Educational programs from colleges, universities and other institutions should be at least compliant with ISPQ Standard 01022. In regions where there is a body licensed to perform accreditation, such as the Interstate Renewable Energy Council in North America.
Renewable Energy Education
Interview with Prof. David Rivkin, PhD | Ohalo College of Katzrin
1) What is the market like for Renewable Energy professionals?The UN predicts that 8.5 million people will work in the Renewable Energy sector by 2030. This may be an underestimate as the largest installed based of renewable energy, that of solar hot water, is typically not included in these estimates. As laws change around the world which not only allow but require renewable energy systems to be installed in residences and other locations, these numbers many grown to over 25 Million positions needed as well. In addition to the growing numbers of new positions, the numbers of people retiring from the renewable energy field is large. According to the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) 37% of current energy professionals plan to retire. We are already seeing in places like the UK recruitment from other countries, such as Germany where companies offer very attractive compensation, a drain on the locally available expertise.
2) Typically what kind of jobs are available at present?While positions in technology research are certainly available, and even production line engineers are a strongly growing field, in fact the largest areas of growth are in site design (a function of technical sales), installation and maintenance, as technicians and engineers. Managers of renewable energy for corporations and governments are also a fast growth field, as there is the need for someone trained both technically and in the business aspects of renewable energy assessment to determine the best mix of technologies, including energy efficiency methods) to lead these efforts. In addition Auditors and Consultants are fast growing fields with new international certification being available from ACGTA (theacgta.org).
As an example, as solar hot water systems become more complex to meet the needs of not only single family residences, but also apartment buildings, office buildings and public buildings such as stadiums, the need for well trained staff who can provide quality workable systems is very high. Photovoltaic, be it basic panels or concentrating PV systems, require people with expertise in not only electrical but also mechanical systems, as does wind power, microhydro and other technologies that have wide applicability.
3) Where are the projected highest growth fields?Perhaps the largest growth sector is that of Small Wind Turbines. Some countries, such as Israel, are looking into requiring the installation of small wind on all residential units, and the interest in this low initial cost technology has won much interest. However, for a small wind turbine to last the 20 to 25 years as designed, it requires yearly maintenance. Currently there are not training programs in small wind turbine selections, installation and maintenance, but there will be soon. As I mentioned previously, Solar Hot Water, one of the most widely used renewable energy technologies for many decades and the most efficient and cost effective, is also a continually growing field. As countries follow the leadership of Israel, with its mandatory installation of Solar Hot Water systems on new residences resulting in 85% of residences with such systems installed, the need for technicians and engineers for installation and maintenance is great. South Africa is one such country now considering similar legislation to require solar hot water systems be installed.
4) Do you feel this growth is international or are you speaking of the local area?There are many factors that will determine this, as some locales are actually making it more difficult to install renewable energy, mostly do to a perception that renewable energy systems are "ugly", while other areas are removing such limitations or even requiring renewable energy, as previously mentioned.
Renewable energy is taking a turn to the "Distributed Generation" model, particularly where a high volume of jobs is available. Together with the research, design of new technologies, the renewable energy employment market is in fact, both local and international. Many employers I speak with are based in small countries such as Israel, but send their staff around the world to perform the jobs previously mentioned, as well as having the same kind of staff working in just one small city locally. This gives great opportunity to those seeking such work to either be able to travel or settle down, or change from one type of role to the other as they desire. For positions at Wind Farms, today many wind farm management companies are opening farms in multiple countries, on different continents, bringing some staff with them while hiring locals (if they can be found) as well.
5) What kind of education is needed for these fields and respective jobs?Most of the technician and engineering positions that are the big growth areas require a good foundation in mathematics and sciences from primary education and a 3 year Associates Degree or the equivalent, such as a Professional Engineering Diploma in a 2 year intensive program. The program must include electrical and mechanical, including hydraulics, education, as appropriate for the specific specialty. It can not be stressed enough that the education must be very Hands-On in nature. Lectures are simply not enough, as real-world problem solving abilities and creativity are key to these jobs.
For managers, Certificate programs in Renewable Energy Management are a great start. A MBA in Renewable Energy Management would able to valuable. These programs need to have both business and technical components, which is not typical of MBA programs usually. A program should also focus on what the world will be like in 20 to 25 years, the lifetime of many renewable energy systems, in determining Return on Investment etc., not analysis simply based on today's energy prices.
