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ESI Generation

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) Generation sector, which is one component of the Utilities industry.

The ESI Generation sector in Australia has provided an estimated annual revenue of $18.62 billion, adding $6.2 billion to the Australian economy in 2018. The sector employs over 11,500 people in fossil fuel and renewable energy generation.

Although the demand for electricity is expected to increase over the next five years, public concern

about the environment represents a significant challenge for the industry. This will continue to drive the development of reliable renewable energy, which will be a major focus into the future.

Vocational education and training is required for occupations involved in:

  • Plant operations support
  • Systems operations
  • Plant operations
  • Electrical and mechanical maintenance
  • Wind generation maintenance.

Nationally recognised training for ESI Generation occupations is delivered under the UEP – Electricity Supply Industry – Generation Sector Training Package.

For more information on ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail, Gas and Water industry sectors, please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the most recently available Skills Forecast, the ESI Generation IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and skills forecasts

The ESI Generation IRC was not required to submit an annual update to their 2019 Skills Forecast during 2020. As such, the version published in 2019 remains the most recently published Skills Forecast for this industry.

ESI Generation IRC

Employment trends

Please note: any employment projections outlined below were calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics prior to COVID-19.

Employment snapshot

The 2020 employment level in the Electricity Generation industry sector is at a higher level to the year 2000 (12,400 and 21,200 respectively), having fluctuated over the years in between. The level is projected to decrease until 2024 to 14,400. The employment level in the Electricity Supply industry has also fluctuated, peaking in 2013 at around 38,500, and overall has declined to 22,800 in 2020. The level is projected to decrease over the next four years until 2024 to about 21,100. A new version of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification came out in 2006, which may affect the employment level time series.

Chemical, Gas, Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operator is one of the largest employing VET-related occupations in the Electricity Generation industry sector, making up just under 12% of the workforce. The employment level for this occupation is projected to remain at the same level until 2024. The employment levels for Electricians is expected to grow by 5%, and for Electrical Engineers is projected to increase by 3%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

There were close to 810 program enrolments during 2019 and 40 completions. Program enrolments increased steadily between 2015 and 2018, increasing sharply in 2019. Completions have remained fairly steady between 2015 and 2019, with a small peak seen in 2017. The majority of training was at the certificate III and certificate IV levels (78% and 20% respectively) and the main qualification areas were Systems Operations and Support (88%) and Maintenance (12%). The main intended occupation for the training was Power Generation Plant Operator. The proportion of subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program has fluctuated between a high of 26% and a low of 12% since 2015, with 18% in 2019.

Training in this sector was predominantly carried out by private training providers (98%), delivering 100% of qualifications in Maintenance and 98% of Systems Operations and Support. The remaining 2% of training was delivered by Enterprise providers. Funding came exclusively from domestic fee for service.

Around 56% of students enrolled during 2019 were from Victoria and 23% were from Queensland.

Approximately 74% of training was delivered in Victoria with a further 22% in Queensland.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The top priority skills for the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) Generation sector include health and safety, operational (plant and control systems) and coding/programming. The top priority industry and occupation skills include maintenance/servicing and electrical.

According to the job vacancy data, the top advertised VET-related occupations in the Electricity Supply industry are Other Building and Engineering Technicians and Electricians. Job vacancy data suggests the top generic skills in demand are communication and planning. The top employers for workers in this industry were Origin Energy Limited and Energy Queensland.

The top generic skills listed in the ESI Generation IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast in order of importance to the industry are:

  • Technology
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM)
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management
  • Language, literacy and numeracy (LLN).

