Illinois is the Regional Leader in Smart Grid Jobs, but Will it Last?

Illinois is the Regional Leader in Smart Grid Jobs, but Will it Last?

ILLINOIS (IRN) — Jobs in Illinois’ smart grid sector declined recently after steady growth amid the modernization of infrastructure in the industry.

While there have been job losses, the state is still the industry leader for jobs in the area.

ComEd’s smart grid includes improvements to the electric system with digital technology at substations, switches and meters. The improvements are designed to reduce the number of power outages, make outages easier to fix, help customers save money and integrate renewable energy sources into the system.

Illinois lost 247 jobs in the smart grid technology industry, but the state still remains on top for these jobs in the Midwest, according to a U.S. Energy and Employment report.

This may be due to policy changes that have been put into smart grid improvements, said Sandy Fazeli, managing director of policy at the National Association of State Energy Officials.

“The advanced grid industry is still quite young and still growing, so it really has been guided to a certain extent by policies made by state policymakers and regulators,” she said. “I think that is pretty significant because it shows how dependent that smart grid investments can be on policy and regulation.”

One of the concerns in the industry is the need for qualified and skilled workers, Fazeli said.

“It is not just about creating the jobs, but it’s about having skilled and qualified and diverse workers and applicants who can actually deliver on the really great promise that smart grid technology holds,” she said.

Privacy is another issue for the industry.

“Cybersecurity is a big concern, not only at the policy level, but in terms of public confidence and power systems,” Fazeli said. “I think as we will see the electric grid become more digital and more automated vulnerability increases to cyber incidents, so there’s a really need for cybersecurity in smart grid programs and technologies.”