Speed Date: IBEW Program Connects Loans With Employers, Signatories

he Department of Energy Loan Programs Office aims to put thousands of IBEW members to work.

On June 13, the IBEW Government Affairs Department convened a meeting with DOE LPO Director Jigar Shah and IBEW employers to discuss LPO’s billions of dollars in loan opportunities, all with the goal of creating more IBEW jobs.

“Our goal is to move the energy industry forward,” said Austin Keyser, assistant to IBEW President Kenny Cooper for Government Affairs. “No organization has a better relationship with the administration.”

Long-standing good relations between the Biden-Harris administration and the IBEW prompted this first-ever matchmaking event. Utilities, signatory contractors, energy developers, manufacturing companies, and DOE loan officials considered how to facilitate future renewable energy projects, including 10-minute “pitch sessions,” where project developers received feedback on their ideas from DOE staff.

DOE LPO is unlike other agencies in that LPO officials can provide this kind of hands-on assistance to entities seeking loans.

“The application process is brainstorming the art of the possible,” Shah said. He also underscored the importance of companion community benefits projects that come with each application. “By signing with the IBEW, you get not just jobs but good careers that come with pensions. These are pieces many industries have forgotten.”

This is due to President Biden’s specific instruction that approval of grants and loans be contingent on the use of prevailing wages, labor standards, registered apprenticeship programs, and a workforce consisting of members from traditionally underserved communities.

American Electric Power’s Scott Osterholt, who manages federal grants for the investor-owned utility, said their company has nearly $8 billion of solar and wind projects on the planning board. Investigating funding opportunities like LPO’s is his mandate. “As a utility, we have an obligation to bring that money in and to keep costs low.”

Torie Ness, Avengrid Energy’s federal government affairs manager, said she appreciated connecting with peers and hearing about loan opportunities firsthand from Energy Department officials.

Federal funds like LPO’s loans are available, in part, based on Congress’ passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act in the past two years. BIL, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, have jump-started once-languishing infrastructure, domestic manufacturing, electricity transmission, renewable energy, advanced nuclear, broadband and transportation projects. These projects represent an historic opportunity for IBEW jobs in nearly every sector.

The inaugural event with LPO, which may be the first in a series of similar meetings, reflects another example of effective cooperation across IBEW’s organizing, business development, and political teams.

“It was a good demonstration of how collaboration between Government Affairs, Membership Development, and Business Development can work together to get work for IBEW members,” said Danielle Eckert, director of the Government Affairs Department.