Young Talents for Green Energy
The Russian green energy needs not only new technologies, but also skilled specialists, from engineers, and energy engineers to environmentalists.
What is the answer to personnel challenges found by companies linking their future with the Russian renewable energy market, and who and how helps them in this task? During a roundtable session organized by EPR, these and other issues were discussed by the experts in the field of renewable energy:
- Felice Montanari, Director of Renewable Energy, Enel Russia;
- Anton Usachev, Deputy CEO of Hevel Group;
- Olga Ukhanova, Head of the Basic Department of the Ulyanovsk State Technical University and Ulyanovsk Wind Energy Technology Nanocenter;
- Stanislav Nisimov, Director of the Department of Educational Programs and Professional Skills of the RUSNANO’s Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs.
Q: How relevant, in your opinion, is the staff issue for renewable energy companies, is there a staff shortage? What knowledge and skills does renewable energy need most now and will be needed in the coming years?
“To date, in Russia, in addition to the existing wind farms, several dozen wind power plants (WPP) are at the design and construction phase. Of course, all these projects need qualified specialists, not only in the energy sector but also, for example, in environmental protection. Now the need for personnel in the field of renewable energy is being covered largely thanks to traditional generation specialists who are exploring the new field.
Wind farms are built in different regions with different climatic conditions. Last September, for example, Enel Russia started construction of a wind farm on the Kola Peninsula in the Murmansk Region. It will be the northernmost wind farm in Russia with a capacity of 201 MW. It will be difficult to apply its engineering solutions, for example, for the Yamal, Yakutia, and Chukotka projects, because the climate there is harder than that of the Murmansk Region. Even within one company, we apply different engineering solutions to wind farm projects, because they are located in regions with different conditions: the wind farms under construction in the Murmansk and Rostov Regions and the Rodnikovskaya WPP project in the Stavropol Region.
In this regard, now the Russian wind power needs, first of all, its school of designers, able to develop and implement projects taking into account the climate and natural diversity of the Russian Federation.
As for Enel Russia, the company has an advantage in the field of training, which is the possibility of an international exchange of experience within the Enel Group developing renewable energy projects around the world in different climatic conditions. This synergistic mechanism facilitates the constant exchange of skills and competencies and becomes especially useful in the search for non-standard engineering solutions.”
“The renewable energy industry in Russia is relatively young. Even 5 years ago, qualified professionals were sorely lacking. There were no even such professions and engineering personnel needed for the industry. There were no technologies, no resources, and no scientific base. Power engineers migrated from traditional industries: thermal power, hydraulic power, and even nuclear power industries.
We trained specialists for the Hevel plant ourselves, and for this purpose, we opened several departments on the basis of the Chuvash State University and St. Petersburg Polytechnic University and regularly seconded the employees in Europe. Everything started with literally 10 employees, who, by the way, continue to work in the company, and today more than 1,000 people are employed in all business units.
As the industry is growing rapidly, we estimate that the number of qualified employees in renewable energy increases by 15–20% annually. We are talking primarily about engineering and energy specialties.”
“Part of the competencies required by the new renewable energy industry is unique. These include the assessment of wind resources, the design of wind farms, the design and construction of wind farm foundations, the integration of renewable energy generating facilities into a single power grid, and financing renewable energy projects. Here are just some areas where competences simply did not exist in our country.
The industry created from scratch is now experiencing a shortage of individual qualifications. The good news is that, based on a strong engineering school, qualifying deficits can be quickly filled with additional vocational education programs, customized to suit the needs of enterprises and with active cooperation with the industry. It is under this scheme that, with the support of the RUSNANO’s Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs (FIEP) the wind energy, and earlier—the solar energy programs were created. Besides, the investors in renewable energy invest a lot in employee training, which is an integral part of the technology transfer process.
The renewable energy industry in Russia will develop very rapidly: under the current DPM program, the wind energy market only will create about 8,000 jobs, and taking into account the long-reaching plans for construction until 2035—about 10 GW, thereby creating about 30,000 jobs.
Many universities in Russia are already implementing energy programs for renewable energy. To meet the market needs in qualified personnel, the quality renewal of educational programs, knowledge transfers, and cooperation with both industrial partners and international educational consortia will be required. Undoubtedly, the work carried out by the RUSNANO’s FIEP is very important, but it is only the first step in this direction.”
Q: Many educational institutions, including universities, are now training specialists for green energy. How would you assess the quality of their work? Do you think they will have time to train the specialists that the industry will need in the coming years, as new green energy facilities are built and introduced?
“Given the fast-growing renewable energy market in Russia, highly skilled professionals will no doubt be in demand in the labor market. Today there are already the first professional specialists in solar panels, who received the relevant education. As for wind power, there is a joint pilot project of the Bauman Moscow State University and the Ulyanovsk State University, where the Wind Energy Systems and Complexes Department was established in 2017. As part of this project, specialists from different industries (design, operation, meteorology, and others) are being retrained. Wind energy specialists are also trained at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, the Kazan State University, and other universities.
The market will need time to assess their qualifications, but there is no doubt that the training of specialists in the field of renewable energy is necessary since such specialists will be in demand also at the operation stage, taking into account the growing number of commissioned wind farms and solar plants.”
