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Impact of Distributed Energy Resources on HR and Recruiting

image credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute (used with permission)
Mike Ahern's picture
Director, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Mike Ahern leads WPI's Academic and Corporate Engagement Group.  Mike's focus areas include graduate education and professional development, especially in Electrical and Computer Engineering...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Aug 23, 2019

This item is part of the Distributed Energy Resources - Fall 2019 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

Distributed Energy Resources (DER) are local power sources like solar panels, windmills, and batteries.  Many of these power sources use or help enable use of renewable "fuel" like sunlight and the the wind.  Since these are societal goals, they are often encouraged by public policies, including economic subsidies.  As a result, they are a growing part of the power grid in many countries.

The adoption of power sources on the distribution system leads to growing complexity for power delivery and operations.  The original design of most power distribution systems envisioned one-way power flow from substations to customers.  Transmission systems were designed for two-way power flow to reliably connect the large power generation plants to all the substations.  As distributed power sources are connected to the Distribution system, two-way power flow becomes possible and the complexity begins to approach that of the Transmission system.

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What does this mean for HR and Recruitment?

The growth of DER means that the technical expertise of distribution system engineers must grow to maintain safe and reliable operations as more and more distribtued energy resources are added.  Engineers who could design protection and control systems were in short supply in our industry for as long as I can remember (and I started in the industry in 1981).  As DER grows, these skills are in even greater demand.  Building and retaining these skills in the existing workforcce becomes ever more important. 

At my former utility, we saw the number of DER installations double in one year, and then double again the next!  Since DER is a public priority, our utility worked hard to successfully support its growth.  If you look at your organization's engineering population, could you handle a doubling or quadrupling of DER installations?


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