A cliche normally reserved for the fashion industry has seeped into the thinking of business owners, politicians, bureaucrats, media pundits, advertisers, and everyday people: Green is the new black. It goes with everything.

But long before the green bandwagon picked up an overload of passengers, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) was in the front seat, driving the movement toward sustainable electrical construction. The training programs we operate with our labor partners were among the first to address photovoltaic solar technologies and other elements of building green. Energy management was the first topic addressed by ELECTRI International when our industry’s research foundation began work approximately 20 years ago. Related topics are still being addressed through ongoing research, management education, work force development and information--dissemination activities that NECA supports, as well as through our advocacy and government affairs efforts.

And, while green building has only recently captured public attention, for more than 30 years and counting, NECA contractors and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers electricians have been working together to provide comprehensive solutions to customers that address the need to conserve, efficiently use and safely distribute domestic forms of clean energy.

Our association formalized the long and enduring commitment and expertise that NECA-member contractors offer to green construction when our Board of Governors adopted a formal, comprehensive policy on energy independence last month. It encourages investment in renewable and alternative energy resources, modernizing and securing America’s electric power infrastructure and actively working to decrease U.S. reliance on oil and energy resources from other countries.

Although the policy was adopted at a time when economic worries and energy prices were both escalating, it was no spur-of-the-moment decision. It deals, in practical terms, with persistent problems that must be confronted head-on in the short term and with ongoing attention in the future. It acknowledges that, with our economy completely dependent on the electrical wires and communication cables that connect businesses, public services and individuals, any interruption risks millions of dollars, personal security and even lives. This fact points to an important role for electrical contractors and the association that represents their interests.

In essence, the policy is NECA’s formal pledge to continue to work within the legislative and regulatory arenas and with other relevant entities to help improve electric reliability and infrastructure investment, maintain the diversity of all available fuel resources, enhance energy efficiency, and increase use of renewable energy sources. In addition, the policy stipulates that “NECA also encourages traditional producers of energy to embrace new methods that would create jobs, increase resource yield and promote environmental and economic sustainability.”

Nuclear energy is singled out for specific mention in the formal statement in light of the unfounded resistance to it that has hampered its widespread use in this country. NECA believes the goal of energy independence is far too important to allow political considerations to restrict the use of any clean, safe alternative. Last month, when I attended the annual European Association of Electrical Contractors conference, which brought together representatives of European electrical contracting associations, I learned France gets about 70 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. That example convinces me that nuclear energy can, indeed, be clean, safe and viable, and I know a lot of my fellow electrical contractors are eager to participate in this sector.

However, one of the most important concepts in NECA’s policy is embodied in these words from its concluding paragraph: “Electrical contractors who construct and maintain the infrastructure to generate, transmit and distribute electrical power play a key role in the move towards domestic energy independence. The electrical contractors of the United States will be vital in ensuring the independence, security, and prosperity of America’s economy.”

Of course, NECA and its members have known that all along. Now, with the adoption of this formal statement, the nation’s decision-makers do, too.

Milner Irvin, president, NECA