“At the moment, Russia is just beginning to train specialists in the field of renewable energy sources. Students and graduates do not have enough practical experience, so we consider young professionals for some starting positions and give them the knowledge and skills that we have gained over the last 10 years.
It is quite difficult to assess the quality of work at this stage because often it depends not only on the quality of training at the university but also on the student himself. We are ready to cooperate with leading educational institutions that train specialists for alternative energy. We try to actively participate in such events as job fairs and open days, where we talk about our company’s activities and employment prospects
In our company, we would like to see young people for whom the issue of the ecology of our country is an important aspect, partly because of which they have opted for this specialty. We appreciate the willingness to gain new knowledge, the desire to develop and become a professional in a new promising industry. Almost 90% of those specialists who came to us after graduation five or more years ago now occupy key leadership positions in our company and are the unique professionals in the renewable energy industry.”
“The full-fledged formation of a new wind energy industry and its long-term sustainable development is impossible without the creation of a modern human resources infrastructure that would provide specialized companies with qualified professionals.
At the same time, training should be full-featured and systemic. Universities are now implementing mainly basic bachelor’s and master’s degrees education programs in the field of renewable energy.
Without diminishing the importance of fundamental training, I shall note that in the rapid development of renewable energy, there will be a greater lack of vocational education programs (training, retraining). These programs are always in demand by the industry because in the education issues business expects rapid results and the development of the staff’s current production skills.
The Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs supports the development of such short programs. It sees its task in linking the resources of the education system with the tasks of technological development of enterprises, in setting up a productive dialogue between the labor market and the education system for training.”
Q: Does your company participate in this process of training and retraining, both independently and in cooperation with educational institutions, especially universities, in creating professional standards that future industry specialists must meet? In what forms does your company participate in these tasks, how, in your opinion, the participants of the renewable energy market are involved in these processes and what can they contribute?
“Indeed, universities are actively involved in the training of renewable energy experts. Here, it is important to unite the efforts of educational institutions and businesses. Since 2011, Hevel has been working closely with the specialized departments of the Chuvash State University named after I.N. Ulyanov and the Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University (LETI), the Moscow Power Engineering Institute on the organization of student practice with the prospect of further employment. Also, according to the developed general program, the most successful graduates of the Chuvash State University on the undergraduate programs in the Photovoltaics field get the opportunity to continue their studies in the master’s degree in LETI.
From 2013 to 2019, Hevel LLC employed 10 graduates of this program, who had obtained the Master’s degree at LETI. Most of them work in the service of the chief technologist and quality control service.
Every year, students of specialized higher and secondary special educational institutions are practicing in the Hevel Group of Companies. The number of students practicing at the plant is from 5 to 10 people per year. The plant has contracts to organize practices with the Chuvash State University named after I.N. Ulyanov and the Cheboksary Electromechanical College.
Mainly graduates of the energy universities, such as MEI National Research University, the Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, the Moscow Energy Institute work in the Engineering and Generation division of the Hevel Group of Companies, which is engaged in the construction and subsequent operation of solar power plants.
The Hevel experts were actively involved in the development of the professional standards 'Technologist for the production of solar photoconverters' and 'Specialist in the development and optimization of technological processes for the production of solar photoconverters'. These professional standards were developed within the framework of the Council on Professional Skills in the nanoindustry and approved by the Russian Ministry of Labor in 2017.”
“To develop academic, scientific and cultural ties, in summer 2019, Enel Green Power Rus LLC, the subsidiary of Enel Russia, and the Kazan State Energy University (KSEU) signed a Memorandum of Education and Scientific and Technical Cooperation. Since 2017, the Department of Renewable Energy has been operating based on the KSEU, with which we cooperate in the area of wind measurements in Tatarstan. Graduate students in the department are also involved in this work.”
“It should be noted that all educational programs developed with the support of the Fund were created at the request of enterprises. It is up to the industry to say what kind of specialists it needs, what competencies they should have. The wind energy programs were initiated by RUSNANO (project management) as well as leading Russian wind power companies: Vestas Manufacturing Rus, LLC (production of blades), Vetroparki FRV, LLC (planning, construction, and operation of wind parks), and Bashni VRS, LLC (production of towers).
The educational programs developed by the Bauman Moscow State University and the Ulyanovsk State Technical University (UlSTU), take into account the specificity of the wind energy industry of the Russian Federation. The programs are focused on specialists engaged in justifying investment decisions in the development of wind farm projects, pre-design preparation of the site for the construction thereof, construction of wind farms, their operation, and service maintenance, as well as the design and production of wind farm components. In short, the programs cover all aspects related to the establishment and operation of wind power plants (WPP). Also, within the framework of the programs, full-fledged remote education courses have been created, allowing training professionals on-the-job.
The employees of the enterprises that initiated the creation of the programs and students of specialized areas of training had already been trained in the programs. The rights to the developed programs remain with universities, which allow to successfully replicating educational materials in the future, by promptly training specialists of other companies and updating the content of programs for students. The Bauman Moscow State University already uses the developed materials in the undergraduate program in renewable energy, and the UlSTU plans to include elements of the programs in the curriculum of bachelor’s and master’s training at the Department of Wind Energy Systems and Complexes and the basic department of Wind Energy Technologies at the Ulyanovsk Nanotechnology Center.”