Solar Co. Hopes Electrician Training Will Address Climate, Workforce Challenges

Nov 14, 2018

Solar installation workers unspool wire at ReVision Energy’s Brentwood warehouse.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

New Hampshire’s largest solar company wants to train more electricians to fill jobs in renewable energy and other industries.

ReVision Energy is touting its new training center now, as part of National Apprenticeship Week. But the program already has 50 students enrolled.

For the next four years, those apprentices will earn full-time wages – up to $25 an hour – and log enough training hours to get their state electrician certification.

The company will also train electricians in Maine and, starting next year, Massachusetts.

Their state certifications could get those electricians into all kinds of jobs at home and beyond. But ReVision’s operations director James Hasselbeck hopes their New Hampshire graduates choose to work here, in solar.

“We’re providing these folks opportunities to stay within the state and make a good wage without racking up tens of thousands of dollars in college loans,” he said during an open house with lawmakers and prospective workers at Revision’s Brentwood warehouse Wednesday.

ReVision market development director Dan Weeks says they want to help new, young workers join New Hampshire's aging, shrinking workforce, while combating climate change.

“The scientists are unanimous in advising that we need to rapidly transition from fossil fuel-based economies to a clean energy economy,” he says. “And if we're going to meet that climate crisis, we know that we need to bring more workers into this space.”

Weeks also credits years of climate change-focused policies in states like Massachusetts and Vermont with driving those states’ solar growth, which has far outstripped New Hampshire’s.

“Almost the exact same land mass, same climate. The delta is policy,” Weeks says. “[New Hampshire has] about a decade of catching up to do, but we can do it. Policy is really the lever.”

A handful of current and incoming state legislators, who will be part of a Democratic majority in Concord, were in attendance at the open house.

They say they want a diverse renewable energy portfolio, and they plan to support exploration of offshore wind development in New Hampshire as part of that.

But state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a Democrat from Portsmouth, calls solar the state’s best chance to capitalize on growth in renewable energy while cutting carbon emissions.

“As long as we can move policies forward that are going to support that, it’s just unlimited,” she says. “The more we can do with distributed energy at the local level, the greater leverage we have to control energy costs.”

She says she and her colleagues will prioritize policies to support those goals next session – starting by reviving a bill to expand the state’s net metering program, which Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed this year. Legislators narrowly declined to overturn that veto.

State Sen.-elect Tom Sherman is a Democrat who will represent the southeastern corner of the state. He says he’s confident the new legislature can work with Sununu to pass clean energy policies.

“I think the governor really needs to recognize that this is an industry that now has matured,” Sherman says. “It’s off the ground now, and now the playing field needs to be leveled.”

Sununu has said in the past that he supports renewable energy when it can compete on its own merits. He has also said he does not support new subsidies or other policies that could raise rates for consumers – for any kind of fuel.