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Energy – New Skills for New Technology

The nature of the energy sector has dramatically altered within the last 10-25 years, which has significantly impacted the employment and education requirements for those entering it. Traditionally, the ‘energy sector’ was considered to be about the supply of energy through coal, gas, oil and nuclear technologies – a shrinking employment sector due to the introduction of more efficient technologies.

In more recent years, with increasing global concerns for the environment, climate change and the damaging effects of pollution, the supply of energy has been broadened to encompass new and renewable technologies such as solar, wind, wave and biomass technologies. This has brought with it requirements for new employment skills and academic understanding.

The realisation that poor energy usage leads to increased pollution, as well as additional costs, has resulted in a further expansion of the energy sector to encompass the demand side of energy use, as well as supply. In the UK alone, it has been shown that 10% of all energy used is wasted, costing somewhere in the region of £10 billion a year.

During the 1990s, the UK Government committed itself to the environmental accords of the Rio and Kyoto summits to cut greenhouse gas emissions. As a result of these commitments, the UK Government has begun to introduce legislation, regulation and fiscal instruments, such as Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control, the Climate Change Levy and Carbon Emissions Trading, to encourage energy efficiency and pollution reduction in the industrial, commercial and domestic sectors. These have placed a significant burden for rapid change and increase in the numbers of the energy employment and education sectors, in order to meet the Government’s commitments by 2010, the year in which the UK has stated it will reduce carbon emissions to 20% lower than 1990 levels.

Research has shown a possible growth of 14,000 jobs within the national UK energy sector during the next ten years. The UK Department for the Environment, Transport and Regions is currently gearing up its programmes to ensure that up to 16,000 energy professionals are working by 2010 for the UK to meet its international commitments for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy professional roles include: managing energy use; advising on energy use; regulating and policing emissions; establishing energy agreements; trading carbon emissions and analysing the impact of energy-efficient measures.

The changes in the energy employment sector are already reflected in the diversity of the membership of the Institute of Energy, the sector’s professional body. Traditionally, when the energy industry was nationalised, the Industry’s members were mainly concentrated in the generation and supply industry. Now that the industry has deregulated, coupled with the Government’s aim of meeting international and environmental commitments, the Institute’s membership has broadened to include engineers, environmentalists, economists, lawyers, energy managers, educationalists, advisors, consultants, students and graduates. The Institute is a nominated body of the Engineering Council, providing engineers with Chartered and Incorporated Engineer and Engineering Technician statuses. In addition, the Institute has a broad non-engineering membership, and therefore fosters the professional development of those whose work involved energy in any capacity.

The recent increase in energy employment opportunities has brought with it a corresponding increase in energy educational courses at all levels, but particularly at postgraduate level. With the 2010 target looming, employers have sufficient time to educate and train the up-and-coming workforce and student-force to be able to implement the required technology and policy measures. They require specialists as soon as possible. A Masters degree in an energy discipline can meet that need by providing an intensive course of specialist study that will effectively prepare the graduate to impact the Government’s Kyoto commitments within the short-term, as well as the long-term future.

Many of the UK energy Masters programmes are staffed by lecturers and researchers who are world-renowned experts in their field, conducting leading-edge research into areas of great importance, both in terms of the UK’s Kyoto commitments, and for the future of the developing world. Students are provided with the opportunity to contribute to research whilst acquiring specialist knowledge and marketable skills in preparation for employment. As many of the Masters programmes in the UK are modular in nature, students are able to select their own combination of modules to enable them to solve real problems at a local level, both within the UK and overseas. A range of study methods also provides students with the flexibility to study at a time and pace to suit their needs.

The Institute of Energy has already assessed and approved for membership a number of Masters level programmes, including: Sheffield University’s MA/MSc in Energy Studies, Cranfield’s MSc in Applied Energy, and University of Ulster’s MSc in Energy Technology and MSc in Renewable Energy. In addition, the Cranfield MSc in Applied Energy has also been accredited as a suitable ‘matching section’ for Chartered Engineer registration with The Engineering Council. Other programmes awaiting membership approval include including De Montfort’s MSc in Energy and Sustainable Development and City University’s MSc in Energy Technology and Economics.

For further information about opportunities for energy post-graduate study or membership of the Institute of Energy, please contact Mrs. Tracey Fisher, tel: 020 7580 0077, fax: 020 7580 4420, email: tfisher@instenergy.org.uk

Author
Tracey Fisher
Institute of Energy

 
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