Electric vehicles are quickly gaining popularity in California, with hundreds of thousands of these high-tech, environmentally friendly cars already on the road, and millions more expected in the coming years. In fact, Governor Brown has set a lofty objective of five million EVs in California by 2030. Given the fact that transportation contributes to over 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions, replacing millions of gas-powered vehicles with EVs would go a long way towards achieving California’s aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals, including the 100% clean energy mandate that was just approved by the state legislature this week.
But in order to accommodate this rapid rise in EVs, the state needs to install tens of thousands of EV charging stations – and last year, PG&E received approval to start a pilot project that calls for 7,500 charging ports at 750 sites throughout the company’s jurisdiction. If PG&E succeeds in this pilot, the PUC will likely grant the company permission to build 75,000 more.
PG&E isn’t the only utility getting into the EV charging station business, but while most other companies are bringing in contractors to install the EV ports, PG&E — under the tutelage of outgoing COO Nick Stavropoulos — opted to use its own IBEW 1245-represented employees to do the work. And the company selected IBEW 1245’s own union hall in Vacaville as the flagship location for its EV charger program.
Away We Go
On July 10, a five-man composite crew — comprised of IBEW 1245 members Bill Anderson, Shane Coulter and Mike Mederios Jr from the electric side of the house, along with Dominic Abenoja and Nick Newman from the gas side – broke ground on the EV site on the north side of the 1245 union hall.
Anderson, the crew foreman, explained the process, which took about three weeks after the engineering and permitting processes were completed.
“The excavating is first – and Nick and Dom did about 90% of that work — starting down by the transformer down there, going all the way across the parking lot,” Anderson said, gesturing to the far corners of the lot. “Then we put the conduit in the ditch, which brings the electric wires up into the charging stations. We get everything inspected and approved, and then we backfill. Then we mount the charging stations, hook up all the electrical hookups, test it, and away we go!”
Throughout the process, the crew was 100% safety-minded, making sure that the job was completed without issue or injury.
“Safety is #1 for us,” said Dom Abenoja, a GC hiring hall utility worker. “When we’re digging, we’re always making sure we don’t hit anything – and if we get close to something or we know that something’s there, we hand dig.”
“Any USA [underground service alert] marks we come across, we use a hydrovac to prospect and daylight those before we dig,” added Operator Nick Newman. “And when I’m running the excavator, I’m making sure everyone’s watching – we’re always looking out for everybody, making sure they’re staying out of the way.”
Point of Pride
The crew has since moved on to a new EV charging site in Sonora, but they returned to the union hall on August 28 for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting (minus Mederios and Coulter who could not attend). They were joined by IBEW 1245 Executive Board members, PG&E execs and local elected officials who all came together at the flagship site to celebrate the successful joint venture between the union and the company.
As the crew foreman, Anderson was given the honor of cutting the ribbon, and also had the opportunity to perform the inaugural plug-in, charging up two of PG&E’s clean fleet vehicles at the brand new charging site.
As of this writing, the company has a total of four composite crews working on EV charging installs throughout the territory. Two other charging stations –one at Merced College’s Los Banos campus, and one at the Travis Credit Union headquarters in Vacavile — were completed earlier this year, and the company aims to complete the remaining 747 sites within 36 months.
“These EV stations are a real point of pride for us – built by IBEW 1245 members, and now available for use by 1245 staff and visitors, as well as the Vacaville community,” said IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell. “We’ve been looking forward to getting this project off the ground for over a year, and we’re pleased with how it’s shaping up so far.”
“We are in the infancy of this agreement, but we are certainly encouraged by the progress and potential for jobs associated with this work,” added IBEW 1245 Assistant Business Manager Bob Gerstle, who has been leading the charge on the EV pilot since its inception last year. “Both 1245 and the Company are extremely excited to see this agreement finally come to fruition.”
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director
Bob Gerstle contributed to this report.
Photos by John Storey