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All-electric homes open up a world of diverse career opportunities

Christine Kennedy has seen a significant shift in renewable energy generation and use since she joined the industry seven years ago.

Christine Kennedy on a forklift

“Our focus at Total Solar Solutions had previously been on residential and commercial solar installation, but in the past few years, it’s really been about whole home electrification,” Christine says.

“We still do residential and commercial batteries and solar panels, but split system air conditioning, heat pump hot water and electric vehicle charging is a growing part of our business.”

Total Solar Solutions, which Christine runs with her electrician husband, Reece Kennedy, supports households and businesses in metropolitan Melbourne through every step of their journey, from choosing and designing the best solar system to managing rebates and installation.

“Home electrification fits in really well with the whole renewable energy space,” Christine says.

“More and more people are moving away from gas and coal-plant electricity and are looking to produce and store their own energy. They don’t just want solar panels to generate electricity; they’re using them to power their homes. It’s all about self-consumption.”

For example, people who previously had electric systems set to heat water off-peak overnight are shifting to systems that run during the day when the sun is generating energy. They’re upgrading their gas hot water systems to heat pump or solar.

“People want to feel like they are in control of their energy, and having solar with battery storage gives them that control, not just for power outages, though it helps with that as well. They feel self-sufficient.”

Cost of living pressures also make a difference, and inquiries about solar increase every time electricity and gas prices rise.

Christine oversees a team of 16, including sales, administration and operations staff, A-grade electricians and apprentices. She’s on Solar Victoria’s Industry and Consumer Reference Group and a founding member of Australian Women in Solar Energy. A fearless advocate for women in solar, she mentors female apprentice programs.

“Women can and should participate in the renewable energy transition,” she says. “There are a lot of opportunities, both in electrical trade as well as sales and operations. And there are benefits to having females on site.”

Total Solar Solutions has two female electrical apprentices, and the diversity in the team has made it stronger and more cohesive, she says.

However, there are opportunities for everyone in the rapidly growing industry, including new starters and existing trades who wish to upskill or retrain.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while or just finishing school, there’s a lot of opportunity not only with electrical apprenticeships and as a trade, but within sales and operations, and in roles such as licenced electrical inspectors.”

People can enter the electrical trade by completing an electrical apprenticeship. A-grade electricians can upgrade their skills by completing short courses and testing, which train them to design and install solar systems, including grid-connected solar, battery-only solar and off-grid installation.

Christine says she’s never regretted her decision to move into the renewables industry.

“We have to become better with the way that we generate power, the way we store power and the way that we use power. It’s not negotiable,” she says.

“It feels good to be part of an industry that’s part of the solution. To know we are contributing in a small way to something that is so much bigger than us.”

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