• Original Reporting
  • Sources Cited
Original Reporting This article contains new, firsthand information uncovered by its reporter(s). This includes directly interviewing sources and research / analysis of primary source documents.
Sources Cited As a news piece, this article cites verifiable, third-party sources which have all been thoroughly fact-checked and deemed credible by the Newsroom in accordance with the Civil Constitution.
Namaste Solar apprentice Jimmy Paenkhay and electrician Matthew Thomas work on an electrical utility service upgrade of a house in southeast Boulder May 23, 2023, as part of a project to install 24 solar panels onto the residence. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Colorado wants its residents to go electric, funneling millions of dollars into incentives for buying new and used electric vehicles and solar pumps, but industry experts fear there aren’t enough electricians — key parts in the state’s move to clean energy — to do the work. 

Strapped for manpower, electrical contractors are facing backlogs for EV charger installations and other appliances considered essential to combat climate change. Some are raising wages to lure new workers and retain skilled electricians in the field and others worry they may not be able to keep up with demand as the state moves closer toward its goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030. 

“There’s a shortage and pretty much everybody I seem to talk to — no matter where they are in the country — they could use more,” said Skye Houseman, owner of an electrical company in Crested Butte, the state’s first municipality to go all-electric. The small mountain town now requires all new homes and commercial construction be powered by electricity, without the use of natural gas for heating, hot water or appliances. 

A year ago, requests for an EV charger were few and far between for Houseman’s team of 10 electricians. Now, his staff at Crested Butte Electrical is installing one or two EV chargers every two weeks, he said.

Along the Front Range, Joe Montoya is booking residential solar installments four months out for Boulder- and Denver-based Namaste Solar. He’s seeing a rise in demand for solar panels as more people try to offset their electric bill after switching to heat pumps, which move air between the inside and outside of a home to replace natural-gas boilers, and other climate-friendly upgrades. 

The company started a training program and is investing thousands of dollars into educational test prep and courses to attract new electricians into the business and grow the company over time. 

“If we were able to grow faster, we’d be able to chip away at that backlog faster as well,” said Montoya, vice president of residential and a co-owner of the company. 

“And that has been a historical challenge for us: to keep up with the demand.” 

The deficit is part of a national labor shortage that some industry experts project will intensify as incentives from the federal law known as the Inflation Reduction Act kick in, alongside the hundreds of millions of dollars Colorado is pouring into rebates for appliances that run on clean energy. 


In 2021, the number of employed electricians in Colorado totaled 19,762, according to data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The electrician occupation is expected to grow by 21.5% over the next decade, which is faster than the average occupation growth rate of 14.8%.

More than 710,000 people work as electricians across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry is expected to grow 7% nationally over the next decade. 

Solar photovoltaic installers — those who install or assemble solar panels — are ranked as the No. 1 fastest growing occupation, according to the department. The number of solar photovoltaic installers in Colorado is expected to reach 274 by 2031 from 160 in 2021. 

“From a jobs perspective, if we look at how fast we’re expecting these to grow, like electricians, photovoltaic, or wind turbines, there’s opportunity there for those who want to seek it out,” said Ryan Gedney, economist at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. 

But some industry experts think that growth needs to be happening at a much faster rate for Colorado to meet its electrification goals. 

Namaste Solar workers install 24 solar panels onto a residence in southeast Boulder May 23, 2023. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

“In these smaller communities, there just aren’t enough electricians to go around to begin with to perform all this work,” said Craig Clark, vice president for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association. 

Far more people are retiring from the field than those entering and early retirements during COVID contributed to the shortage, said Clark, former CEO of Dynalectric Colorado. Electrical contractors should be concentrated on recruiting to meet the demand, he said. 

“If I were younger, I would think of going into all the car dealers in town. Say, ‘Here, you sell electric cars? Here’s my card, and I’ll give discounts to anybody you sell your car to and I’ll put in their EV charger.’ I’m sure there’s got to be people doing that now,” Clark said. “I do believe there’s plenty of opportunity.”

It’s not just residents lured by green incentives driving the demand. Hertz announced earlier this year it plans to expand its charging infrastructure to support the ongoing transition to electric cars. The rental car company said it plans to add more than 5,000 EVs to its Denver fleet and that it will install public EV chargers around the city. 

Dan Hendricks, who oversees the training for hundreds of Coloradans becoming licensed electricians each year, is working to prepare the state for when renewable energy projects truly take off. 

“Currently we don’t have enough electricians coming through the system as far as being trained and being able to take on those positions in the future, for the projects that people want now,” said Hendricks, director of the Joint Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Committee.

“When electrification does take off, we’re going to be behind,” he said. “It’s in that lull before the storm. I think everybody’s getting ready.”


To ramp up, the four-year apprenticeship program has gone virtual, expanding the size of each training class size to about 800. Before, the apprenticeship was capped at about 400 — the number of people who could train inside the facility at a time. Instructors now teach from smaller and cheaper classrooms equipped with microphones and cameras to classes of around 40 to 50 students who learn from home. Labs are held once or twice a month on the weekend. 

The program also condensed a five-year curriculum into four years. All apprentices now receive training on EV charger installation, whereas it used to be an optional, continuing education course, Hendricks said. 

Hendricks has shifted his recruitment efforts and is now aiming to reach communities that industry leaders may have previously overlooked, such as women, formerly incarcerated people and those living in rural and underserved communities. 

A fast charging station built by Highline Electric Association in Julesburg, using new technology from FreeWire, allows it and other rural Colorado towns to boast rapid chargers to relieve drivers of any remaining “range anxiety.” (Photo provided by Tri-State Generation Association)

The incoming wave of electrification projects is part of his sales pitch to those looking to enter the career. 

“There is, now, a fear of not working continually when you work construction,” he said. “We want to try to allay that as much as possible.”

Requests have tripled for EV charger installations along the Front Range in the past year for Piper Electric, the majority of its leads coming through Yelp, service department manager Rich Garcia said. Tesla also added the company to its preferred vendor list. 

“We’ve seen a huge uptick, especially this past year, with 30 to 40 leads a month, at least,” Garcia said. 

To remain competitive, the company gave all its electricians a raise between 10% to 11.7% last month. 

“The amount of electricians that are out there, there’s just not as many as there used to be,” he said. “And so (we’re) just trying to get more qualified electricians here.” 

The workload is manageable for the company, but Garcia said he is likely losing business from those who want their service upgrade quicker than his account managers and staff can get to the job.

“I’m probably not turning work away but definitely losing some work because people will buy their car and then want it installed the next week,” Garcia said. “So we definitely lose some business just based upon how quickly we can get to it.

“Everyone wants it yesterday.”

As more models of EVs are released on the market and more incentives are introduced to go electric, Garcia expects the demand to continue rising.

Colorado registered more than 20,000 fully electric and plug-in electric vehicles last year, marking headway toward the state’s goal of reaching 940,000 Es on the roads by 2030.  

“I don’t see any chances of it slowing down.”

Olivia Prentzel is a general assignment writer based in Colorado Springs for The Colorado Sun, covering breaking news, wildfires and all things interesting impacting Coloradans. Before joining The Sun, Olivia covered criminal justice for The Colorado Springs Gazette. She’s also worked at newspapers in New Orleans and New Jersey, where she grew up. After graduating college, she lived in a tiny, rural town in southern Madagascar for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer. When not writing, Olivia enjoys backpacking and climbing Colorado’s tallest peaks.