30-Year-Old Law Provides New Green Skills Training

An Arkansas law passed more than 30 years ago during the energy crisis of the 1970s is offering today’s workforce an opportunity to learn a new skill set that will help them succeed in the emerging green-energy economy.

During the energy crises of the 1970s, Arkansas legislators passed the Energy Conservation Endorsement Act. While the law outlined the regulatory structure for implementing statewide conservation and energy efficiency programs, it did not contain any mandates to do so.

Fast forward to 2007. Another national energy crisis and a weakening economy were drivers that prompted the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) to act. Using the authority given to the Commission in the 1977 law, the PSC adopted rules to establish the state’s first utility funded energy efficiency programs. All investor-owned utilities, both gas and electric, under the PSC’s jurisdiction would, beginning in 2008, deploy various energy efficiency programs for all customer classes (i.e., residential, commercial and industrial customers).

For example, under this initiative, Entergy Arkansas provides residential customers with energy audits and financial incentives for employing energy efficiency improvements.

Programs like these need a trained workforce. Energy Efficiency Arkansas, or EEA, partnership has been established to train these workers to conduct energy audits and be knowledgeable about how to operate the advanced technologies available today. “There was a void that we [the EEA partners] must address before moving forward. The energy efficiency industry has advanced so much that it has become a highly specialized field with national certifications and standards. The state just didn’t have enough people out there in this industry with the necessary skill sets,” explained Susan Recken, Energy Efficiency Programs Coordinator at the Arkansas Energy Office.

The EEA partnership among the Arkansas Energy Office of the Economic Development Commission, the investor-owned electric and gas utilities, the state’s electric cooperatives and the PSC, is trying to reduce this void through a series of training courses that offer certification in new fields of efficiency expertise. In April, the EEA sponsored a Home Energy Rater Training and Certification class. Limited to 15 participants, the class filled up quickly. “The group simply can’t be any larger because of the complexity of the material and the hands-on training that are involved,” Recken explained.

The training is an intensive week of learning building science principles and incorporating that knowledge into the actual practice of conducting on-site home energy inspections and preparing home energy ratings. Participants are expected to complete homework assignments and are given tests throughout the week. Following the training, participants may begin the process of becoming nationally certified, which has several benefits. Certified raters are recognized by many organizations and programs, including ENERGY STAR, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System and the National Association of Home Builders.

To date, EEA has held one Energy Rater Training and Certification class as well as training for Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) professionals on proper sizing of equipment and duct sealing.

It may have taken 30 years to finally implement, but Arkansas’ training opportunities couldn’t have come at a better time. With an increasing focus on energy efficiency, the demand for skilled professionals is expected to rise. A survey conducted by the U.S. Association of Energy Engineers indicates there will be a shortage of qualified professionals in the energy efficiency field in the next five years. Cities in Texas, Maryland, Colorado and Florida are now requiring energy audits of all homes before they can be put on the market for sale. A similar mandate is in place for all European Union nations.

For more information on about Energy Efficiency Arkansas, go to http://energyefficiencyarkansas.org/.

EEA Home Energy Rater Training