U.S. to Face Failing Infrastructure, Dire Societal Fallout from Electrical Workforce Gap
Electrical workers are the gears that turn what has been called the world’s largest machine – the
electrical system that powers our factories, businesses, and homes. Yet, our country’s electrical
workers are aging, facing a retirement boom, while the training of new electrician apprenticeships
fails to keep up with the growing needs of our electric system. These trends together threaten to
put the convenience of easy access to electricity at risk, blocking any progress on achieving a clean
energy future, and portending a future of more frequent and longer power outages that plunge the
country into a new dark age by 2050.
Klein Tools and The Accelerate Group have worked together to conduct an analysis to look at what
will happen if the current electrical workforce trends continue: to understand what the workforce gap
will be in the coming years, the impact of that workforce gap on the country’s ability to achieve a clean
energy future, and the long-term impacts of a significant workforce gap on the ability of the country
to maintain its electrical power systems and equipment. Finally, the study examines the cascading
societal impacts of frequent and widespread long-duration power outages on the primary needs of
society, such as food, water, safety, transportation, and communications, to understand the interrelated nature of these systems, and their dependence on reliable power.
THE STUDY FOUND:
• Due to the age, attrition rate, and new entrant rate, the existing electrical workforce of 770,000
electricians and 110,000 line workers is projected to shrink by 28% by 2050 (Section II)
• To achieve just the “mid-case” scenario of a clean energy future (a mid-range level of renewable
energy), electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and building electrification development, the
country will need an additional 224,000 electrical workers by 2030, and to sustain and grow that
workforce level every year through 2050 (Section III).
• The difference between the projected electrical workforce and the electrical workforce need will
exceed 251,000 workers (25%) by 2030, and 462,000 workers (45%) by 2050 (Section III).
• That workforce gap will not hit all industries equally, as electrician positions in industries such as
manufacturing, healthcare, telecommunications, and public institutions are decimated by 2040
• The workforce gap will lead to more frequent and longer-duration outages, as power outages are
slower to restore, aging infrastructure fails more frequently, and electrical equipment sits idle,
unable to be repaired or replaced (Section V).
• From 2030-2040, millions of Americans will face outages lasting multiple days, creating a cascading
effect on communications, water supply, transportation, and even the ability to gain fuel for backup
generation (Section V).
• From 2040-2050, those days-long outages give way to months-long outages, making backup
generators and gas-fueled vehicles the only reliable source for energy, and a migration in the
electrical workforce away from centralized power systems and toward installing individual
generators (Section V).
• By 2050, the inability to restore and stabilize the electric system eventually brings about a reality
where outages are the new normal: Commercial centers that suffer from extended outages will
become abandoned; Industrial facilities may run occasionally when able to obtain fuel. Processed,
refrigerated or frozen food becomes infeasible; Telecommunications becomes strained as
broadband and distributed cellular infrastructure lies dormant; Residents without the ability to air
condition and heat most homes will abandon harsher climates for mild environments (Section V).
To reverse this workforce gap in the United States, the study found that we must train between
107,000 and 224,000 new electrician and line worker apprentices between now and 2030.