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NRG's electric car charging network creating new jobs in California

When California and NRG agreed to build new electric car charging infrastructure, it meant new jobs, new careers, and new job training programs, geared to training the workforce required to build and maintain infrastructure to support electric cars.

The recently announced deal to create a large electric car charging station network in California, also comes with job-training and job-creating provisions. The deal was first unveiled in late March when Gov. Jerry Brown's office, the CPUC, and NRG announced having settled a long standing legal dispute by having NRG spend over $100 million to create electric car charging station infrastructure. Among the provisions added since the original announcement were for NRG to spend some money on job training programs, and to ensure the contractors hired to build the network were locally owned and that minority- and woman- owned businesses were well represented.

If we remember a few years back, the justification to embrace green technologies and green transportation was in part a jobs creation program. The theory stated that, adoption of green technologies would mean new jobs and new career paths, related to the installation and maintenance of the green technology infrastructure. Maybe that rhetoric was simply a political expediency of that moment in a time when so many people were losing their jobs. Remember that the Bush Administration saddled the Obama Administration with a horrendous economic mess and a narrowly avoided great depression. This deal with NRG to build the charging station network is an example of green technology adoption resulting in new jobs and new career paths that previously did not exist. And, it isn't just NRG's eVgo subsidiary that is creating these jobs, similar jobs exist with Ecotality, Coulomb Technologies, 350Green, the Car Charging Group, and other companies.

The NRG deal includes: a) NRG setting up an eVgo operation in California, b) building 200 or more Freedom Station locations, each containing several charging stations, c) building wiring for at least 10,000 charging stations at apartment buildings and workplaces, d) research into new electric car charging and smart grid technologies, e) job training programs, f) car sharing programs. Again, we are looking solely at the deal with NRG, but similar things can be said of the other electric car charging station infrastructure companies we just named.

As we write this NRG has a couple dozen job openings right now related to getting eVgo running in California. This includes Field Sales Representatives, Construction Managers, Paralegals, Office Assistants, and a "Stakeholder Outreach Manager" who is tasked with liaison with associated government agencies. Going by the job descriptions these jobs are largely the same as any corporation that is setting up product sales outlets in a region. What's different is the product being sold, which is access to electric car charging infrastructure.

The settlement document released on Friday describes one of the goals as: "helping to create job opportunities for California’s diverse minority communities." Within the settlement is a sub-project named "EV Opportunity Program" that is allocated $4 million for "projects that enhance appreciation of the social benefits of electric vehicles and create opportunities for residents of under-served communities to benefit from expanded use of electric vehicles in California."

There are two specific EV Opportunity Program projects envisioned at this time: a) support for electric car sharing programs, that will in part increase access to electric cars for low- to moderate-income drivers, b) a job training program which is to "provide opportunities for Californians from under-served communities to develop the requisite skill to obtain stable and good paying employment relating to the development and maintenance of electric vehicle charging infrastructure." The job training program is likely to be administered through community colleges and other vocational training programs.

While this is a new career area, it is closely related to existing careers. The work is similar to other construction and electrical installation projects largely involving construction and electrical work, digging trenches, installing conduit, running high voltage high power electrical cables through the conduit, and repaving any areas that were trenched. Under the settlement agreement NRG will not be directly hiring these electrical and construction workers as full time eVgo employees, instead the work will be farmed out to contractors. The contractors are required to be licensed to work in California and to hire local workers, who are in turn properly trained and licensed (as required) to do the work.

The need for the job training program is directly created by the existence of the overall project to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The need for the infrastructure is in turn directly created by the overall goal of expanding electric vehicle adoption. Looked at another way, the move to adopt electric vehicles created the need for electric vehicle infrastructure, which in turn creates the need for jobs to build and maintain that infrastructure, which in turn creates the need for job training programs training workers to hold those jobs.

NRG eVgo Expansion Plan Education Video from VISION Production Group on Vimeo.