No one has ever said that running an electricity utility is an easy job.
Keeping the power flowing and the lights on for millions of Americans is not as simple as the flick of a light switch might suggest it is. Generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity is better understood today but it is no less complicated than it was decades ago.
And it’s about to get a whole lot harder.
Right now, electricity utilities are facing several significant challenges to their continued success.
There’s the influx of new smart technologies which, while revolutionary, do make the task of utility executives more difficult. Knowing which technology to invest in, predicting how that technology will impact electricity supply and demand, and securing the capital to roll out a smarter grid are all major challenges, but still manageable with the right decision management software.
There’s the rise of renewable energy and the rising popularity of green consumer products likes electric cars. The expansion in solar power generation and the ambitions of entrepreneurs like Elon Musk are likely regular reflections of any electricity utility CEO, and likely keep the C-suite up at night, too.
But one of the biggest challenges to electricity utilities right now is one that is often hidden from public view and it is the industry’s aging workforce.
As Russel Ray, the Chief Editor of Power Engineering magazine has asked:
About 40 percent of the work force at America’s electric and natural gas utilities will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. About 20 percent are eligible now. Who’s going to replace them?
The US Department of Labor has concluded that 50% of the current energy workforce will retire between 2020 and 2025.
The Center for Energy Workforce Development goes further and estimates that 62% of energy utility employees will be eligible to retire by 2025.
While the electricity utilities are likely to fill the jobs left by these retiring workers, the younger replacements will lack something their Baby Boomer forebears have in spades: experience. For electricity utility executives, the coming wave of retirements in the sector is not only going to require them to hire replacements, it’s going to demand a way to trap the years of institutional knowledge that is threatening to depart for sunny retirement locales in Florida and Arizona.
But what if there was a way to capture this institutional knowledge before those workers retired? And what if this knowledge of utility systems and the ways that the systems interact with other systems could be integrated into strategic planning long after the workers had departed? Wouldn’t it be game-changing to empower utilities to make optimal decisions even in the wake of the coming retirement wave?
Luckily, such technology exists today.
At CoSMo we help capture this valuable institutional knowledge. For our Asset Investment Optimization (AIO) application, for example, the CoSMo team worked closely with experienced workers from Europe’s largest electrical transmission utility to capture and embed the knowledge of experienced utility employees. This helps the utility to retain the experience of their team even if key members of that team retire, leave, or even move to a new job elsewhere in the utility.
When a utility uses our Asset Investment Optimization (AIO) application to help them make optimal decisions about strategic investments for the decades to come, there is enormous value in capturing and utilizing the knowledge gained over decades’ past. It’s entirely empowering for the utility and capturing this knowledge puts the utility in an enviable position when it comes to making the strategic decisions it needs to to secure success for the years ahead.
The challenge of an ageing workforce to electricity utilities is real and it challenges the utility C-suite to find ways to both replace retiring workers and capture the experience and knowledge of those same workers. It’s not an easy task but it is an essential one, and it’s one that CoSMo’s AIO application is helping executives complete with clarity and confidence.