News Release

Release Date: June 02, 2014

Preparing the Next Generation Workforce for 21st Century Smart Grid Success

Preparing the Next Generation Workforce for 21st Century Smart Grid Success

The interconnected electric power system that the National Academy of Engineering recognized as the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century is undergoing a major upgrade to 21st century functionality. A combination of sophisticated sensors, communications, and computing innovations help make this possible. Also needed—and one of the biggest challenges facing the transition—is having qualified people to make it happen and to keep it innovative.

The future of the nation’s smart grid success requires a trained workforce to plan, design, build, operate, and maintain it well into the future. Tomorrow’s power engineers and workforce will not only need traditional electrical engineering education, they will also need advanced communications and computing skills.

With $100 million of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is managing 54 smart grid workforce training programs that are helping to prepare current and future workers in the electric power industry for the ongoing transition to an intelligent modern power grid. These projects leverage about $95 million from community colleges, universities, utilities, and manufacturers to develop curricula and implement education and training programs.

The programs focus on training activities that support electricians, line workers, technicians, system operators, power system engineers, cyber security specialists, and transmission planners. Training content covers a wide range of topics including—

  • Transmission and distribution systems

  • Intelligent grid systems

  • Smart meter and advanced meter infrastructure

  • Power electronics

  • Phasor measurement sensors

  • Advanced communication networks

  • Renewables

  • Energy storage

  • Electric vehicles

  • Cyber security

  • Automation

  • Demand response

Thanks to this Energy Department effort, thousands of students and existing workers across the nation are being trained in traditional classrooms, on the internet and through webinars, and by participating in modeling and laboratory sessions.

As of March 2014, nearly 89,000 students had enrolled in Energy Department–sponsored training and education programs, and 32,000 had already graduated. Graduates received a variety of certifications and degrees including associates degrees, bachelors and advanced degrees, and professional certificates. The students enrolled and graduated from the programs cover a wide range of experience from students who had not yet graduated high school to veterans, utility workers, university undergraduate and graduate students, and students at 2-year community colleges.

Each month, NETL and many other of the Energy Department’s national labs showcase their work in various areas that benefit the nation. This story is part of a series on the labs’ contributions to "Electricity Across America." For more information, please visit the Energy Department’s national lab webpage.