Energy: the industry is booming
Generation, transmission,distribution;system planning, protection, regulation
and plenty more: energy offers career areas to interest every techie
One expert believes the demand for energy engineers may soon
resemble the “feeding frenzy” for computer scientists at the dawn of the Internet
By Claire Swedberg
The energy industry is launching into a new and booming era, predicts Carolyn Elam, branch chief for the solar energy technologies program at the Golden, CO field office of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Engineers and other techies will be needed to meet demands for both conventional power generation and alternative and renewable sources of energy.
Needed, indeed: Elam believes the demand for energy engineers may be similar to the “feeding frenzy” for computer scientists that arose at the dawn of the Internet!
With the escalating cost of traditional energy sources, the dwindling of traditional fuels and the projected mass retirements of baby boomers from the workforce, utilities and other energy-related companies are looking to hire. They want bright minds, both to work with current power sources and to devise alternatives for the future. The diversity of ideas promoted by inclusion is at the top of the list for many companies’ immediate goals.
Renewable energy is golden
Renewable energy is a viable growth area for the utility industry. “The renewable standards promoted by various states are driving wind, solar, biomass and geothermal systems,” says Doug Hooker, director of renewable energy at the DOE’s Golden field office. “We’re seeing a growing demand for renewable energy programs at the state and local levels.”
There are close to a thousand such projects
underway across the country, managed by the DOE, state-supported labs, R&D companies and universities, he says.
The focus is on bringing down the cost of commercializing alternative energy sources, as well as making the existing infrastructure better able to support renewables, Hooker explains. And that requires more support from engineers who design the systems as well as those who install and maintain them. “There’s lots of opportunity. This is going to be a very busy time,” he says.
Industrial assessment at DOE
The DOE has opportunities of its own for both engineers and students. One is the industrial assessment center. Funded by the DOE industrial technologies program, it teams up engineering students and faculty at universities across the U.S. to conduct energy assessments at industrial manufacturing plants. Their recommendations help plant managers reduce energy consumption and operating costs.
This program has found more than $300 million in energy savings at U.S. manufacturers over the last five years, says Kristen McDaniel, a senior project engineer and contractor to the DOE on the project. An additional $200 million in waste and productivity improvements were identified over the same period.
Each year 120 to 180 students graduate from the program, and more than 60 percent of graduates move on to careers in energy.
AEP: Taking diversity seriously
In addition to needing engineers, utilities are focusing on continuing the trend to increased diversity. American Electric Power, (AEP, Columbus, OH), for example, wants to see a diverse pool of candidates for each new opening, says Candee Chambers, a senior HR professional. Having a variety of attitudes around a table where decisions are being made is simply good business sense, she notes.
Many of AEP’s engineers are tasked with anticipating and modeling issues like equipment failures, peak hours and transmission line usage, and creating proactive programs to ensure that power remains reliable.
No matter what the tasks, “You have to have great communication skills and willingness to work on a team. Years ago just good engineering expertise was enough. It’s not anymore.
“If they don’t have good communication skills, they don’t get hired,” Chambers concludes. But “There are always developmental opportunities for those who set goals and want to excel.”
Engineer II Carlos Casablanca is in transmission at AEP
Carlos Casablanca is helping AEP prepare for its expected consumer demand growth. The Puerto Rican native earned his 2004 BSEE at the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez with a specialization in electronics and power systems.
In college he co-opped with AEP in Tulsa, OK. On the co-op he helped with substation design and protection and control systems maintenance.
He went on to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY) for a 2005 MS in electric power engineering, focusing on power electronics. Then he joined AEP as an engineer II in the East transmission planning group. He did interconnection studies for AEP transmission system customers and developed long-term system improvement plans.
This year he took on a new job in the quality control and audit compliance group, helping the company verify metering data used to prepare financial statements. He’s also implementing data quality controls for the settlement process.
Casablanca likes all aspects of his chosen industry. “I like power systems and I want to learn more,” he says.
Philadelphia Gas Works: bringing value to the workplace
The diversity policy of Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW, Philadelphia, PA) can’t be overstated, says Gary Gioioso, director of organizational development. “We recognize that to leverage efficiencies we need to leverage talent. When we hire, we actively seek to broaden our recruitment pools.”
