As the energy sector confronts the daunting challenges of climate change, ever-morphing political and economic landscapes, and emerging technologies, IBEW 1245 remains committed to sharpening our understanding, strengthening our partnerships, shaping solutions and mobilizing our resources to better serve our members and our communities.
The infusion of billions of dollars in infrastructure funding at the federal, state, and local level brings tremendous opportunities — as well as challenges — and the best way to meet this moment proactively is through forward-thinking strategy and labor-management collaboration.
This was the impetus for IBEW 1245’s inaugural “Grid of the Future” Conference — a unique series of candid panel discussions between IBEW 1245 leaders, corporate CEOs, and utility policy experts who are charting the course for a just and sustainable energy future.
More than 150 union leaders, stewards, members and allies, including leadership of the national Union of Electrical Workers in El Salvador (STESEC), came together for the conference, which took place on Jan. 26 in Vacaville.
IBEW 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean welcomed the attendees, remarking on how the utility industry’s current wave of rapid transformation has come after decades of near-stagnation. He explained how he and the senior staff at 1245 have been working to continuously stay on top of the latest advances – from wind power, to solar, to battery storage, to distributed energy resources, and more.
“If there’s an electron running through it, that’s our work,” Dean emphasized, underscoring that knowledge is the key to ensuring that IBEW members continue to have the unique skills and training to meet the demands of an ever-changing energy landscape. “Our job is to give young men and women the same opportunity we’ve had, the opportunity to change their lives in this industry – but we can only do that if we are prepared.”
Dean introduced IBEW International Vice President Dave Reaves, who presented a broad overview of IBEW’s critical role in the transition to a clean-energy grid.
“IBEW, through its skilled and trained members, is on the forefront of this ever-evolving landscape,” Reaves said, underscoring that our union has been leading the charge on zero-emissions solutions. “IBEW stands as a beacon of progress, actively contributing to the technologies that define the grid of the future.”
The first panel discussion of the day featured PG&E CEO Patti Poppe, NV Energy CEO Doug Cannon, and SMUD CEO Paul Lau, and was facilitated by 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean.
The conversation kicked off with each CEO sharing what keeps them up at night when they think about the industry as a whole and where it’s heading. The discussion touched on many burgeoning aspects of the industry, including electrification of transportation, new generation, diversifying the workforce, and the use of artificial intelligence within the utility industry.
Following the CEOs in conversation with Dean, IBEW 1245 Senior Assistant Business Manager Dylan Gottfried engaged in an insightful Q&A with CAISO CEO Elliott Mainzer. The interview focused on the current and future of our energy market, especially as it pertains to resource adequacy in the face of increased demand. They also discussed regionalization, renewable portfolio standards, battery storage, integration of renewables, cybersecurity, and more.
In the afternoon, PG&E Executive VP Jason Glickman, NCPA General Manager Randy Howard and IBEW 9th District Rep Micah Mitrosky discussed what comes next for the utility Industry. IBEW 1245 Senior Assistant Business Manager Bob Gerstle facilitated the discussion, which focused on the various utility components involved in meeting California’s ambitious climate change goals. The conversation touched on offshore wind, EVs, re-purposing existing power plants to save jobs, and innovative renewable solutions.
In the final panel of the day, Legislative Advocate Scott Wetch joined IBEW’s regulatory attorneys, Mark Joseph and Rachel Koss, for a deep dive into California’s legislative and regulatory landscape. IBEW 1245 Senior Assistant Business Manager Anthony Brown served as the moderator, where the discussion ranged from deregulation, to municipalization, to CCAs, to attempts by other trades to hone in on IBEW work, to the newly enacted Senate Bill 410, which aims to speed up customer connections to the grid.
Dean closed the day-long conference by reminding the attendees that we are well-positioned for this new energy future, but we must not rest on our laurels.
“It’s a good time to be in the IBEW, but maintaining what we have isn’t going to be easy,” he said “We will fight, and by forming coalitions we can fight harder. Our knowledge is our strength.”
Eileen Purcell contributed to this report.