Green Jobs in the Rapidly Growing Smart Grid Space

Consultant company KEMA published a white paper in 2008 that predicted that federal and state smart grid incentives of $16B would be leveraged by a factor of four, resulting in the creation of some 280,000 new smart grid jobs, roughly half of which will be permanent. While the spending levels to date have not quite reached that level (Federal incentives of roughly $3.4 billion have been awarded through ARRA) and the allocation of additional stimulus spending is uncertain at this time, a sizable number of new direct smart grid jobs is still expected. The projected breakdown of these jobs is as follows:

Direct utility new hires 17% e.g. new skills within utilities
Direct utility suppliers 41% e.g. smart meter manufacturers
Indirect Supply Chain 27% e.g. raw materials for above
New Energy Service Company (ESCO) jobs 9% e.g. service, maintenance, etc.
Contractors 6% e.g. installation & maintenance

Other industries whose hiring will be indirectly but positively impacted by the smart grid, but not included in numbers shown above include :
Renewable energy source suppliers (e.g. solar, wind)
Distributed generation equipment suppliers
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle suppliers

So it is not at all unrealistic to expect Smart Grid to do for the utility industry what cable did for TV or what cellular technology has done for telecommunications.
According to KEMA, cable generated 367,000 new jobs between 2002-8 and cellular telephone companies employed 268,000 with an annual employment growth rate of 4.1%.

I spoke with Christine Hertzog, industry consultant and author of the Smart Grid Dictionary which, incidentally, defines smart grid as follows:

“A bi-directional electric and communication network that improves the reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric system for small- to large-scale generation, transmission, distribution, and storage. It includes software and hardware applications for dynamic, integrated, and interoperable optimization of electric system operations, maintenance, and planning; distributed generation interconnection and integration; and feedback and controls at the consumer level.”

Christine is a veteran of the telecommunications industry and sees many parallels between what is happening in utilities today with what happened in telecom over the past decade. She sees significant opportunity for job growth in all the various employment nooks and crannies that reside in the space between power generation and consumption. Opportunities are already opening up in software, feedback and controls, encryption and security, remote monitoring diagnostics, as well as the the soft science side of things, dealing with consumer behavior, marketing and public education. After all, a large portion of the benefits expected from smart grid deployment are predicated on the assumption that consumers will modify their power consumption behavior once they have enough information to base their choices on.

Smartgridcareers.com lists the following job categories on their website:
Functional specialists (Demand response, field support, distributed automation)
Functional support (e.g. marketing, PR, Sales)
Implementation Operations & Support (e.g. IT software, customer support, logistics)
Planning (regulatory support, requirements development)
Program support (Finance, legal)
Leadership
Quality assurance

A lot of these jobs are quite technical. Will there be enough qualified candidates applying for these jobs to fill them?

Stay tuned for our next guest post from the folks at CAEL, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, who have a history working with the both the telecom and energy industries developing and delivering online training . They just received a sizable grant from DOE for Smart Grid workforce training and development for their energy industry effort.

RP Siegel is co-author of the critically acclaimed eco-thriller Vapor TrailsLike airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though can we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.

RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His publications include business and technical articles as well as books. His third, co-authored with Roger Saillant, is Vapor Trails, an adventure novel about sustainability. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. He is also active in his community of Rochester, NY. A regular contributor to Mechanical Engineering magazine, RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner to the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.. Follow @RPSiegel on Twitter. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com