PGW, like other utilities, is preparing for the retirement of the baby boomers. “There will be opportunities for mid-level positions that we envision our more recent hires progressing into,” Gioioso says.
James Gleaton manages
meters and more at PGW
James Gleaton, manager of meters and measurement at PGW, began his career in construction. He earned his BSCE from the University of Pittsburgh
in 1991, hoping to build bridges and other large projects.
He found a job as a manager in training at Professional Service Industries (Fairfax, VA). He served as liaison between the owner and construction companies, overseeing rebar inspections, soil compaction, concrete testing
and other safety-specific issues.
But it was a poor time for that work. When he was laid off later, he thought appreciatively of a public utility. Philadelphia Gas Works was happy to welcome him in, and he went to work as an engineering assistant, doing technical reports, gas-line installation and repairs.
In 1995 he became assistant supervisor, overseeing maintenance for several stations and in charge of gas-leak repair for a whole district. With a minimum of five crews working in his district, “They kept me busy,” he says.
Two years later Gleaton moved back to the corporate offices as staff engineer. He managed gas main installation and replacement, helped design, supervise and coordinate high-pressure gas systems and served as liaison between the distribution department and the city of Philadelphia.
In 2001 Gleaton received his PE license and became a senior staff engineer, supervising other engineers and estimating staff. The next year he moved into his current position.
As manager of meters and measurement, Gleaton directs all activity related to gas measurement and meters. This includes the meter shop, meter reading, inspection and maintenance of PGW’s elevated pressure systems, and installation of meters for commercial and industrial customers.
“The biggest thing is being able to adapt to change,” Gleaton says. “You’re always moving from one task to another.”
Despite the pressure of multi responsibilities, Gleaton enjoys life. He’s an active member of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi. In his free time, he confides, he works as a disc jockey for parties and weddings.
Amritpal Sumal is a plant
engineer at Constellation Energy
Amritpal (Paul) Sumal found his energy-industry niche in environmental compliance. As a plant engineer for Constellation Energy (Baltimore, MD), he oversees environmental compliance at two California coal- and petroleum-coke-burning power plants, the Rio Bravo Jasmin facility and the Rio Bravo Poso. He spends half his day at each plant, walking the plant floors to be sure there are no environmental risks and working with production and maintenance managers.
Each plant shuts down once a year for repairs and modifications. Sumal works with the plant teams to see that the changes are made on time and safely. “That can be very intensive work,” he says. The two plants shut down at separate times.
Right now he’s undertaking an initiative to improve the heat rate in both plants, reporting plans and results to the support group in Baltimore HQ.
Sumal was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania to Indian parents; the family moved back to India in 1970 when he was a boy. He received a BSEE in 1983 from Guru Nanak Engineering College, Ludhiana, Punjab, India, and an MSEE with a specialization in power systems from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh, India in 1985.
He had his eye on the energy industry, of course, and found a job as a shift engineer at the Ropar thermal plant of the Punjab State Electricity Board even before he graduated. He was a control room operator for the 210-MW plant.
In 1987 he married, then moved to the U.S. with his wife in 1989 and began taking computer and English language classes at Bakersfield College (Bakersfield, CA). He soon found a job with Constellation Operating Services as plant technician at the 33-MW Rio Bravo Jasmin facility (Bakersfield, CA). That job segued into his current dual-plant environmental responsibilities.
“Energy is a very specialized field and can be a little hard to get into,” he says. “But I would say, hang in there. There may be initial frustrations but opportunities do come along.”
Maria José Bedoya is an EE
in rotation at Alliant Energy
EE Maria José Bedoya is a relative newcomer to the energy industry and liking it very well. She began at Alliant Energy (Madison, WI) in 2006 as an intern during her senior year in EE at the University of Wisconsin.
“Initially I intended to go for an MS,” Bedoya says, but with her internship at Alliant Energy she began rethinking her plans. “When I got to the company I found there was a lot of interesting work in the field.”
As a participant in Alliant Energy’s rotation program, she’ll find out even more. The multi-year program will expose her to many areas of the company.
