Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lack of Power Engineers - A Risk for Smart Grids

If you are working in the domain of Power Systems in utilities or industrial plants, look around your workplace. Almost half of the people may walk out of the door during the next five to ten years - may be even you!

There is a need to replace the "heads" - let's say for every one that leaves there is a replacement (we are far away from that - but let's assume it). Does this help? To some extend. The people that leave are often the most experienced people. New people help to keep the "Head Count" at a reasonable level - but what's about the "Head Content"? It seems to be required to do more than to keep the numbers of engineers and other experts at the same amount as today.

There is another issue to mention: All the new technologies walking into the power systems: Smart Grid, Smarter Grid, renewables, PHEV, information and communication technologies (ICT), monitoring the Grid and ICT infrastructure, ... Engineers have to manage the existing system and get prepared for the many changes to come very soon.

Utilities and all other stake holders need to keep an eye on the planning of the recruitment of their future work force AND training in these new technologies of the people still there for the next 10 to 20 years! While universities partly start to get involved in the advanced ICT for power systems it seems to be crucial to also use other education possibilities: The training offered by independent and well experienced experts.

International standards like IEC 61968 (CIM), IEC 60870, IEC 61850, IEC 61400-25, ... are a pivotal point for the interoperability in the future electric power systems – they can make the system smarter than it was in the past, and keep the number of incompatible solution very low.

Massachusetts-based utility NSTAR is getting prepared they can replace the people about to walk out the door. Click HERE for a podcast at Pennet.

IEEE PES is also concerned about the situation. They have published recently a Report on the crucial issue:

"Preparing the U.S. Foundation for Future Electric Energy Systems:
A Strong Power and Energy Engineering Workforce" Click HERE to download the IEEE report [PDF].

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