The ESI Generation IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast highlights several challenges and opportunities within the sector:

  • Automation and digitalisation: Advancements in Artificial Intelligence, computer technology, automation, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, customer-service platforms and social media offer a range of benefits such as improved customer service and operational efficiency. As the adoption of automated systems, data collection, and application of data analytics become more common, upskilling the current and future workforce will be essential to meet new skill demands.
  • Cyber security: The electricity grid has become more dependent on digitally connected information systems which require highly trained workers with the skills to protect not only consumers' personal information but also grid infrastructure. It is imperative to have a tailored cyber security training program not only to inform the workforce of the nature and examples of the ESI Generation industry cyberattacks, but also give them the skills and competencies to be able to resolve them.
  • Renewable energy and diversification of the network: With the adoption of renewable electricity generation, including sources from wind, solar, hydro, and bioenergy expected to grow, the workforce requires upskilling and retraining in production and maintenance, particularly in emerging renewable technologies. Particularly important to the industry is the oversight of renewables and first responders with skills for installation, maintenance, and operation of equipment.
  • Decarbonisation: New methods and technology to improve the efficiency of electricity generation are being investigated for conventional coal powered systems will require the workforce to be upskilled in new technologies and innovations that emerge. With the increasing affordability of renewables and the decreasing demand for coal-power generation there is an opportunity to retrain coal plant workers to enable them to transition into the renewable energy workforce.

Soft skills, nontechnical skills including teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking and emotional intelligence, as well as lifelong learning are integral to having a resilient workforce ready to adapt to change.

The ESI Generation IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast also discusses the decentralisation of the electricity generation grid and dispatchable renewable electricity, identifying an increased focus on energy technologies as a key challenge in skill development for the workforce. Home-based solar panels are enabling consumers send their excess generation back into the grid, giving rise to Virtual Power Plants (VPP) which are cloud-based distributed power plants integrating several power resources and battery storage systems.

The Energy chapter of the Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 states the concurrent challenges of climate and technological change are altering the traditional sources of energy in Australia. Older coal-fired generators are being retired, one in five households had rooftop solar in 2018 and 21% of electricity came from renewable sources which will increase due to $20 billion worth of investment in large-scale renewable energy projects, a doubling of investment on the previous year. The PwC Australia report The Future of Energy shows the states and territories have set targets of net zero emissions by 2050, with several jurisdictions aiming for between 50% and 100% renewable energy by 2030 and Tasmania 100% renewable energy by 2022. The short term 2020-2022 key technology challenges and opportunities identified in the Technology Investment Roadmap Discussion Paper released by the Australian Government include integrating record investment in renewables and boosting energy productivity. In the medium term (2023-2030), the challenges and opportunities include building out dispatchable generation, storage and transmission; and electrification of industry and transport. A plan released the South Australian government accepting the recommendations of power system modelling undertaken by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) emphasises the importance of maintaining grid stability when transitioning to renewable sources of generation.

A report commissioned by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) examined the sensitivity of energy cost to configuration and the applicability of commercially available options for providing dispatchable electricity generation from renewable sources, finding a mix variable and dispatchable renewable technologies, durations and locations with an average cost of electricity considerably lower than dispatchable generation alone; the cost of electricity from dispatchable renewable generation is comparable with estimates for new build gas while avoiding the associated fuel and carbon price risks; and costs are likely to continue to fall in real terms for all renewable energy technologies in correlation with their growth in global deployment. The study compares bioenergy and geothermal, which are inherently dispatchable, and battery, pumped hydro, hydrogen and molten salt storage technologies. ARENA has funded many bioenergy and energy from waste projects since 2012, and a report undertaken by KPMG for Bioenergy Australia states bioenergy and bioproducts have the potential to be a significant growth sector that would particularly provide economic benefits to the agricultural industry and regional Australia.

High profile renewable distributed and dispatchable energy projects that have already commenced include a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) in South Australia and the Battery of the Nation in Tasmania. The VPP initially involved 1,000 interconnected batteries in homes and businesses and is currently expanding to a network of potentially 50,000 solar and Tesla Powerwall home battery systems. The Battery of the Nation project includes pumped hydro as part of an expansion of wind, hydropower, transmission and interconnection. Distributed energy resources were investigated in the Western Australian Inquiry into the Emergence and Impact of Microgrids and Associated Technologies in Western Australia. The final report notes the rapid pace of change, the extent of innovation, and the opportunities along the value chain that include their ability to act as reliable, dispatchable energy and over-gene ration balancing resources and can reduce system costs by deferring or removing the need to invest in new or replacement infrastructure.

