Cuddy introduces bill to support strong renewable energy workforce

Tue, 03/01/2022 - 10:15pm

AUGUSTA — Rep. Scott Cuddy, D-Winterport, introduced a bill before the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee this week that seeks to develop a strong workforce in Maine’s renewable energy industry.

The proposal comes as Maine experiences particularly high heating and fuel costs and as the state continues to see increased demand for clean energy projects. LD 1969 includes several provisions that, together, establish guidelines for the renewable energy industry and empower Mainers to fill these new positions under safe and fair working conditions.

“This legislation is the product of numerous conversations and extensive exploration to determine the best way to improve the lives of Mainers working on renewable energy projects and to encourage more Mainers to get involved in this booming industry,” said Cuddy.

The bill would require certain renewable energy projects that receive state assistance to meet specific workforce requirements, including paying workers at least the prevailing rate for wages and benefits.

To address the state’s labor shortage, LD 1969 creates a legal framework for pre-apprenticeship programs including requirements that equity, inclusion and accessibility be prioritized to open the field to Mainers who are typically underrepresented in the trades. The bill would further create demand for these pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training programs by incentivizing contractors to use such programs to fill their workforce gaps.

Additionally, the bill favors bidders in the Public Utilities Commissions’ (PUC) procurement process who use project labor agreements, which establish contracts between developers and contractors delineating working conditions, benefits and pay. Within the procurement process, the bill also requires the PUC to prioritize employee-owned contractors, further empowering Maine workers.

“We’ve all heard the promises that we can solve both the dilemma of global climate change and build a better economy at the same time,” said Cuddy. “My bill would make this a reality by establishing a thoughtful framework for a fair and just renewable energy workforce.”

The Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee will hold a work session on the proposal in the coming weeks.

Cuddy, a member of the Labor and Housing Committee and the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, is serving his second term in the Maine House. He represents the communities of Frankfort, Searsport, Swanville and Winterport.