(NewsUSA) – The need in the United States to expand the power infrastructure to meet the anticipated heightened demand for electricity could grow the job market for engineers skilled in plant operations, equipment design and related disciplines.
By some government estimates, more than 150,000 megawatts of additional electrical generating capacity, or the output of 200 to 500 new power plants, will be required in the U.S. to meet rising demand both in the consumer and industrial sectors. In addition to constructing new plants, many older power facilities will require extensive refurbishment to be safe and reliable energy suppliers. And the nation’s power grid — the infrastructure of transmission and distribution lines that carry electricity to homes and businesses — would need to be modernized to handle the extra load and, in some regions, expanded to meet the requirements of large-scale solar and wind energy projects.
All this projected development activity in the energy market could translate into jobs for engineers. According to a report published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), human resources staffs at power companies say hundreds of good jobs could open in the coal, nuclear, and natural gas areas. In addition to plant design and operations and maintenance, energy companies will be seeking engineers with skills and ability in fire protection, nuclear refueling, and thermal efficiency.
International mandates to reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming could lead to employment opportunities in the areas of carbon sequestration technology and renewable energy development.
Although employment opportunity for engineers in the power market is promising, issues associated with government policy could impede energy development projects and, consequently, the hiring of engineers. The United States at this time lacks a national energy policy that could create new industries around renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power, while also encouraging investments in advanced coal and gas-firing plants that are essential to meeting the increasing demand for electricity. Many in the engineering community, including ASME, believe an energy policy promoting a balanced mix of resources — coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower and renewable energy — is the best approach from a policy standpoint.
Another challenge facing hiring managers in the power industry is to find qualified engineers to get energy projects designed, approved, funded and built. According to the report published in ASME’s Mechanical Engineering magazine, many engineering schools lack curricula tailored to power generation and utility services, including courses in design, technical procurement, and construction. And while engineers in the struggling manufacturing and automotive businesses might be willing to make the leap into the power industry, they often lack the specialized skills needed to make solid contributions to utility companies and other power plant generators.
Energy is a strategic priority of ASME. The Society is committed to serve as an essential energy technology resource for business, government, academia, practicing engineers and the general public. For information, visit www.asme.org.