GRID partners with SMUD on Career Energy Pathways program

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April 27, 2021
Trainees from GRID's second in-person cohort of 2021, supported by SMUD, hold up a Clean City 2030 banner on the mock roof in GRID's technical academy.

GRID Alternatives North Valley has partnered with SMUD on a free, stipended, solar certificate program for community members looking for careers in the solar industry. The Career Energy Pathways program offers virtual solar education as well as in-person, socially distanced, lab training on solar and battery storage installation.

The program prioritizes the most underserved communities – providing much-needed workforce development and job training in a growing field. Career advancement moves swiftly in the solar industry due to increasing investments and demand for renewable energy. 

“Clean energy careers are in high demand,” said SMUD CEO and General Manager Paul Lau. “As we transition to a decarbonized economy, we will rely on clean energy jobs and a skilled workforce to help us reach our Zero Carbon by 2030 goals. A large part of our Plan is to decarbonize in an equitable way, and this program helps to provide equity in our communities,” said Lau.

Through this partnership, 100 trainees will complete the distance-learning course, with up to 60 trainees moving on to the in-person, hands-on solar training program. Graduates of the program will bring competitive skills to compete for high-demand jobs in a growing industry.

The program offers a $200 stipend for completing the virtual course and an additional $800 for completing the hands-on training course.

So far, 52 trainees have completed the distance-learning program and it is currently enrolling students for the Spring semester. To learn more and enroll, please visit smud.org/SolarPathway.

The Career Energy Pathways program was created through SMUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. The Sustainable Communities Initiative brings education, workforce development and renewable energy to underserved communities in Sacramento County.  

Last year, SMUD’s Sustainable Communities program partnered to offer a 5-week classroom course and hands-on training to learn the technical skills needed to install solar arrays around the Sacramento region. It has since graduated 25 students almost half of whom have been hired to work on solar installations. This year, SMUD is partnering with GRID Alternatives North Valley to serve 100 trainees through their Installation Basics Training (IBT) course which will include solar, battery storage, and electric vehicle charger installation training modules. 

GRID Alternatives North Valley is a nonprofit that has been on the leading edge of creating access to clean energy and solar job training for communities on the front lines of economic and environmental injustice for more than a decade. In addition to providing no-cost solar and equitable access to electric vehicles for lower-income households, GRID helps mission-aligned nonprofits like the Sacramento Food Bank save on the cost of operations with solar, so they can focus on their core support services and lower their carbon footprint with clean, affordable solar energy. All GRID projects include deep community engagement and workforce development for local job trainees. This approach centers the benefits of the clean energy economy in communities most impacted by economic and environmental injustice, while also providing local households with energy savings and reducing carbon emissions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for solar photovoltaic installers is expected to grow 63 percent from 2018 to 2028, and the median salary is $21.58 per hour. 

SMUD has been a leader in the solar field, having developed the world’s first commercial-scale solar photovoltaic power plant in 1984; the first solar-powered electric vehicle charging station in the western United States in 1992; and the first net-zero energy community in Midtown Sacramento, featuring rooftop solar and batteries.  

To date, SMUD boasts 210 MW of customer-owned rooftop and more than 170 MW of local utility-scale solar in its service territory. Over the next 10 years, SMUD’s Zero Carbon Plan includes nearly 1,500 MW of utility-scale solar, 1,100 MW of utility-scale batteries, 100 MW of regional solar, 750 MW of rooftop solar, and 250 MW of customer-owned battery storage. These combined efforts mean that solar in the Sacramento region will continue to grow and thrive for years to come.  

About GRID Alternatives North Valley

GRID Alternatives North Valley is an affiliate of GRID Alternatives, a national leader in making the benefits and opportunities of renewable energy accessible to communities on the front lines of economic and environmental injustice. The North Valley regional office serves 21 counties in Northern California, from San Joaquin County to Siskiyou County, with two brick-and-mortar locations in Chico and Sacramento.  GRID North Valley has installed 1,600 solar electric systems for low-income households to date, with a combined installed capacity of saving over $48 million in lifetime electricity costs and preventing over 90,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Through the program, 2,000 people have also received training. For more information, visit www.gridalternatives.org/NorthValley or click here to learn about solar and storage solutions for nonprofits.  

About SMUD

As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned, not-for-profit, electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for more than 70 years to Sacramento County and small adjoining portions of Placer and Yolo Counties. SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD’s power mix is about 50 percent non-carbon emitting. For more information, visit smud.org.