While residential building clients everywhere continue to bemoan that building trades are dragging their feet on sustainability, there’s a boom in the environmental credentials of sparkies, thanks to the one thing they can’t argue with: consumer demand.
Demand for renewable energy and energy management is driving a surge of business for electrical trades people, according to the national association for electrical contractors.
“The noise in the market is fantastic at the moment,” National Electrical Contractors’ Association EcoSmart manager Michael D’Costa says.
Consumers are the push factor. Householders that have had solar for the past 10-15 years are now getting in touch with the association, wanting to know how they can get battery storage.
February is a big month for enquiries, as the bills from Christmas have been rolling in and people are looking to save on ever-rising energy costs, he says.
“People panic in February.”
D’Costa says that whether or not grant programs are available is not affecting demand, however the programs get people talking about renewable energy storage.
Where businesses aren’t growing, he says, it could be because they have not yet come onboard with energy management and energy efficiency.
“If all they are offering is LED lighting, they are 10 years behind.”
Over the next decade, the trade is going to require skilled people across numerous new technological innovations.
Digital-addressable lighting, or DALI systems, for example, which are currently finding a niche in high-end commercial and high-end luxury residential buildings, are likely to become standard across emergency lighting in all building types – including regular detached dwellings.
Another area where tradespeople in the sector may need to grow their skills is in “soft skills” such as selling, and engaging well with clients.
“That is something NECA discusses regularly,” D’Costa says.
Consumers driving demand
According to the D’Costa the pattern of take up of new energy technology is contrast to regular patterns, where the commercial sector is usually in the vanguard, the industrial users start to engage, and domestic users bring up the rear.
“The last few years it has been the other way around.”
In fact the industrial sector has actually been “pretty quiet” for the past few years in terms of new technology uptake. Partly this is because much of the work to reduce energy use and improve the quality of energy supply has already been done over the past 15 years. This includes initiatives such as power factor correction, voltage optimisation, surge protection and energy harmonisation technologies.
In the commercial sector, installing solar is now a “no brainer”, but there is still a significant opportunity to increase uptake.
It makes sense for people to generate electricity where they spend the bulk of their day, such as in commercial buildings, D’Costa says. That is a clear pathway to reducing overall demand on the grid.