Thought Leadership

$4.5M Award to Train Workforce & Increase Demand Response

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The California Energy Commission has awarded $4.5 million to CSE to develop workforce resources in disadvantaged communities to help improve the state’s energy efficiency in existing buildings. Funds for the four-year program are part of the commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) initiative to create new power grid solutions and foster energy sector innovations.

CSE will initiate career opportunities for electrical apprentices in installation of advanced systems for commercial buildings to respond to changing electricity grid demands in partnership with the California State Labor Management Cooperation Committee of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).

More than 500 recruits and existing electrical apprentices from disadvantaged communities will go through the automated demand response (AutoDR) training and eventually qualify as energy efficiency technicians. Classroom and on-the-job training on AutoDR equipment will be offered at eight Joint Apprenticeship Training Centers throughout California.

AutoDR capabilities

AutoDR technologies give building owners and property managers the capability to seamlessly respond to utility requests to temporarily reduce energy use in order to help balance the electricity grid, and by doing so, receive compensation during periods of high power prices or when the reliability of the grid is threatened. Using modern communications equipment and control devices, such as building management systems and lighting control systems, utilities can send a remote signal to a facility to initiate an automatic curtailment sequence that has been preconfigured for that facility.

AutoDR is a critical tool for both grid stability and transitioning to a much higher penetration of renewable energy sources as called for by California’s current 33 percent renewables portfolio standard (RPS) and the new 50 percent RPS goal established by Governor Jerry Brown in January. The technology also lowers costs for utility ratepayers by improving the effectiveness of demand response programs.

“While demand response systems are widely available and highly dependable, their proper connection at building sites has not been adequately translated to contractors, resulting in poor installations and faulty commissioning of systems,” said Lindsey Hawes, CSE’s senior manager for building performance. “The state will never realize the full potential of AutoDR unless we address the workforce skills gap in this critical technology.”

Program details

When sufficient electrical apprentices are trained, the program will enlist owners of 200 small and medium buildings and public facilities into the California investor-owned utilities AutoDR incentive programs and accelerate the installation of AutoDR communications equipment in disadvantaged communities as defined by Senate Bill 535. Participating businesses are eligible for a substantial one-time incentive to pay for control system equipment upgrades, Hawes said.

Other program participants include the California Labor Federation Workforce and Economic Development Program, California Lighting Technology Center at UC-Davis, Demand Response Resource Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Retail Industry Leaders Association, ICF International, ASWB Engineering, Energy Solutions and community-based organizations.