If a fortuneteller looked into a crystal ball to glimpse the future of the power utility industry, he or she would see a future full of progress and changes. A big reason for this is new innovations trying to address the diverse challenges and opportunities in the different regions in the United States. At the same time, the industry needs to balance this with pressures to reduce costs, streamline operations, and meet state and national regulations for security and environmental compliance.
Renewable energy and technological advancements are one way to help maintain this balance. In 2014, power plants used renewable energy sources — like water, wind, geothermal and solar — to generate about 13 percent of the electricity produced in the United States. While that number might not seem so big right now, it’s expected to increase, which means the job potential for power utility technicians is also pretty powerful.
1. The Coal-d Shoulder
Misbehaving kids have been promised lumps of coal for Christmas dating back centuries. But now there is even more negative press around coal. While coal has been the largest source of electricity generation in the United States for more than 60 years, its annual share of total net generation is declining. It went from nearly 50 percent in 2007 to 39 percent in 2013 as a result of power producers switching to more competitively priced natural gas.
Coal is also bad news for the environment. It can have negative impact on ecosystems and water quality, and when coal is burned it produces harmful emissions not just to the environment, but also to human health. New regulations also make it more costly to operate some coal plants, so it’s likely this shift away from coal will continue.
2. Growing (The Workforce) Pains
A 2015 survey by the American Public Power Association (APPA) found that public power utilities have a lot on their plate in terms of planning for their future workforce needs. According to the survey, a big portion of the public power workforce will be eligible to retire during the next five to seven years, and these skilled positions will be some of the most difficult to fill when current employees retire. For younger employees, this means there’s a lot of opportunity to rise to these top-level positions. As the number of job openings increase, it also means that qualified and trained folks will be in high demand.
3. Power Savings
The future of power utility will likely also include additional energy efficiency policies and regulations. More than half of U.S. states have already set energy efficiency target goals, and many states offer incentives to utilities that help in reducing energy demand. More and more states are requiring gas and electric companies to offer energy efficiency programs to their customers. States help provide an incentive to power companies by creating frameworks that break the tie between utility energy sales and revenue, so these companies don’t lose in helping customers lower their bills. These regulations not only help reduce energy consumption and the environment, but also help people’s wallets.
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