Players change but the game remains the same
June 1, 2020

Gary Landels

The pace and timing of electric utility workforce change vary between organizations, geography and regulatory environments. Meanwhile, the mission remains the same; reliable, affordable, safe electricity. As the energy industry evolves, it’s clear that electrical engineers will continue to play a significant role in the grid of the future.

Aging Workforce

We’ve all heard about the aging electric utility workforce. It was just a few years ago that the U.S. Department of Energy reported 25 percent of the electric utility workforce – those born in the mid-1900s, also known as “Baby Boomers” – would be eligible to retire within five years. This issue is not limited to the U.S. In the UK, National Grid warns that a fifth of employees in the energy sector are due to retire by 2030.

Transferring knowledge and maintaining core engineering competencies – as well as keeping up with emerging trends and the skills they require – remains a challenge for many utilities. The key point is that the electric utility industry has a lot of experienced, niche workforce that can be challenging to backfill and keep skilled-up to move into the future.

M&A

Mergers & Acquisitions continue to impact the evolving energy landscape. As utilities are looking to various business models to remain competitive and grow their reach, many are seeking out partnerships and acquisition targets to grow their renewable businesses. Beyond utilities, the consulting companies utilities often look to for support are also changing. For example, Parsons Brinkerhoff was acquired by WSP and BRIDGE Energy Group was bought by Accenture

When big companies buy up smaller companies, experienced resources are often redeployed or redirected to volume focused services. This kind of churn in the marketplace can leave the smaller companies’ clients wondering where to turn for the bespoke expertise they had come to depend on.

Emerging Skillsets

Digitization, modernization and ambitious climate targets bring technological innovations and the skills needed to implement them to the forefront. The increase in distributed energy resources (DERs) like EVs and rooftop solar requires the utility to first be able to plan for these interconnections. New skill sets and technologies are needed to accurately include DER into utility load forecasts in order to model the network, analyze and better prepare.

Cybersecurity is another area of increased importance. Beyond the IT & OT systems with their integrated communications protocols and technologies, utilities require a blend of security knowledge with electric utility-specific expertise. A utility may not need a lot of people with this unique skillset, but they are mission-critical.

The increasing role of automation driven by AI (along with nascent technologies like blockchains, flow batteries, static compensators, etc.) translates to an even more specialized utility workforce. In order for utilities to take advantage of their benefits, they need to have the skillsets to effectively integrate them into existing power structures.

Lean on PSC

With your seasoned employees retiring and experienced external consultants being absorbed into big firms, turn to PSC for staff augmentation or other specialized engineering support. We are committed to supporting your mission and assisting as you build your grid of the future. Contact us for more information.

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