Engineers are key to the development of renewable energy right from early in the identification of a development opportunity, through the design and build stages, grid-connection, and then operation and maintenance. Engineering qualifications are seen in applied physical design-type roles, but also in more theoretical modelling roles dealing with various types of data.
Civil, electrical, power systems and grid connection engineers are highly sought after across all the technologies. In slightly less high demand but also highly valued are mechanical, mechatronics and SCADA engineers.
In hydropower, both geomatics and hydropower engineers are prized. In wind power, wind reliability engineers are becoming increasingly hard to recruit.
Over 2021, as many candidates with mechanical and civil engineering qualifications were recruited as electrical project engineers in renewable energy as candidates with electrical engineering qualifications.
Electrical engineering degrees are the most sought after in the sector. However, also valued are electronics, civil, mechanical, structural, mechatronics, automation, and environmental engineering degrees. Formal project management qualifications or demonstrated experience are important complementary skills for engineers in clean energy.
Personal skills and cross-disciplinary communication abilities are fundamental. Engineers must be able to work with or across other teams and liaise with key internal and external stakeholders with oversight over regulatory or financial considerations.
Timing, cost and compliance are central to engineering design, construction and operations of wind, solar, hydro and battery projects. Similar industries from which there may be an easy transfer of skills include real estate, oil and gas, construction, mining and metals, and manufacturing.
The typical work experience of an engineer in the sector is at least eight years. There is substantial mobility of engineers across employers and technologies. Experience in renewable energy is highly regarded; much of the work is targeted at mid-career level operators. However, new entrants to the market are needed to support the anticipated continued growth of renewables.
According to data from LinkedIn, engineers in clean energy are ‘very hard’ to hire – so there’s definitely a job out there for any engineers interested!
Hydropower is a slightly different employer to wind and solar because of the importance of geological processes and civil infrastructure. Some specialist engineering roles support these processes.
Hydrologists, hydropower engineers, geologists and geotechnical or geomatics engineers are specialised roles that are critical to hydropower. These types of roles call for expertise in Geographical Information Systems, climate projections and modelling, hydrological modelling, geomechanical survey data collection and analysis.
A decade of on-the-job training and experience is needed to be effective in some of the senior roles.
Grid connection engineers are needed for all renewable energy technologies. They are in high demand and short supply in Australia.
They usually hold power systems engineering degrees, are proficient in the use of dynamic medium- to long-term simulation models for complex systems and have a minimum of 10 years of work experience.
They have excellent knowledge of the National Electricity Market, and compliance requirements of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) or other network service providers. They are employed by developers, balance-of-plant providers, consultants and AEMO.