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The Young Energy Network (youngenergy.org) has plans to make an impact that will be felt this year at ConnectivityWeek at the Santa Clara convention center in May. The Young Energy Network is primarily focused on attracting and enabling newcomers to the drastically changing energy industry. There is a steep learning curve for interested talent outside the industry to locate and acquire clear, relevant and accurate information fundamental to developing an understanding of how the electric business works. Frequently the cost required to overcome the barriers of entry outpaces a person’s ability to educate themselves through industry publications, by independently attending conventions or obtaining a classical education through a university. Young Energy has an ever expanding Network of seasoned industry professionals, young rising energy stars and promising students, all hoping to have a bright future as a contributor to the energy revolution underway. Connecting those in search of information with others willing to impart their experience earned over many years is a primary objective of ConnectivityWeek (ConnWeek’10); it’s why everyone who is anyone in the industry will be there. Young Energy will seize this opportunity by launching a mentorship program to reach out in both directions on the experience spectrum. Connecting the deep experience of the Boomers with the gen XYZ and the future “Net gen”. As all things smart about energy descend on an aging electrical grid and industry work force the need for new young talent is gaining attention from those tasked with predicting asset needs to keep the power on. It is not just about planning new transmission lines, sub-station life cycles and mesh architecture. It is also about the people. As the smart grid industry continues overcoming the mountain of technical challenges a different kind of problem is emerging, a people problem. The Young Energy Network is tackling the problem head on.
Putting the standards debate, best technologies, business models aside, there is a problem on the other side of those questions that is starting to gain a spot light and one that the Young Energy Network is coming together to solve. The amount of change facing the energy business will be matched, possibly even surpassed by the changing faces of the energy business. Close to half of the engineers currently employed by the Nation’s electric and natural gas utilities will be looking to retire in the next five years, creating a need for more than 7,000 engineers industry wide, this according to the U.S. Power and Energy Engineering Workforce Collaborative. Exacerbating the problem is a decline in the number of engineering graduates, combine that with a downward trending enrollment for engineering students and it is easy to see the need for the industry to reach out to young new energy comers.
The future for the electric grid will be rebuilt in more ways then one. With new technologies, people, markets, products and services; opening the door to talent pools outside the traditional recruitment pools is looking less like an option and more like a requirement. During GridWeek a marketing director at a utility commented that after five years of work he still had not yet been taught the secret handshake which must come after at least ten years of utility work. Clearly a joke but with every joke there is a grain of truth. Specifically utilities have needed engineering solutions to engineering problems, but the future is going to be much different. While the industry forecasts substantial engineering workload the job of the utility is changing from one of enabling to one of teaching. Engineers will not be the only human resource need. Marketing, public relations, communication, behavioral economists are the future careers of the smart grid and the new business of utilities. In more than one way the Smart Grid as a sum total is new and young, the way people think of electric energy will change as much as the Internet changed how we think of information/communication. The complex task of keeping the lights is on the way to becoming a smaller part of the new energy business. Communication, education, market formation, consumer device deployment and education could soon garner more attention and more jobs then the time before the Smart Grid.
As the Smart Grid steadily marches into the national conversation some indicators suggest the Smart Grid is not receiving the welcome the industry had hoped. In December the New York Times published an article titled “‘Smart’ Electric Utility Meters, Intended to Create Savings, Instead Prompt Revolt”1 which examined meter deployment in PG&E, Connecticut Lights & Power and in parts of Texas. It reported scores of complaints filed by PG&E customers in the Bakersfield area. The most extreme example is Flores vs. PG&E, a class action lawsuit filed in November as a result of higher than normal bills after the smart meters where installed. From a technical stand point the deployment has been a success, PG&E did exactly what it was tasked to do by the California Public Utility Commission. These examples illustrate the type of change upon utilities in the Smart Grid. Electric Service Providers are having to enlarge their business to include a host of human problems. Problems that educators, marketers, public relation firms and behavioral economists are better suited to handle than engineers.
As the national electric grid is reinvented and rebranded ‘Smart’ the Young Energy Network is hard at work connecting new comers with information championed by industry experts who literally wrote the book on a brilliant energy future for generations to come. We at the Young Energy Network are excited to play our part by providing the connectivity needed for tomorrow's Smart Grid.
About the Author
Coming from the residential solar industry first with REC Solar and then starting his own company, OCeanview Solar, Phil Baltazar built a prospective of the energy business through thousands of individual conversations with end‐users interested in simply reducing their electric bill. While working on behalf of his customers with their utility Phil received the first exposure to the Smart Grid movement and immediately realized the opportunity to bridge the gap between Smart Grid utility initiatives and the end‐users or customers. iWill Energy was born and is currently employing Smart home devices to bring the promise of the Smart Grid to homeowners. The Young Energy Network has provided several opportunities at the nation’s leading conference to learn and meet leaders of the industry. Phil now has the opportunity to give back and promote Young Energy as an organizer of The Young Energy Network’s track sessions at ConnectivityWeek’10.
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