Staffing up for the smart grid: June 18 webinar

Published: Fri 18 Jul 2014
A blog entry by Smart Grid Watch

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The smart grid depends on people as much as technology. Today, utilities have a greater need than ever before for software developers, data scientists/analysts, and professionals with related expertise.

How can utilities best adapt their workforce to perform well in an environment focused on rapid smart grid deployment and achieving the greatest benefits from the smart grid? How can smart grid stakeholders rise to this challenge and build new teams that will deliver on the promise of the smart grid?

In a free webinar on June 18 (10:30 am ET, 4:30 pm CET), a panel of industry experts from New Brunswick Power, Siemens Canada, and the Institute for Sustainable Energy Development will explore this issue.


Topics will include:

  • Does a mismatch exist between the supply of qualified smart grid professionals and the demand for their work? What are the potential impacts?
  • Which tactics are industry leaders employing to grow the pool of smart grid experts?
  • How can organizations balance the desire for stable local, on-the-ground expertise with the frequent need to bring in skilled workers from abroad?
  • Where can we look for leadership in smart grid innovation and adoption, and which regions risk falling behind?

Canada's New Brunswick Power is demonstrating clear leadership on this front. In July 2012, Siemens Canada and NB Power jointly opened a smart grid competence center in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Using Siemens Smart Grid Compass methodology, Siemens will support NB Power in modernizing of its electricity system through a 10-year partnership.

NB Power has some unique opportunities to realize smart grid benefits. In addition to selling electricity, the utility also rents water heaters to about 80% of its customers. This represents a significant year-round load that can be managed dynamically in response to grid conditions. The utility plans to replace these water heaters with smart units that can be remotely controlled (activation and temperature adjustment). This will enable customers to automatically save money through of time-of-use pricing.

But beyond that simple goal, by predicting the need for load in advance, and by preheating smart water heaters before peak energy consumption periods, NB Power can turn customer water heaters into thermal energy storage capacity. This eventually could shift the province's daily peak load pattern.

NB Power President and CEO Gaëtan Thomas noted, "The idea is to use the water heaters and energy storage units essentially as batteries, where the aggregate of all the customer devices are used as a virtual power plant on the grid."

Executing this type of strategy requires insight and collaboration from a diversity of professionals -- traditional utility engineers as well as software developers and data professionals trained to spot unique opportunities.

Pierre Mullin, Head of Product R&D for Energy Automation at Siemens Canada notes that technology can serve as a common language to build cohesion in a geographically diverse utility team.

"The Fredericton Smart Grid R&D team was recruited locally. In addition to several native New Brunswickers, the team also includes individuals from all over the world -- most of whom came to Canada to obtain graduate degrees and decided to stay," said Mullin. "This is a big win for Canadian universities and the local economy. We share a lot of common background in terms of software development technologies that cut across languages and cultures. We may not all speak Mandarin, Hindi and German -- but Java, C and XML are familiar to all of us."

Read more at Smart Grid Watch Blog!