From Scott Carlberg

Upgrades in energy technology demand upgrades in training operators for the energy industry. A Charlotte-based company has been working with energy providers around the world to keep their training current. There are some lessons for anyone interested in the industry: Be agile.

Rocky Sease

Energy control rooms have more data, run at a fast pace and require personnel to think and act quickly. They are good representatives of the kinds of changes in energy careers. “Control room operations are increasingly disruptive,” says Rocky Sease, CEO of SOS Intl.

Sease started as a junior energy engineer in 1981 in South Carolina. He moved on to jobs in system operations, customer service, electric generation, transmission, distribution and natural gas operations.

Sease has thoughts about energy training. “The changing population of control room operators is driving the changes in current training practices to include shorter training topics and more integration of technology into the training.”

Today training improvements include the use of virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and visualization of data for control room operators. “These new technologies must be evidence-based – founded on operations happening now – to help system operators with situational awareness and decision making.” Making the decisions almost second nature through repeated training is a key.

Two areas driving change are security and renewables.

Energy system security is a huge topic in training. “Cyber and physical security will drive an additional layer of operator interactions which will need to be ‘human-factored’ to ensure the operator is able to perform the functions necessary to isolate events.  This is the environment driving initiatives and methods for integrating improvements into the organizations and training programs, says Sease.

New power generation technologies require changes in the way operators are trained. Says, Sease, “Our future reality is renewables, which have the adverse impact of increasing Transmission and Distribution supply variability on the grid. In the distribution function, sometimes System Operations control rooms do not know where these resources are installed. Unlike transmission, distribution-level residential rooftops, commercial facilities, and parking lots are not required to be registered or be under the control of the local utility.”

Sease founded SOS Intl after working with utilities in their transmission and distribution businesses.

The lessons from Rocky are reminiscent of futurist Alvin Toffler who wrote a 1970 book called Future Shock. He predicted “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Toffler wrote about speed and change.

The Harvard Business Review says it well, too, as it describes the need for learning agility: “A set of qualities and attributes that allow an individual’s to stay flexible, grow from mistakes, and rise to a diverse array of challenges. It’s easy to assume that those qualities would be highly prized in any business environment. Flexibility, adaptability and resilience are qualities of leadership that any organization ought to value.”