By Jeremy Kehoe
Federal and state governments are investing billions of dollars in a once-in-a-generation effort to build hundreds of brand-new hydrogen-powered projects in California that will create thousands of new, high-paying jobs for IBEW 11 brothers and sisters.
While it may not seem that “hydrogen” and “electricity” belong in the same sentence, these all-new green hydrogen facilities will power a host of next-generation, clean-energy projects in sectors including energy storage, transportation, manufacturing, and appliances that will all need to run along an electrical backbone.
“We were in the mechanical era 50 years ago, and now we’re in the electrical era, and soon to come we’ll be in the hydrogen era,” said Local 11 Business Director of Renewables Tommy Faave said. “This is the next era of good-paying electrical jobs – whether it’s hydrogen production, storage, or transportation – hydrogen projects like these are going to be key to building up our membership and bringing in more apprentices and more journeymen into Local 11. Fossil fuels are not going to be around forever.”
The green hydrogen-energy transition is already underway in California. The state recently announced that 100 percent of passenger vehicles and 50 percent of all heavy vehicles in California must be all-electric or hydrogen powered by 2035.
From the Port of Long Beach – which has set a goal to have zero-emission terminal equipment by 2030 – to El Segundo where the LADWP announced an $800-million plan to convert the city’s largest gas-fired power plant to green hydrogen – up to the City of Lancaster – which announced its plan to become the first hydrogen-powered city in the U.S. – the green hydrogen evolution is gaining momentum.
“We have to have the energy ready to power our vehicles, to power our homes and businesses, and hydrogen must be included in that formula,” said IBEW 11 Political Director Antonio Sanchez. “This should be a lot of work for us – a lot more job calls. We have aggressive clean-energy goals in California. Now, we have to implement them. Green hydrogen has to be part of the solution.”
And, Local 11 has been well ahead of the clean-job curve, making sure new, green hydrogen jobs will be filled by union members – everything from fitting pipes and building fueling cells and fueling stations to running electrolyzers and creating the physical hydrogen transportation infrastructure.
Over the last two years IBEW 11 has been actively working to position itself and its members at the forefront of this new green hydrogen future to make sure that as each new hydrogen power project gets funded that it will be built by union labor.
IBEW 11 a Powerful Voice Shaping California’s Green Hydrogen Future
IBEW 11’s mission to put members front and center in the green hydrogen-energy future included co-founding ARCHES (Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems) – a statewide coalition of private, public, non-profit, academic, and environmental groups.
In fact, ARCHES’ first meeting between labor and University of California education leaders was held at IBEW’s ETI facility in Commerce.
“IBEW 11 is well recognized as the leader in the field of new technology and new technology implementation, and they took a leadership role in ARCHES early on,” said Angelina Galiteva, ARCHES’ acting CEO. “IBEW 11 has been on the hydrogen forefront.”
ARCHES this month submitted a $1.2-billion proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy to build one of four national clean-energy hubs (funded under the Inflation Reduction Act) here in California, which will create over 200,000 new jobs and reshape the state’s economy.
Galiteva said IBEW 11 was instrumental in the initial design and creation of its blueprint on how to build a green hydrogen hub, which served as the foundation for ARCHES’ proposal.
IBEW 11 is also working on all the detailed proposal components – from including language on workforce codes and standards, safety protocols, and PLAs to ensuring local hire requirements and forging pre-apprenticeship program partnerships with building trades – to make sure labor is represented at the table.
“We want to rely on the knowledge and experience of our labor partners who have actually dealt with situations required in developing a hydrogen economy like transporting gases in pipelines, building pipeline infrastructure and building out the overall system that will unlock that hydrogen potential statewide,” Galiteva said. “We want to show everybody how it gets done right.”
Galiteva was especially impressed with Local 11 leadership’s recognition of just how powerful a job creator the green hydrogen energy category will be and how pivotal a role the electricity sector will play in its development.
“This a showcase of how the leadership role of labor is important to establish what is necessary to build the energy system of the future,” Galiteva said. “We cannot do this without the active participation of labor.”
Local 11 Has the Green Energy Training Programs in Place
Local 11 members’ transition to this green hydrogen era will not require some great technological leap, Faave says. IBEW 11 has already put in place all the training programs brothers and sisters need to equip themselves with the skills to step on site at any hydrogen project and succeed right away.
Faave pointed to Local 11’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Investment Training Program – a 20-hour course for journey-level wiremen available at JATC training centers and online – and additional industrial and commercial training application courses as examples of training members can complete for certification.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel when it comes to hydrogen,” Faave said. “We already have training and curriculum in place through our journeyman and apprenticeship program for this type of work. Whenever we need to upskill or add a new technology into our curriculum, we always stay ahead of the curve so we can be prepared for any new technology coming down the pipeline. There’s no need to retrain our workforce. It’s nothing new to us.”