Employment Trends in the Evolving Electricity Power System
- Jun 19, 2021 1:02 pm GMT
Employment Trends in the Evolving Electricity Power System
Energy Transition Concept
In the evolving electricity power system, the transition to a clean electricity generation is a main driver. It is a must to have a generation subsystem that produces no conventional air pollution and maximize utilization of the renewable energy resources that adds no net greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. In addition, shifting to electric vehicles and heat pumps for cooling and heating spaces will maximize the electricity demand. Needless to say that demand side management has a vital role in keeping balance of supply and demand as far as possible assuring the security and reliability of the electric power system operation.
Impacts Of Energy Transition On Employment
- During the electricity power system evolution, the labor movement across various technologies and sectors will be both a consequence and a driver of change. The relationship between labor force growth and electricity demand is not clear-cut, but many parts of the electricity supply chain provide significant employment, and a large share of energy jobs are in the generation segment.
- Many older electricity power system workers who have a great deal of implicit knowledge are retiring. The industry has been working to find ways to capture that knowledge and pass it on to new employees. At the same time, the skills needed for jobs in the electricity industry and in its supply chains have changed over time.
- A recent analysis includes the evolving electricity power system employment in five main groups: fuels; electric power generation; transmission, distribution, and storage (TDS); energy efficiency; and electric motor vehicles. All of these areas are relevant to the electricity industry.
- The future landscape of the electricity sector employment will be determined by a combination of:
• Jobs that exist today:
Such as grid operators, control technicians, reliability engineers, planners and modelers, transmission and distribution mechanics and crews, cable splicers, load dispatchers, environmental engineers, and information technology personnel
• Jobs that may be eliminated or reduced in numbers:
As impacts of the industry transitions toward more wind, solar, and storage facilities and demand-side activities. These include operators-assistants and mechanics, instrumentation and electrical technicians, fuel supply analysts, welders, environmental specialists and chemical engineers.
• Emerging jobs, or those likely to be created as the energy transition matures:
Such as battery technicians, wind plant operators and weather forecasters, data scientists, cybersecurity engineers, hydrogen plant operators and technicians, operations and maintenance, integration engineers, electrolysis operations and maintenance technicians, and distribution system operators.
Therefore, one can conclude that many traditional jobs in the electric sector (generation, transmission , distribution and storage) will remain relevant as the grid evolves, and new opportunities related to increased renewables, increased efficiency and sensing, and increased security are expected to have generally positive energy-transition employment outcomes.
Creating the Required Work Force
-The technological changes involving the electric power system in conjunction with an existing aging workforce and the need to ensure the industry has access to a workforce that can ensure safe and efficient operation of the electric system, pose challenges in terms of workforce education, training and development.
-Workforce needs include:
Educating a new generation of managers, designers, and operators,
Training people on both operation technology and information technology elements of the grid as well as cybersecurity.
Expanding the pool of skilled craft workers.
Providing job placement and retraining for displaced workers.
- Changes in the workforce needs across the electricity generation subsystem will tend to track changes in the power production portfolio. Renewables are expected to be a key sector for job growth, in manufacturing, construction/installation, and operations and maintenance. However, the number of full-time job equivalents and skill set requirements for operating solar or wind plants will be very different than what is needed for thermal power plants. Individuals previously (or currently) employed at thermal facilities may not find seamless transitions to the renewables industry.
- As the transmission and distribution networks become more complex and more heavily dependent on ICT, more workers who have an understanding of ICT among OT staff will be needed, particularly for utilities that will not be able to support individual staff positions for each grid security skill.
- Relevant operation technology OT skills in the electric industry are less prevalent and less mature than Information technology security. Educational programs for grid engineers and operators have only recently begun to incorporate cybersecurity training into curricula, and many of today’s engineers and operators do not have expertise in OT cybersecurity. Additionally, within the vendor community there is often an organizational separation between the individuals who design and build the substation and operational systems architecture, and those who design the ICT architecture and implement the communications systems that will operate the equipment.
-With the sharp increase in the use of power electronics all across the power system, there is also a critical need for workers who are trained in power electronics systems as well as in generation, distribution, microgrids, storage, and/or EVs. This skill set is different from traditional IT and cybersecurity skill sets, as well as from those who install PV and wind systems or are traditional power systems. There is shortage of people trained in these areas and the skills from these fields do not directly crossover.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2021. The Future of Electric Power in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25968.
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