California's renewables portfolio standard is spurring hope and fear within the rank and file of organized workers. Labor sees the potential for high-paying jobs building, maintaining, and manufacturing equipment for new generating plants. But it remains wary that renewable power?like deregulation in the 1990s?could become a financial liability. "The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) realizes the need for alternative means of power production," said Pat Lavin, chair of the California Coalition of Utility Employees and business representative for Local 47, which represents 4,200 Southern California Edison workers and 2,000 other employees at six municipal utilities and unionized contractors. Lavin said unless utilities gain control over resource planning, investments in renewable systems will be made in a haphazard manner that will cause unnecessary costs. "When utilities lose money, the first place they come to recover it is from labor," Lavin said. Workers in traditional power plants are scared they will lose their jobs as the winds of technological change blow toward renewable power and distributed generation, said Jill Ratner, president of the Rose Foundation. The Oakland-based organization fosters union pension fund investments in renewables. As union leaders wait for the promised new jobs building solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal facilities, they continue to support fossil fuel infrastructure, such as gas-fired power plants and liquefied natural gas terminals. "We don't see a conflict between renewable energy and more fossil-based energy," said Marc Joseph, an attorney with Adams Broadwell representing the IBEW, as well as California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). "The facts are we need both just as we need energy efficiency." CURE was recently investigated by the California Energy Commission for allegedly using environmental laws to hold up construction of fossil-fuel plants in Roseville and Riverside?as well as a geothermal plant in Imperial County?in an attempt to leverage unionized construction contracts. He said that despite resistance to union contracts on those projects, he expects the building trade unions will do well because the renewables portfolio standard requires project developers receiving public-goods funds to pay construction workers prevailing wages. "We assume the Energy Commission will enforce the law," he said. We "will be watching to make sure prevailing wages are enforced." Once the plants are built, however, there is no similar requirement for operation and maintenance workers. "With respect to the utility unions, our concern is renewable energy has to be nonutility energy," said Joseph. Deregulation, he said, decimated the ranks of unionized utility workers as utilities sold off their plants. Consequently, IBEW wants utilities to build renewable energy facilities themselves, rather than contracting for renewable power, Lavin said. Unions have had some isolated successes in promoting utility-built renewables, including a wind power project being built by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. However, whether most projects will be built and operated by utilities is unknown. Solar installations, except for large projects, are dominated by entrepreneurs without union contracts. Unionized utility line workers have concerns about safety at poor installations. In Los Angeles, for instance, the IBEW Local 18 briefly shut down a number of rooftop systems, ostensibly to prevent workers from being electrocuted while working on lines, according to Rhonda Mills, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies director of green building programs. Some solar customers and installers perceived the action as a sign of union hostility to distributed solar systems, although Joseph noted that improper installations can feed electricity into utility lines that workers think they have de-energized. "There's always a tension," said Ratner, who believes that despite such strong tactics, the real aim of unions is to make sure the new jobs created in California through renewable energy "are good family-wage jobs." In San Diego, the Apollo Alliance has been trying to forge a marriage of trade unionists and environmentalists to promote renewable energy, with some success, according to Allen Shur, business manager for IBEW Local 569, which occupies a completely solar-powered building in the Kearney Mesa area. Eight solar system installation firms are using union workers as a result of a seven-year-old training program the local has operated. Yet unions have not had the same success when it comes to manufacturing solar panels. For instance, Shur said that Kyocera Solar makes solar systems in San Diego, but rather than expanding production locally to meet growing demand, it is opening a new production plant in nearby Mexico, where labor and other expenses are cheaper. Wind turbines are mostly made abroad too, said Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Association.