She started in the standards department, working on specs for materials used in power distribution. This year she rotated to substations, in charge of designing new subs and refurbishing older ones. She’s currently working on upgrades to communication systems at several of these locations, including renovation of cellular radios and installation of new landlines. The project covers about forty substations in the Wisconsin area.
Bedoya’s group is also working on refurbishing the subs. She’s often on site, wearing her hardhat and meeting with the construction crew.
There are more rotations still to go, Bedoya says. “Since I’ve been in substations I’ve also been doing some relay work. I want to keep rotating and get as much experience as possible.
“This is not an office job,” she notes with pleasure. “You work with a project from scratch and watch it develop. It’s exciting!
“I like what I’ve done so far. This is a good field to be in. It’s going to start booming,” she says.
E.ON seeks top talent
to fill its range of jobs
At the U.S. division (Louisville, KY) of global utility company E.ON, creating a diverse and inclusive work environment is imperative for meeting business goals, recruiting and retaining top talent and providing superior customer service, says Renea McClure, manager of employee diversity and college relations.
“Because we are a diversified energy services company we have a broad range of jobs for engineers,” she notes. “We hire engineers as individual contributors and to work on project teams in the generation, transmission and distribution of electrical service and in gas storage and distribution areas,” she says.
“We have engineers who manage and direct all parts of our operation, including those outside a traditional engineering career, like the rates, regulatory and retail functions. We’re looking for candidates who are technically and educationally strong, know how to think critically and communicate well.”
Virginia Whitaker manages
transmission protection at E.ON
Virginia “Ginger” Whitaker is E.ON’s manager of transmission and substation protection. She has a 2002 BSME and a 2005 MSME from the University of Louisville (Louisville, KY), and this year she completed her MBA in management from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Whitaker began at E.ON in the engineering co-op program. From 2000 to 2002 she worked various rotations at local power plants.
After graduation she came in as a fulltime engineer, working on larger capital projects including a major hydro plant rehabilitation. When she completed her MS she was promoted to production supervisor. Now she was managing coal yard and scrubber operations at the company’s Ghent, KY power plant, and she supervised the startup of a new flue gas desulfurization system.
Last year she moved into her current position, managing major capital projects for the transmission group. “I currently manage substation protection, design and construction groups,” including relevant compliance activities, she explains.
“My first supervision experience at the Ohio Falls hydro plant was my most valuable career-building experience to date,” Whitaker reflects. “It was my first opportunity in an official leadership role. The people I supervised were hard workers and very responsive. It was an experience that I still draw on regularly for encouragement,” she adds with a smile.
The most valuable things an engineer can do is ask questions and get involved in anything and everything possible, she says. “You can never learn enough! Everyone has something to teach you.”
Patrice Niles is an engineer III
at Kentucky Utilities
Last year Patrice Niles was recruited as a utility-experienced engineer by Kentucky Utilities (Lexington, KY), an E.ON U.S. company.
Niles has a 2004 BSEE from Auburn University (Auburn, AL) and a 2006 MSEE from the University of South Alabama. She began her career as an intern with Inroads (Birmingham, AL), which arranges career-development internships for talented minority students. Through Inroads, Niles interned with the distribution support group of Alabama Power Co (Birmingham, AL), and then became a student engineer in Alabama Power’s Auburn, AL office.
In 2004 Niles started fulltime with Alabama Power in Mobile, AL. As a new hire she went into an eighteen-month development program, rotating through different departments of the company and getting hands-on and classroom training in safety requirements, real-time electric system ops, electric standards and more.
When she finished that program she was put in charge of all distribution customer-service requests for her service territory, including residential, commercial and industrial customers.
Now she’s joined Kentucky Utilities as a distribution engineer in its Shelbyville, KY operations. She’s responsible for reliability, protection and enhancement of distribution, and the needs of large commercial and industrial customers in ten counties. This includes coordinating and protecting the system, addressing overload conditions and analyzing circuit and equipment capacity.
Her Inroads participation was a marvelous start to all of this, she reflects. “It changed my thought process, helped me prepare myself for a career and gave me tools that have greatly assisted me,” she says.
