The presidents of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Laborers International Union of North America, and the International Union of Operating Engineers signed a national tri-trade solar agreement governing the construction of utility-scale solar projects, making it easier for developers, contractors, and unions to bring critical renewable energy generation online to power America’s communities.
“The members of our three unions have been key to the growth of utility- scale solar power for years now, and this agreement solidifies our role as leaders in this industry,” said IBEW International President Kenneth W. Cooper. “It will streamline the process of bringing large-scale solar projects onto the grid while ensuring they are done on time and under budget by experienced, skilled trades workers.”
The agreement, which will cover all of the United States except for California, delineates each union’s responsibilities on solar projects, making it easier for organized labor and solar developers to partner in building out this rapidly growing energy sector.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act represent the largest investment in clean-energy infrastructure and technology in our nation’s history, and our three unions are committed to building it with skilled, union labor,” said Cooper. “This tri-trade solar agreement will help lead us to a cleaner energy future while ensuring that green jobs remain good, family-sustaining jobs for the foreseeable future.”
Department of Energy Predicts Solar Heavy Future
A study called the “Solar Futures Study” was produced by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The study draws on NREL’s decades of solar analysis expertise and was reviewed by an external panel of more than 70 experts.
Solar will grow from 3% of the U.S. electricity supply today to 40% by 2035 and 45% by 2050. In 2050, this would be supplied by about 1600 gigawatts alternating current (GWAC) of solar capacity. Solar will provide 30% of buildings’ energy, 14% of transportation energy, and 8% of industrial energy by 2050, through electrification of these sectors. To achieve 95% grid decarbonization by 2035, the United States must install 30 GWAC of solar each year between now and 2025 and ramp up to 60 GWAC per year from 2025 to 2030. The United States installed about 15 GWAC of solar capacity in 2020.
Through technology advances, a 95% decarbonized grid can be achieved with no impact on 2035 electricity prices. The net incremental cost in 2050 of a 100% decarbonized grid, plus further electrification of buildings and transportation, will be about $210 billion. Avoided climate damages and improved air quality will result in net overall savings of $1.7 trillion. At the levels of growth envisioned in the Solar Futures Study, the solar industry could employ 500,000–1.5 million people by 2035.