The ESI Generation IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast states these innovations will require the workforce to upskill with more workers required to work from remote operating centres to monitor and review demand in real-time and requiring data analysis skills, and training in battery storage safety procedures is critical for current and future workforce skill needs.

The Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market: Blueprint for the Future highlights significant implications for the ESI Generation sectors skilling needs as a result of emerging technologies and services. The speed of technological change could result in skill gaps in the sector if the current and future workforce is not adequately trained.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

Relevant research

Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019: Energy – Infrastructure Australia

Bioenergy State of the Nation Report – KPMG

Comparison of Dispatchable Renewable Electricity Options: Technologies for an Orderly Transition – K. Lovegrove, G. James, D. Leitch, A. Milczarek, A. Ngo, J. Rutovitz, M. Watt and J. Wyder

Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap: Final Report – Energy Network Australia and CSIRO

Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap: Future Workforce Skilling Impacts – Energy Skills Queensland

Renewable Energy Jobs: Future Growth in Australia – Climate Council

South Australia's Energy Solution: A Secure Transition to Affordable Renewable Energy – South Australia. Department for Energy and Mining

Taking Charge: Western Australia’s Transition to a Distributed Energy Future – J. J. Shaw

Technology Investment Roadmap Discussion Paper – Australia. Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

The Future of Energy – PwC Australia and Jacobs

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australian Energy Council

Clean Energy Council

Energy Networks Australia

Energy Skills Queensland

Future Energy Skills

Industry Skills Advisory Council NT

Pump Industry Australia

The Australian Power Institute

Utilities and Electrotechnology Industry Training Advisory Board - NSW

Utilities, Engineering, Electrical and Automotive Training Council - WA

 

Licencing / Regulatory

Australian Energy Market Commission

Australian Energy Regulator

Safe Work Australia

 

Employee associations

Australian Services Union

Electrical Trades Union

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2020, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit employment projections to May 2024
    • 261 Electricity Generation
    • 260 Electricity Supply, nfd.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2024
    • 2992 Chemical & Gas & Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operators
    • 3232 Metal Fitters and Machinists
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 2333 Electrical Engineers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), sex, state and territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 – EQ06, viewed viewed 1 August 2020 https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202020?OpenDocument  

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit, 2000 to 2020, May Quarter
    • 261 Electricity Generation
    • 260 Electricity Supply, nfd.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by:
    • 261 Electricity Generation
    • 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.                                                                                                                                           

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • UEP Electricity Supply Industry - Generation Sector Training Package
  • Maintenance
    • UEP40312 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Mechanical)
    • UEP40318 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance - Electrical Electronics
    • UEP40412 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Fabrication)
    • UEP40418 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Fabrication)
    • UEP40512 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance - Electrical Electronics
    • UEP40518 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Mechanical)
    • UEP50306 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Maintenance)
    • UEP50312 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Maintenance)
    • UEP50318 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Maintenance).
  • System Operations and Support
    • UEP20112 - Certificate II in ESI Generation - Operations Support
    • UEP20118 - Certificate II in ESI Generation - Operations Support
    • UEP30112 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP30118 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP30206 - Certificate III in ESI Generation (Operations)
    • UEP30212 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Operations
    • UEP30218 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Operations
    • UEP40112 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP40118 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP40206 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation (Operations)
    • UEP40212 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation - Operations
    • UEP40218 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation - Operations
    • UEP40612 - Certificate IV in Large Scale Wind Generation - Electrical
    • UEP40618 - Certificate IV in Large Scale Wind Generation - Electrical
    • UEP50118 - Diploma of ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP50206 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Operations)
    • UEP50212 - Diploma of ESI Generation (Operations)
    • UEP50218 - Diploma of ESI Generation – Operations.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015 to 2019 program enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 subject enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the ESI Generation IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2020, Labor Insight Real-time Labour Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2020, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2017 and June 2020 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • Machinery Operators and Drivers
    • Technicians and Trades Workers
    • 26 Electricity Supply.
  • Employers
    • 3129 Other Building and Engineering Technicians
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 3422 Electrical Distribution Trades Workers
    • 3999 Other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers
    • 3232 Metal Fitters and Machinists
    • 26 Electricity Supply.
Updated: 30 Oct 2020
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