Why The August 2021 $1 Trillion Infrastructure Deal is Great for Electricians
A NEW INFRASTRUCTURE DEAL PASSED IN THE SENATE. WHILE NOT YET OFFICIAL (IT STILL MUST PASS A VOTE IN THE HOUSE), IT DOES SIGNAL A MAJOR SHIFT IN HOW WE CONSUME ENERGY IN THE U.S. AND THAT'S A GOOD THING FOR ELECTRICIANS.
August 16, 2021
A new $1 trillion infrastructure deal moving its way through Congress sets forth an ambitious plan to improve infrastructure across the country. The massive deal includes more than $500 billion in federal investments to repair aging roads and bridges, upgrade rail lines, build up broadband accessibility, increase electrical car charging infrastructure, and even improve power and water systems.
The bill passed a recent vote in the Senate, but it is not official yet. The House of Representatives will soon vote on the bill. If it passes, it will go to the president’s desk for final approval.
The ultimate goal of the bill is to not only upgrade infrastructure, but put millions of Americans to work. There is great potential for electricians to see more job opportunities come their way.
The deal prioritizes new high tech, environmentally friendly upgrades to the nation’s energy infrastructure.
In the late 1930s, then-president Franklin Roosevelt signed into law an infrastructure deal he dubbed the “New Deal.” The New Deal put millions of Americans to work, and over the course of the next decade, transformed America’s industrial infrastructure.
Now, almost 100 years later, Congress is debating a new bill aimed again at upgrading the nation’s infrastructure.
The plan calls for modernizing the country’s aging electrical grid in an effort to reduce emissions. The current administration wants the grid to produce 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035. Research suggests that the U.S. must double or even triple its ability to transmit energy electrically to successfully decarbonize the country. If the bill passes, the federal government would invest:
- $65 billion to rebuild the electrical grid and expand renewable energy
- $65 billion to upgrade the nation’s broadband infrastructure
- $42 billion to improve airport and water port infrastructure, in particular to reduce emissions and promote electrification
- $7.5 billion to build a nationwide network of electrical vehicle charging stations
Should the bill pass, these investments would represent the largest overhaul of the electrical grid in U.S. history. Today, renewable energy from sources such as solar and wind are cheaper than ever before—and expected to get even cheaper in the future. But even as more renewable energy sources come online, the nation’s aging electrical grid is incapable of integrating that power for everyday use. The grid is too old and outdated and already pushed beyond its limitations.
If it passes, hundreds of thousands of miles of power lines would be replaced and new technology installed at major electric substations.
The infrastructure bill targets not only upgrades to the ways in which we transmit energy, but also the ways in which we use that energy. Gas-powered cars are on the way out and electric vehicles are on the way in. California plans to phase out the sale of gas-powered cars in 2035. For decades, California has had a massive impact on vehicle technology. The state’s demand for vehicles that caused less air pollution in the 1980s and ‘90s resulted in cleaner cars being sold across the country. And now the state’s goal of banning the sale of gas-powered cars will boost the production and sale of EV cars.
This is why almost $8 billion will go toward a national network of EV chargers. California has more than 30,000 public charging stations statewide—but the rest of the country is far behind. If the country is to successfully move away from gasoline powered vehicles, millions of EV chargers must be installed.
The major investment in the electrical infrastructure is great for commercial and industrial electricians.
Much work must be done to complete these electrical grid upgrades, and not just anyone can perform that work. If the infrastructure deal passes, commercial and industrial electricians stand to benefit from the multi-billion dollar electrical grid investment.
Industrial electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical equipment and controls. That is just the type of work required to upgrade the electrical grid.
One current problem is that renewable energy sources produce more energy than the grid can store. Unstored energy is lost and cannot be used by anyone. Industrial electricians will play a major role in installing new technologies that can store more energy and transmit that energy more efficiently. As the grid becomes more capable, gas- and coal-burning sites will be used less often, and more and more maintenance and upgrades will be required at electric-only facilities, a win for industrial electricians.
Commercial electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems in commercial buildings such as warehouses and office buildings. While they don’t work on the electric grid directly, commercial electricians will benefit from increasing reliance on and demand for renewable energy.
Grid-sourced energy prices are only rising, in part because of the aging, strained electrical grid. On the flip side, the cost of solar has gone down by 70% over the last decade. Business and property owners are taking notice of this cost reduction. Commercial solar installations are on the rise, especially in California. In theory, even more commercial installations will occur after the grid has been upgraded to better handle renewable energy sources.
All journeyperson electricians working under a C-10 electrical contractor can install and wire solar systems and battery storage systems. More work may be on the horizon.
EV charging stations are also a big deal. Commercial electricians may be required to install millions of EV chargers across the country to keep up with demand.
Other opportunities that may pop up as a result of this new bill include making electrical code-related updates. Commercial buildings must adhere to federal, state, and local electrical codes, which may change given the planned upgrades to the electrical grid.
The infrastructure bill represents a massive undertaking. Should it pass, many industries stand to benefit from billions of dollars in investments. Electricians, in particular, may see an increase in job opportunities as industrial and commercial electrical work become more in demand.
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