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Today the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded approximately $6 million to five organizations that will develop training programs for emergency responders, building managers and owners, and other officials interacting with solar energy and storage systems, alternative-fuel vehicles and their chargers, and energy-efficient building technologies.

Led by or working with professional associations, work done through these projects could educate hundreds of thousands of U.S. safety and building workers. These professionals are at the front lines as more solar systems are built, more vehicles run on batteries and nontraditional fuels, and more buildings become “smarter” and more energy-efficient. A well-trained workforce familiar with clean energy will improve safety, expedite permitting, reduce liability and insurance costs, and increase consumer confidence.

“As advanced energy technologies are built across America, firefighters, building managers, mechanics, and other workers have new job responsibilities,” said Daniel R Simmons, Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). “These projects will help them work with new energy technologies safely and effectively.”

The Educational Materials for Professional Organizations Working on Efficiency and Renewable Energy Developments (EMPOWERED) funding program will create training for two groups: first responders, and building managers, owners, and code officials.

There are over 300,000 firefighters in the United States; according to the U.S. Fire Administration, they respond to over 1 million fires every year, often facing complex electrical equipment and combustible materials in buildings and vehicles. These projects will develop the tools necessary to ensure they can respond to these emergencies effectively:

  • National Fire Protection Association: $1 million. With Argonne National Laboratory and other partners, the association will develop a suite of training tools, including a multiplayer serious gaming platform with several energy-related incidents at each scene.
  • International Association of Fire Fighters: $1.4 million. To obtain information to develop training programs, this project team will test installed residential energy storage systems at Underwriters Laboratory to understand what happens when batteries fail and pose risks to emergency responders.

Building managers, owners, and code officials must ensure that any new efficiency, storage, solar, or electric vehicle technology meets all relevant local codes and regulations and ensures the safety and comfort of the people who live and work there. Those without access to accurate information or who are unfamiliar with new technologies may prevent adoption or increase the costs associated with it. These projects will develop new training materials to reduce the costs associated with and the delays caused by “red tape”:

  • Interstate Renewable Energy Council: $2.1 million. Building upon its existing training website, IREC will introduce educational materials and resources on clean energy codes, standards, permitting, and inspection for building managers, owners, and officials interacting with solar energy and storage systems.
  • Southface Energy Institute: $750,000. In partnership with the American Institute of Architects, Energy & Environmental Building Alliance, International Code Council, and others, this project team will create educational programming and resources that can be tailored to different markets and jurisdictions.
  • New Buildings Institute: $500,000. This project team will work with the U.S. Energy Storage Association and others to develop guides and education modules to streamline the design, permitting, inspections, and maintenance of solar, storage, and electric-vehicle charging stations for single- and multifamily homes and offices.

Addressing these challenges now will enable these professionals to prepare for the future. Solar-plus-storage accounted for 4% of distributed solar energy systems in 2019 and is expected to grow to 26% by 2025. The market for smart and connected devices in buildings is growing 20% every year. Electric and hybrid electric vehicles could account for 7.5% of new light vehicle sales by 2025, according to the Energy Information Administration.

EMPOWERED is a collaborative effort across EERE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, Building Technologies Office, and Vehicle Technologies Office

Learn more about the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.