Universities, utilities, technical colleges and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority are among the 54 organizations that received portions of close to $100 million in funding from the Department of Energy to train workers in the growing smart grid industry. The organizations’ training programs on average received $500,000 to $5 million to create programs in which workers can learn skills as electricians, systems operators, transmission planners, power line technicians, engineers and cyber security specialists.
The DOE says that the close to $100 million will be combined with $95 million from private industry and will be able to train a total of 30,000 smart grid workers. The DOE announced the availability of these funds back in September.
The smart grid has emerged as a hot market for investment, and capital spending during 2009 and 2010. Pike Research predicts that $200 billion will be invested in smart grid infrastructure around the world in the next five years — a figure that would make the DOE’s $4 billion smart grid stimulus boost look like little more than a down payment.
Already millions of two-way communicating, digital smart meters have been deployed across the country, distribution grid sensors and control systems are coming online, demand response devices are shedding peak power in homes and businesses, and utilities are tying together the overarching networks and software systems to make them all work. No doubt the market will need trained workers to install, operate and innovate around these upcoming smart grid systems.
Some of the training programs focus on the manual installation and upkeep of the smart grid, while other programs — like the University of Colorado, Boulder’s “Strategic Training in Networking for Power Systems” program — could help produce a generation of engineers that will deliver innovation around networking, wireless technology and cyber security.
Power companies that received funds for training programs include Pepco Holdings (where DOE Secretary Steven Chu made the announcement today), Florida Power and Light (FPL), National Grid, Mississippi Power Company, Duke Energy and Oncor. General Electric, Pennsylvania State, University of Hawaii, and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association also received funds.
Image courtesy of NREL.