At PSE&G, energy efficiency programs are vehicles for job placement

Company has helped more than 500 secure employment — and aims to help 2,000 more in coming years

Public Service Electric & Gas had a few obvious goals when it introduced its latest energy efficiency programs last June. They start with reducing the amount of energy being used, which is great for the environment and the state’s green energy goals — and great for the pocketbooks of its customers.

The launch, however, has brought about another important benefit: It has created hundreds of good-paying jobs, almost all of which have been filled by people in underserved communities.

As of Jan. 1, the company said the programs have led to more than 575 full-time hires in long-term jobs.

Karen Reif. (File photo)

To be clear, these employees do not work directly for PSE&G — but through a network of clean energy vendors that are working with the company, including electrical and engineering firms. The jobs include installing energy-efficient HVAC systems or appliances, to caulking windows, to changing light bulbs. It’s anything that can help PSE&G’s residential and commercial customers improve their energy efficiency.

Or, they serve in administrative roles — doing things such as ensuring rebates are given out when they should be (at point of purpose) or incentivizing contractors to put in more energy-efficiency products (that means paying them to make up any potential difference in cost).

The company is planning a second cohort of hirings into its On-the-Job Training program in February as a way to achieve the program goal to provide 2,000 job opportunities over the next few years. In fact, the number of jobs created would be even higher today except for the problem so many companies are facing: The utility can’t find enough workers for the jobs already open.

Karen Reif, vice president of renewables and energy solutions, said the rollout of the program is going as expected — and that the company has many reasons to believe it will increase substantially this year.

For one, more commercial projects figure to be available this year.

Helping businesses

Karen Reif, vice president of renewables and energy solutions at Public Service Electric & Gas, said the company’s energy efficiency efforts with New Jersey businesses — particularly large office buildings — have been slow starting for two reasons:

  • Companies still are not clear on their full return to office and are hesitant to take on what could be a major expense during a time of uncertainty;
  • Supply-chain issues are impacting their ability to get product for the jobs they do have — as larger pieces of equipment are almost always more sophisticated.

Reif is confident business in the commercial and industrial sector will pick up in 2022. For now, the company is pressing its service to more mom-and-pop outlets on a traditional Main Street.

“The convenience store, the nail shop, the pizza place or local restaurant,” she said. “We’re helping them helping them upgrade their lights or appliances while showing them how it will reduce their energy consumption.”

 

“We’re seeing residential customers adopting it much faster than commercial and industrial, which makes a lot of sense, because it’s a much larger commitment,” she said. “Typically, the larger the business, the more complicated and the more unique what they need is, which means the lead times are longer. So, we have a great pipeline.”

Then, there’s time for training. Programs to bring hires up to speed can take three to six months — although there are some jobs where employees can start on the first day.

PSE&G picks up the cost of training and the salaries of the trainees while in the On-the-Job Training program. After the program, hiring companies pay the workers.

Reif said PSE&G is committed to all aspects of the program — and notes the company is going beyond the normal efforts to hire, providing what she calls “wraparound services” in conjunction with a grant from the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

“We want to help people get these jobs,” she said. “Maybe they don’t have child care, or they don’t have transportation — we’re helping them get over that hurdle.

“We’re helping people who have issues with housing. We had someone who was living in their car with their kids. And we were able to help provide them a place to live and child care, so that they can be more successful.”

The benefits to customers and the state cannot be overstated, Reif said.

PSE&G has put a premium on increasing energy efficiency. In fact, some of the hires go to jobs where someone goes into a house and provides a free energy assessment for the home. And, if it makes sense from an energy efficiency standpoint to replace an item — even before it breaks — PSE&G will provide 0% financing over five years.

Energy efficiency impact

Public Service Electric & Gas launched its energy efficiency programs last summer. Through the end of December, more than 1,200 residential customers have participated in a Quick Home Energy Checkup, company officials said. In addition, PSEG has discounted more than 1.89 million ENERGY STAR-certified LEDs directly at the point of sale.

Reif said the hope is that, even with the cost of the new system or appliance, the customer bill will be lowered due to a massive savings caused by the energy efficiency of the new unit.

The next step is finding enough workers for these jobs. It currently has openings for roles such as field technician, weatherization technician and energy efficiency specialist, along with administrative positions. (For more information on these available jobs, email PSEG-CEJobsProgram@pseg.com.)

Reif said the company has targeted urban communities — working with partners to identify workers — but, she said the program is open to all.

Reif said the company is creating about 50 jobs a month and hopes it can maintain that pace in 2022.

The pitch, she said, is strong. A good-paying job in what is estimated to be one of the largest-growing job areas in the country in the coming years — and doing work that will help the environment.