Week in Smart Metering-Preparing the right skills

IT minors could close some of the skills gaps in the utility industry, writes Claire Volkwyn, editor, Metering & Smart Energy International.
Published: Wed 27 Apr 2016

I read the report on metering.com about smart energy talent with great interest. It has long been my opinion that the modern energy engineer needs to be more than an expert in electric energy – he (or she) needs to have some IT expertise in order to comfortably work in the ‘new normal’ that is the modern energy industry.

IT/OT integration is becoming more than just a way of getting various departments within a utility to work together – it is now becoming part of a job description.

Robert N. Amundsen, director of the M.S. in Energy Management programme at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) notes that the foundation of smart energy is information technology.

This is often missing completely from traditional academic majors such as electric engineering.

Amundsen’s recommendation is that energy and/or IT minors may be the way to close some of the skills gaps facing the utility sector.

Traditional majors at university offer excellent coverage of a narrow discipline, but students rarely acquire specific knowledge of the energy industry.

Therefore, although a minor in information technology does not specifically focus on energy, it could be extremely beneficial for an undergraduate student who is interested in the field of smart energy.

Since smart energy is a field which integrates power systems, information technology, business management and renewable energy technology, students should seek knowledge in all of these areas.

The task now is to influence students to consider these options. Universities, colleges, utilities and vendors have to find a way to work together in order to equip the workforce of tomorrow with the necessary industry skills.

More importantly, what can be done to equip the workforce of today, with the skills they need now?

More from Metering & Smart Energy International

US energy management startup Jasmine Universe announced that it will this week launch its new technology to help utilities to employ demand response programmes. In a press statement, the Advanced Energy Center (Stony Brook University-New York) located firm said it will unveil the energy management solution at the Advanced Energy Conference  to be held in the US city, this Thursday and Friday. [Demand response: US startup unveils customer engagement tech]. The firm claims its wireless communication platform will enable utilities to provide consumers with real time feedback on their energy consumption to help them implement sustainable energy usage to save energy and money.

Data integration firm Bit Stew Systems has partnered with UK power utility Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSEPD) for the rollout of a smart grid pilot. Commenting on the partnership, David Macleaman, manager of research and development of distribution technologies at SSEPD said: “The project will improve our understanding of how data analytics can be used to ensure we continue to provide a safe, secure and reliable electricity supply to our customers.” [Data analytics: UK utility selects Bit Stew for grid management]. The programme is funded under the utility’s Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) received by UK distribution companies from energy regulator Ofgem.

According to a new report conducted by the World Economic Forum and PwC, the private sector will play a pivotal role in the development of smart cities. The report states that problems in the areas of water, waste management, energy and mobility would worsen, should the appropriate action not be taken. [Private sector is critical to smart cities development – report]. The study was initiated out of the need to gauge the challenges before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious 'Smart City' and AMRUT projects.

Philippines public water and wastewater company Maynilad Water Services announced that it has allocated ₱558m (US$11.9m) to upgrade its metering system. The budget will be channelled towards replacing old meters installed before 2005 with new model of water meters and smart water meters to help curb water losses and inaccurate water billing. [Philippines utility sets aside US$11m for meter upgrade]. According to a local publication, P428m (US$9.2m) of the budget will fund replacement of some 135,000 old residential meters with new meters across West Concession whilst P40m (US$860,000) will be used to convert some mechanical meters to electromagnetic meters to allow automatic meter reading. 

The City of San Francisco is reported to be the first major US city to mandate the installation on rooftop solar on new buildings. Under the new law passed, new residential and commercial buildings are required to have rooftop solar, either solar electric or solar water heating, statesTreehugger.com. [San Francisco passes mandate for rooftop solar in new buildings]. The new solar bill was passed through a unanimous vote by the city's Board of Supervisors. The mandate is an extension of an existing regulation that necessitated new building projects to allocate 15% of a building's roof as being "solar ready”. This means that the roof area would be unshaded and cleared of any obstructions for effective solar power generation and heating.