Energy Efficiency Workforce

Recent federal and state policies are driving unprecedented demand for energy efficiency products and services, shaping the industry landscape for decades to come. However, this deluge of funding is running into one very big dam – an ongoing, national shortage of workers. 

COVID-19 dealt a major blow to the energy efficiency workforce, with the DOE’s 2021 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) reporting an 11.4% drop in workers in 2020 alone. However, the shortage of workers cannot be attributed to the pandemic alone. In February 2020, one month before COVID-19 became a household term in the U.S.- the president of the National Comfort Institute stated that an estimated 20,000 HVAC technicians were leaving the industry nationwide each year. And with 40% of the construction workforce likely to retire in the next decade, there is an urgent demand for new workers in multiple fields.

According to the latest DOE USEER State Report, jobs in the Virginia energy efficiency industry have steadily increased over the last three years and are now back to pre-COVID numbers. This slow rebound will not be enough to meet exponentially growing demand. With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), DOE will deliver $9B to states ($186M to Virginia) for residential energy efficiency and electrification projects, creating an unprecedented demand for skilled contractors in an already strained workforce. 

Moreover, it will not be enough for contractors to simply be licensed, bonded, and insured. Contractors who perform upgrades as part of any utility, state, or federal energy efficiency program must understand building science principles, or the “building as a system” approach to ensure measures are being installed properly in order to maximize energy savings for the consumer. 

The Solution: VAEEC’s Energy Efficiency Workforce Initiative

DOE will be providing hundreds of millions of dollars to states to implement workforce training programs in preparation for the IRA rebates, underscoring how critical it is to train a skilled energy efficiency workforce now

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council has been convening workforce development experts as well as experts from within our membership, to design the Virginia Energy Efficiency Workforce Initiative (EEWI), a holistic, employer-driven approach to workforce development. We will utilize best practices from other programs, such as the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) externship program, to establish career pathways for HVAC technicians, weatherization subcontractors, and energy auditors, which will also include providing individualized career support services as needed.

The EEWI will align partners and existing entities to recruit, train, place, and retain skilled workers while utilizing funds to provide support and career services to trainees. 

Meet Erika

Erika Reel joined the VAEEC team in 2024 as our Workforce Program Director. As a long-time advocate for fair, affordable, and efficient construction in Norfolk and around the region, we are fortunate to have recruited Erika to lead this initiative. With several years of experience in Workforce Development, Erika is a champion of working with communities to ensure that all residents are stable and thriving with opportunities to achieve economic mobility, by way of career or self-employment opportunities.

Learn more about Erika and her role here.


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