6) What kinds of certification and accreditation is there for both educational programs and professionals in the field?Educational programs from colleges, universities and other institutions should be at least compliant with ISPQ Standard 01022. In regions where there is a body licensed to perform accreditation, such as the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (http://irecusa.org) in North America. As this is a new and growing standard and accreditation process, not all continents and regions have accreditation bodies yet, however the ISPQ is very willing to work with colleges and universities to be compliant.
For practitioners, there are local and international certification bodies such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (http://www.nabcep.org/) which certified technicians and sales engineers, and the Association of Certified Green Technology Auditors (theacgta.org) for consultants and managers. The educational programs of colleges and universities should prepare students for the exams that these two bodies require for certification.
7) What makes a program like that at Ohalo College unique and valuable for students?At Ohalo College, we are building programs where students can expect an innovative approach to learning that will include classroom, computer-based and hands-on practical training from our knowledgeable faculty and input from our collaboration partners in industry. Our programs will teach students the technical skills necessary to service, repair, and maintain the demanding requirements of a wide variety of renewable energy systems found in Israel and around the world, today and in the future. Students will become familiar with the basic concepts important to energy efficiency, geothermal, wind, water, solar and biofuel energy production, including structures, AC/DC electrical systems, hydraulics, control systems, computerized data collection, geothermal, solar and wind site assessment, chemistry and more. We currently offer a Certificate in Renewable Energy Management and will start our Practical Engineering Diploma in 2011, followed by a broadly based Bachelors in Renewable Energy Engineering soon-after.
We are fortunate to be located just a few minutes drive from a large Wind Farm, from warehouses covered with solar panels, from a regional biogas to electricity provider which uses sewage to provide energy and from microhydroelectric production facilities. On campus we are developing a small and medium sized wind power mini-farm, and solar photovoltaic and solar thermal practice center, and we are developing new biodiesel production technology as part of our research efforts in collaboration with universities internationally.
8) Do you think the Renewable Energy Industry can continue to grow on it’s own without strong government subsidies?Government subsidies certainly can help, but perhaps more important are simple regulations that can either hinder or allow renewable energy systems to be installed, and their impact on the industry. From a purely economics perspective, governments should be taxing those that pollute and those tax monies should be directed as subsidies to those that do not, in this case moving monies from Fossil Fuel based activities to those of Renewable Energy. This is a systems of incentives and disincentives which can have a tremendous impact for change.
The Renewable Energy Industry is really just getting started as a main-stream sector, so much will change and there will be growing pains and some overly hyped expectations. However, people at the grass-roots level are pushing for renewable energies, businesses are seeing the cost savings (as well as greater reliability by owning their own power generation vs. the grid) especially as they grow internationally, and governments are seeing new models for both protecting the environment and their people while continuing to bring in tax revenues. Therefore, the possibilities are tremendous, but must be tempered with realistic expectations that may come with limited supply and high demand. This is good, though, for the job market in the sector and for the economy as as whole, worldwide.
Prof. David Rivkin, PhD- David Rivkin holds dual bachelors degrees in Chemistry and Nuclear Engineering from UC Berkeley and 2 PhDs, one in BioPhysics from UC Berkeley and another in Business Sciences specializing in Sustainability from the European School of Business. He is has over 25 years of professional experience in both industry and academia and is Assoc. Professor and Chairman of the Sustainable Development and Renewable Energy Department at Ohalo College. Prof. Rivkin is Managing Director of the Sustainable Methods Institute where he leads operations and technology research programs. Prof. Rivkin is also an Adjunct Professor with Kingdom College of Natural Medicine and Glendale University. Previously Prof. Rivkin was with International Technology University, National University and was Professor of Business Sciences and Professor of Physical and Life Sciences in the Von Epstein University colleges where he was also Director of the Sustainable Energy and Design Center. He is an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer, Royal Society Member, STI Fellow and winner of numerous technical and managerial awards and recognized by governments for his outstanding contributions in both education and research and he is a nominee as a Fulbright Scholar for 2011. As a serial entrepreneur of several successful ventures including founder and Chief of Technology for SciEssence Intl. Prof. Rivkins multidisciplinary background, from biosciences to nanotechnology, provides a broad background in Sustainability. Currently Prof. Rivkin is co-authoring 6 Textbooks on Wind Power, is a reviewer for the Journal of Sustainable Energy and the IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, and is a Principal Adviser to NSFs SBIR Phase II grant applicants assisting them in developing commercialization plans in Clean Tech fields.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
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