Duke Energy welcomes
unique perspectives and abilities
Duke Energy (Charlotte, NC) works to create an inclusive culture that welcomes new employees, says Cindy L. Angelelli, managing director of diversity, inclusion and workforce strategy. The company hosts employee resource groups for women, African Americans, Latinos and more.
Engineers at Duke perform a wide variety of tasks, including analyzing energy use, designing solutions to operating challenges, specifying equipment, materials and services and developing plans for energy and power projects. They may also get into functions like marketing, IT and fleet management.
“Many of our engineers are hired at entry level with co-op or internship experience with Duke Energy, but we bring in experienced engineers as well, and some with MBAs,” Angelelli says.
Tamara Harrison is
a senior engineer at Duke
Tamara Harrison brings a worthwhile range of engineering experience to her job of senior engineer in the system protection department at Duke Energy. While she was earning her BSEE at North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University she worked summers for a shipbuilding company and for Pacific Gas and Electric.
After she completed her 1995 MSEE at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harrison went to work for Motorola in Boynton Beach, FL. She joined a group designing the overall functions of pagers.
Two years later she moved to TRW Space (now part of Northrop Grumman) in Los Angeles, CA as an application specialist, responsible for circuit design work on chips for aircraft carriers.
In 1999 her husband’s work sent them to Pensacola, FL, where she taught computers and electronics at Pensacola Junior College. Then she moved to the Pensacola office of Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co (Atlanta, GA) as an engineer responsible for transmission system protection.
It was a small company where engineers took many roles and learned a lot, she says. She worked on relay schemes, designed, tested and commissioned new equipment and coordinated substation construction and electrical work. “I loved it there. I had a great time,” she says. But her husband’s career suggested a move to North Carolina.
“Since I had such a good experience at Southern I decided to stay in energy,” Harrison says. In 2004 she went to work for Duke Power designing capital projects for transmission stations. There was a lot to do: Duke is a large company and “The load was and still is growing astronomically,” she says.
This year Harrison was promoted to senior engineer in the system protection department. “Everything we do is important to the community and customers, and I feel I’m contributing to my own family having lights,” she says with a smile.
“Every day it’s something new here. This is an environment where anything is possible.”
EE Hyong-Mo Yang
works at Bonneville Power
Hyong-Mo (Steve) Yang works in generator testing at the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA, Portland, OR). He has a 2002 BSEE from the University
of Portland and a 2003 MSEE with a focus on digital signal processing from Portland State University.
Yang already had a good deal of work experience even before he got to college. Coming to the U.S. as a teenager he worked as a landscaper after high school, then for United Parcel Service. Later he worked in his parents’ dry-cleaning business while his wife went to college.
When his wife finished her degree it was Yang’s turn. At Portland State he learned of a co-op with BPA, got the job, and worked on programming for the systems measurement group.
The federal power agency liked his work. When he completed his MSEE he became a fulltime EE in generator testing. Now he’s supporting planning and coordinating testing for a team that plans outage contingencies. “They do the modeling work and I provide the data,” he says. Some of it comes directly from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ hydro power plants.
“I’m still learning,” Yang says. “When I finished school I found out how much I still didn’t know, so every day is a learning experience!”
ComEd’s Laura Randle: techie
in transmission planning
In 2003 Laura Randle joined ComEd (Chicago, IL), a subsidiary of Exelon Corp (Chicago, IL), as a distribution design engineer. Today she’s part of the transmission planning group, responsible for ensuring adequate transmission capacity in ComEd’s service territory.
Randle received her BSEE from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
in 2003. Next year she will finish her MBA studies at DePaul University (Chicago, IL).
As a transmission planning engineer she writes assessments of the expected performance of the ComEd system, conducts analyses of transfer capability and calculates transmission facility ratings on the system. She also volunteers on special project teams: “This has given me different perspectives about my career and a better understanding of the organization and how it operates,” she says.
Jeremy Morgan: getting
ahead of the curve
“I learned over the years to get ahead of the curve and have some foresight,” says Jeremy Morgan. Morgan, a CE, environmental engineer, MBA and Six Sigma black belt, has just changed jobs after a company reorganization.
