The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that between 2008 and 2017, $32.5 billion was invested into smart grid technologies, an average of $3.61 billion annually. M.J. Bradley & Associates estimates that the investments by the electric power industry to build smarter energy infrastructure provides more than 1.4 million jobs.
Essential skills for the future workforce
As electric utilities use more digital tools to increase reliability and operate more efficiently, the utility workforce must adapt as well.
When customers can get more attuned to their energy use, they’ll have more ways (and more reasons) to connect with the utility. That’s why the Center for Energy Workforce Development lists customer service skills as important for an array of utility jobs, including lineworkers and technicians.
Customer communication is also expected to be two-way. In Utility Dive’s State of the Electric Utility 2016, utilities reported to expect increasing communication with customers across six of eight categories, such as billing, energy use, rates, and new services.
More devices creating data means more people can use data to help their work, if they can critically analyze data sets to identify problems and opportunities.
With more devices comes the need for the workforce to be ready to use, repair, replace, and explain these technologies.
Increasing focus on energy efficiency & renewables
DOE’s January 2017 US Energy and Employment Report notes that:
- 2.2 million Americans are employed in the design, installation, and manufacture of energy efficiency products and services
- 42% of the 1.9 million workers employed in electric power generation in 2016 held jobs in low carbon emission generation technologies, including renewables, nuclear, and advanced/low emission natural gas
- The solar workforce increased by 25% in 2016, and wind employment increased by 32%