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Musings of an Energy Nerd

Electricians, Get Ready!

For the next decade, there’s going to be more work than you can handle

Don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Encourage them to become electricians. There's a nationwide shortage of electricians, so GBA readers should encourage their kids to go to trade school. Photo credit: Matt Millham, courtesy of Fine Homebuilding.

Here’s some good news: the call to “electrify everything” has evolved from the faint plea from an ignored group of scientists and environmentalists to national policy. On August 16, 2022, President Biden signed into law a major piece of climate legislation that will provide funding for the transition from appliances and vehicles fueled by gas and oil to new equipment fueled by electricity. (For bizarre political reasons, the climate legislation has a strange title—the “Inflation Reduction Act,” or IRA—a fact that is mostly irrelevant.) The bill dedicates billions of dollars of federal funding over ten years toward our nation’s climate goals.

Green builders know that if our country is going to meet our climate action goals, we’ll need to replace appliances that burn propane, natural gas, oil, or gasoline with electric appliances. This will affect our country’s kitchen ranges, water heaters, furnaces, boilers, and vehicles. (Of course, our country also needs to decarbonize the electricity grid, phasing out coal-burning power plants in favor of wind turbines, PV arrays, and battery banks.)

In the eyes of most environmentalists, the new legislation falls short of what is needed to avoid climate catastrophe. That said, the billions promised by the bill make it the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history.

Climate investments are coming

For GBA readers, the most interesting provisions of the bill include the following:

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  1. Expert Member


    Young people up here have already seen the writing on the wall. Our local trade schools have had huge increases in enrollment in their electrical courses, so much so that we currently have a surplus of qualified electricians - but as you say that will soon be taken up with the increased demand. I've pointed a few young people in that direction over the years. The training has so many applications, and unlike many others with more damaging physical demands, is a trade you can continue to practice as you get older. You can spot the difference between the middle-aged electricians and carpenters by the way they get out of their trucks at the hardware store.

    1. enteecee | | #2

      Don't know where you're at Malcolm, but if you're "up", please send your excess young sparkies down to the DC area. Yes, it's a dreadful swamp much of the year; but winters are mild (getting milder), there's lots of culture, the standard of living is generally pretty high... and electricians charge an arm and a leg when you can get them.

      1. Expert Member
        MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #3


        Up here on Vancouver Island, it appears to be one of the few skilled trades that aren't experiencing a scarcity of recruits, and I'm not sure what has driven that. Speculating, I'd say there may be a cultural component. It's seen as a profession, which as Martin has said, has a great future, and appeals to the west coast vibe where other traditional trades may not.

        That's not to say the profession as a whole doesn't currently have a shortage of qualified workers. Our utility has so few electrical engineers it has taken three months to get service arranged for a job I'm involved in, but the future looks bright enough it is attracting students in large numbers.

  2. personusa1 | | #4

    I'm dying down here in DC/NoVA. Can't work enough overtime to keep up with projects and the sales team keeps on selling. Summers are downright brutal on the roof/in the attic 😂 Satisfying work but looking forward to moving back to NH and working in a more mild climate. We're in for a wild ride for sure. I think the unseen benefit of a trades deficit is that is slows installations as the technologies continue to develop and mature further. The equipment we use is mostly great but in need of improvement in my opinion

  3. davin_ | | #5

    The problem with this, at least in my area (chicago) is that these residential electrician jobs are done by non-union companies. While the shop may charge $100-$150 an hour for them to be there, the electrician may only get $25-30 an hour, and lucky to have benefits. So, unless you're willing to work for yourself, a residential electrician not the best career choice. And most people aren't cut out for the risks and stress that comes with starting a small business (even though now might be the best time).

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