Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc.

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Thursday, August 08, 2019

Richard Markuson

Did IBEW Just Put a Nail Into the C-46 Coffin? In a meeting of the California State Labor Board Legislative Committee - one filled with charges of inexperienced and untrained workers involved with the installation of energy storage systems (ESS) - the Committee instructed staff (lucky them) to craft a proposal that would limit the heretofore unfettered ability of solar contractors to install ESS for only smaller residential projects, and then bring it back to the Committee. C-46, therefore, could install ESS if:

  • It is limited to a PV system up to 10kW on a single-family dwelling or duplex with a battery system that must not exceed a 5kW backup/20kWh energy.
  • The battery system is installed at same time as solar PV system.
  • No upgrade or alteration is made to the existing electrical system.
The hearing, which lasted more than five hours, was still standing room only despite the meeting having been moved to a large auditorium at the California Employment Development Department. What's more is that so many people watched the hearing online, that the Web server crashed several times.
Supporters of an outright ban on C-46 installing anyESS included IBEW, NECA, and - of course - a group of Democrat legislators who regularly feed at the IBEW trough, such as Diane Ravnik (the former head of the Division of Apprenticeship Standards and a former IBEW training director), California Apprenticeship Committee member Yvonne de la Peña, and the Sierra Club. Wait - don't they want more solar? Sorry, I am confused.
While the final outcome will take months (or years) to complete, two things this episode should remind merit-shop leaders of are:
  1. IBEW may not wait for the board to act and could amend a bill in the last month of session to accomplish this change (if so, the bill would go into effect January 1, 2020).
  2. The power of labor - and in particular IBEW - to decimate another contractor group is ignored at peril.
An excellent write up of the day is here.