America Is Trying to Electrify. There Aren’t Enough Electricians.
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America Is Trying to Electrify. There Aren’t Enough Electricians.

Climate law is expected to add new demand for car chargers and heat pumps

Wed, Mar 1, 2023 8:54amGrey Clock 4 min

Electricians, the essential workers in the transition to renewable energy, are in increasingly short supply. They are needed to install the electric-car chargers, heat pumps and other gear deemed essential to address climate change.

Electricians say they are booked several months out and struggling to find enough workers to keep up with demand. Many are raising wages and prices and worried that they won’t be able to keep up as government climate incentives kick in.

“I’m tired of telling people I can’t help them,” said Brian LaMorte, co-owner of LaMorte Electric Heating and Cooling in Ithaca, N.Y., which does residential heat-pump installations and electric-service upgrades. His six-person company is booked roughly six months out, so he has been referring potential new customers to other firms in the area.

The 48-year-old brought on two apprentices last year and has seen the price of an average job rise to roughly $20,000 from about $16,000 two years ago due to rising raw materials, equipment and labor prices.

Dan Conant says he worries about getting enough electricians for his West Virginia renewable-energy company Solar Holler. The company started an internship program in partnership with a local high school and expects the state will need several thousand more electricians over the next decade.

“Ultimately, this is the bottleneck,” Mr. Conant said.

The scarcity is part of a nationwide labour shortage and most acute in the Northeast and California, where demand for green-energy products is highest, in part due to state incentives. Some economists expect the pinch to spread across the country as incentives from the new federal law known as the Inflation Reduction Act kick in.

The current total of more than 700,000 electricians in the U.S. is expected to grow about 7% over the next decade, slightly faster than the nationwide average of 5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The shift to renewable energy and the need to update electrical systems is expected to drive that growth. Some analysts say that expansion needs to be several times faster for the U.S. to meet its climate and electrification goals.

The BLS includes a separate category of solar photovoltaic installers, some of whom could also be electricians. Growth in that much smaller sector is expected to be above 25%.

Industry analysts say it will be difficult to meet that demand, particularly because more electricians retire every year than are replaced, and many retired during the coronavirus pandemic.

The median age of electricians is over 40 years old, in line with the broader workforce. But nearly 30% of union electricians are between ages 50 and 70 and close to retirement, up from 22% in 2005, according to the National Electrical Contractors Association.

The average annual electrician salary rose from roughly $50,000 to about $60,000 from 2018 to 2022, an increase roughly in line with the national average, according to the BLS.

The climate law will put several hundred billion dollars’ worth of incentives into the economy designed to accelerate the energy transition and boost clean-energy supply chains in the U.S. The law followed an infrastructure spending package and incentives for domestic semiconductor manufacturing that are also expected to spur demand for labour and could end up pushing up total construction costs.

“We’re definitely in a new era of industrial policy,” said Philip Jordan, vice president at BW Research, a firm that studies how policies will impact the economy and workforce. “We’re putting our finger on the scale in a much more aggressive way than we ever have before.”

The impact of these policies differs from that of broad-based stimulus passed under the Trump and then Biden administrations in 2020 and 2021. Those packages raised demand across the board for goods and services. These latest policies are much smaller in total dollars, but also more focused, with their effects falling acutely on certain types of workers and products and in certain regions.

“There’s not enough people to do all this,” said Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who argues the programs should have been spread out over a longer period. His state has attracted billions of dollars in investments from companies such as Norwegian firm Freyr Battery and Koch Industries Inc. since the climate law’s passage.

To help address worker shortages, the law ties tax credits for renewable projects to the number of hours worked by apprentices.

Product makers such as Schneider Electric SE are working to make simpler products and drive down installation times. The company has been investing tens of millions of dollars in expanding its product manufacturing in North America and partnering with trade associations on training programs for electricians who install them, said Michael Lotfy, senior vice president of power products.

“We’re really trying to cope with the spike in demand that will happen,” he said.

On a recent week in Ithaca, three of Mr. LaMorte’s employees were installing a heat pump for Matthew Minnig, a 40-year old engineer who lives with his wife in a four-bedroom house. Mr. Minnig hopes to use the heat pump—which moves air between the inside and outside of a home—to replace a natural-gas boiler for heat in the winter and add air conditioning in the summer.

He ordered the units in April, but was told installation would take several months. “There are times I can remember last summer thinking, ‘We’ve already paid a considerable amount for this project, and I’m still sweating in my house,’ ” he said.

Demand for electrical upgrades and heat pumps is likely higher in Ithaca than many cities because of local and state policies and incentives encouraging a shift away from fossil fuels.

Electricians say jobs can be bigger than expected because of the high electricity demands of devices such as car chargers and induction stoves. That often entails upgrading home electric panels to accommodate 100, 200 or 400 amperes, they say.

Jesse Kuhlman, owner of Kuhlman Electrical Services Inc. in Massachusetts, said the company’s South Shore division is booked out to the summer, its longest such backlog in recent years. The company focuses on rewiring old homes and has been doing many more electric-car charger installations lately.

