While NECA 2008 Chicago will address some basic and familiar issues, the focus is on groundbreaking new technologies and trends. So at our trade show and other educational offerings in October, you can count on the attending electrical industry experts to show electrical contractors how to succeed in green construction.

The event also will show a larger public, which includes influential decision-makers and potential customers, just what the National Electrical Contractors Association is doing to promote electrical contractors’ success in this growing market—and why.

The fact that participation in sustainable, energy-efficient construction promises bottom-line benefits is already apparent. The economists at McGraw-Hill Construction say the market for environmentally friendly buildings will account for between $12 billion and $20 billion this year alone. That’s up to 10 percent of the total construction market, and the figure is expected to double within five years.

As the 2008 “Profile of the Electrical Contractor” revealed in the July issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, last year almost half of all electrical contractors (46 percent) worked on projects that included green/sustainable building elements, and this type of work provided, on average, 9 percent of total revenue. There’s no doubt the percentages will be higher in the next profile.

Additional research found that NECA-member contractors are currently addressing the green marketplace challenge in three ways:

1. Working on projects that use alternate forms of energy and the technologies necessary for safe installation and harvesting renewable power (solar, wind, etc.)

2. Working on projects that retrofit and improve existing systems to boost efficiency (performing energy audits, installing efficient automation controls, etc.)

3. Working on projects that use new building techniques to improve efficiency in new construction, such as design/build and building information modeling, and contribute to the achievement of Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design certification

The performance of this type of work is not only made -possible but also necessary because, as NECA president-elect Rex Ferry said at our association’s Energy Solutions Summit, “We’re at a crossroads where the rising costs of energy and the emerging technologies to actually do something about those costs have met.” Read a recap in NECA Notes, starting on page 263.

Ferry also said, “It takes less money to save one kilowatt--hour than it does to produce one kilowatt-hour.” That’s an important consideration because electricity runs our homes and businesses and is crucial to America’s economy and security. Unfortunately, several trends are converging that threaten to break down our access to affordable, reliable electric power.

More than 30 years after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, fears of such a breakdown were reawakened by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and they exist today due to war in the Middle East, concerns over the expansion of greenhouse gases and environmental damage, worries about the adequacy of America’s power infrastructure, and escalating costs. In fact, worldwide increases in consumption, coupled with unregulated market speculation on energy futures, and limits on generation capacity—a consequence of deteriorating infrastructure—have created an economic and political situation that necessitates systematic action.

That’s why NECA supports a national policy premised on energy independence. Our efforts include working with legislative and regulatory bodies and other relevant entities to help improve electric reliability and infrastructure investment, maintain the diversity of all available fuel resources (including nuclear), enhance energy efficiency, and increase use of renewable energy sources (including but not limited to solar, wind and biomass). However, NECA recognizes the move toward domestic energy independence must be driven by electrical contractors who construct and maintain the infrastructure to generate, transmit and distribute the electrical power our nation relies upon.

Expanding our services within the green construction field makes us shrewd business owners. Contributing to the nation’s economic stability and security makes us heroes.

Milner Irvin, PRESIDENT, NECA