enough skilled workers.“America has a shortage of skilled construction workers of any kind,” said Baird.

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