Mr. Kuhlman has tried to grow the company by training apprentices over time. He expects new demand for rewiring homes and electric-panel upgrades to support the business even if the economy slows, a shift from the 2008 financial crisis, when he remembers not having jobs for weeks at a time.

“You can’t just take people off the street and throw them into what we do,” he said.

—Greg Ip contributed to this article.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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There’s nothing more appealing than being able to cool off in your own pool on a hot summer’s day. For many Australians, the idea of a backyard pool is enticing but with so many styles to choose from, the decision is not always straightforward. Considering your budget, the needs of your household, along with the size of your outdoor space is key to achieving the best outcome for delicious days poolside. We take a deep dive into the best in pools to get you into the swim.



Narellan Pools Symphony Pool

Nothing beats this classic pool design. With the ability to cross styles of architecture from Hamptons to mid century modern and minimalist design, the rectangular pool is a ‘one size fits all’ style that adapts to most needs, from swimming laps to splashing about with the kids. Go as big as you can manage on acreage or shoehorn it onto a suburban block for a clean, classic look that’s hard to top.



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A popular choice where there are views of the water or bushland to enjoy, an infinity pool gives the illusion of having no edge. Also known as rimless, overflow or zero edge pools, the water flows over the edge of the pool into a catchment basin that sits below the waterline, out of sight. A great choice for elevated positions where the pool can create a visual bridge between the house and the view, an infinity pool is particularly expensive to install and run thanks to the continuous need to pump water from the catch basin.



free form pool
Baden Pools

Designed to mimic the natural environment, lagoon or freeform pools have fallen out of favour since their heyday in the 1980s. Despite the name, they are often available in standard sizes in fibreglass or concrete and are characterised by their curved, asymmetrical shapes. Slides and waterfalls are popular accessories to this style of pool while landscaping is typically tropical, in keeping with the oasis-like environment.



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While the name might suggest that this style of pool is aimed at hard core swimmers, lap pools are a great choice where the obvious location for the pool is long and narrow. If doing laps or water therapy is the main purpose for installing the pool, consider installing swim jets which create non-stop resistance to swim against. A lap pool should be at least eight to 10 metres long to be useful.



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Nothing beats being able to cool off in your own backyard over summer and what plunge pools lack in space, they can make up for in amenity. While swimming is probably out of the question, plunge pools are generally easier and cheaper to maintain than their larger counterparts, making them an attractive option for heating and cooling. They also have the obvious advantage of being able to fit into most backyards.



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Precision Pool and Spa

Another great option where space is an issue, spa pools, also known as spools, offer the best of both worlds, with a spa area integrated into all or part of the pool. Known in some places as a cocktail pool, they can be a great solution for those who like to entertain or simply passively enjoy the water. Costs are generally a little less than a conventional pool and more than a dedicated spa.



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For those who love the integrated look, perimeter overflow pools are a stylish choice. Designed in line with the edge of the deck, the water gives the impression of overflowing at all edges for a sleek, minimalist look. Water is captured and recycled in channels around the perimeter. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, this style of pool can be pricey to install and run. For level sites though, it’s the ultimate in swimming luxury.



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While conventional pools are kept clean through the use of chemicals such as chlorine, natural pools rely on moving water (via a pump) and biological filters such as plants to maintain good water quality. It’s a style gaining ground in Australia, where water quality is naturally quite high, making the move to natural pools easier, and more homeowners become interested in chemical-free options.



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The great advantage of this style of pool is that excavation is often minimal, which means less disruption – and less cost. Strictly speaking, there’s any number of materials available for construction, including fibreglass and concrete, but the above ground pool is probably most often associated with the old-school modular pool with liner from the likes of Clark Rubber.



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If you’re looking to add a little drama to your home, a glass walled pool could fit the bill. Essentially an underwater ‘window’ in recent years, architects have specified glass walled pools to be viewed from inside the house, with the benefit of drawing natural light through the water into internal spaces. An engineer will specify the exact thickness required to take the weight of the water but expect it to be at least 12mm thick.

What is the best type of swimming pool to build?

The type of pool you choose will depend on your budget and the size and style of your yard. Fibreglass pools come in a range of shapes and sizes and are faster and easier to install than concrete, mainly because they are made on the factory floor and delivered to site. Concrete pools take longer to build but they are customisable and can be finished in high end materials. Often, the decision can get down to how long you intend to stay in your property in terms of how much you want to invest.

What is the most expensive part of a pool?

If you’re talking about construction, excavation is often the big cost that takes owners by surprise. Make sure you understand excavation and tipping costs before signing a contract. Filtration, decking, tiling, fencing and landscaping can all add significant cost to the construction and installation of a pool. In terms of running costs, solar energy can be a good way to offset expenses.

What is a good size for a home swimming pool?

Again, this will depend on the size of your outdoor space, your lifestyle and the people who will use your pool. A family of four will have different needs to a couple who prefer to enjoy a dip at the end of a hot day. Choose a size that allows everyone to move around freely while keeping in mind that the larger the pool, the greater the time and money required to maintain it. Pool sizes in Australia have shrunk in recent years but popular sizes for family pools range from 7m by 3m up to 9m by 4m. Speak to your pool builder about the best – and safest – depth for your needs.


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