Most recently he was VP of business operations and renewable energy at power company Aquila (Kansas City, MO). He was intimately involved in planning for a reorganization when, in July of this year, Black Hills Corp acquired some of Aquila’s natural gas properties and its electric properties in Colorado, and the company’s electric properties in Missouri were merged into a subsidiary of Great Plains Energy to operate as Kansas City Power and Light.
Since Morgan was helping plan for the reorganization, he had the opportunity to consider what might come next. He chose not to join either company, and recently accepted a new position as a project director with Fluor Corp. “I’ll be responsible for power plant construction and retrofit projects both in the United States and internationally,” he reports.
A start in CE
Morgan got his start with a 1988 BSCE from Oklahoma State University. In college he had summer jobs with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Tulsa, OK, installing and operating geotechnical sampling, analysis and environmental wells. When he graduated he joined Exxon in Houston as a drill engineer, designing and drilling oil wells and putting together drilling plans.
A year later he moved to the Army Corps in a two-year rotation program in various areas of construction. When he completed his rotations he became a project manager in environmental programs, working at several military installations.
In 1992 he moved to the corps’ Baltimore, MD district, overseeing remedial work at Army bases along the East Coast.
Two years later Morgan became a supervisory general engineer, overseeing engineers and admin employees working on environmental projects in military and government sectors on the East Coast.
Into the private sector
At the same time he was completing an MS in EnvE from Oklahoma State University, which led to a job as an environmental manager at Aquila. He made the transition because he wanted to work in the private sector: “I wanted more flexibility,” he explains.
Now Morgan was responsible for environmental issues related to electric generation, including negotiating with the government on permit and compliance issues, support and due diligence for new plants and internal reporting.
In 2000 he completed an MBA at DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management (Oak Brook Terrace, IL). Aquila moved him up to directing asset management for a number
of privately held power plants.
In 2003 he became VP of asset management, responsible for selling off unprofitable assets connected with the realignment of Aquila’s operations. By 2006 the sales were completed and he became a Six Sigma black belt, looking at processes and identifying their efficiency.
After 2006 he moved to VP of business ops in renewable energy. He worked with the generation group to put in programs using sources like biomass, landfill gases and solar energy. “It was an easy step to move from environmental work to renewable energy,” he says.
When the merger and sales occurred, Morgan declined to join the merged company. “I did not think my career goals could be achieved at the combined company,” he explains.
Will he eventually return to renewable energy? ”I would like that,” he says, “but it’s not essential. I am skilled and trained to perform in many other areas: engineering management, asset management, merger/acquisitions and power plant operations.
“I have always worked to sharpen my professional skills and abilities, to network, and to be open to all employment options.” The Fluor post is an exciting step into the future.
DIVERSITY-MINDED ENERGY COMPANIES
Check the Web for the latest opportunities and openings.
|Company and location
|Regulated electric and natural gas service
for Midwestern customers
|American Electric Power
(AEP, Columbus, OH)
|Electricity generation and distribution
|Bonneville Power Administration
(BPA, Portland, OR)
|Power generation and distribution
(Oklahoma City, OK)
|Exploration for and production of natural gas
|Electricity for large commercial and industrial customers; wholesale power
|Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
(DNFSB, Washington, DC)
|Safety oversight of the nuclear weapons complex; operated by the DOE
|Electricity services in NC, SC, IN, OH and KY and gas services in OH and KY
U.S. HQ Louisville, KY)
|Natural gas and electricity for consumers
|Electric and natural gas distribution, nuclear power generation
|Generation, transmission, distribution of electricity; energy management and
|MidAmerican Energy Co
(Des Moines, IA)
|Energy production from diversified fuel sources including geothermal, natural gas, hydroelectric, nuclear, coal and wind
|National Renewable Energy Laboratory
|Researches renewable energy for the U.S. government
|Pacific Gas and Electric Co
(San Francisco, CA)
|Natural gas and electricity
|Philadelphia Gas Works
|Gas for the city of Philadelphia
|U.S. Department of Energy
|Energy security; scientific and technological innovation; environmental cleanup of the
national nuclear weapons complex
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