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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.

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.

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

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The 2022 employment level in the Electricity Generation industry sector is at a higher level to the year 2002 (19,300 and 11,800 respectively), having fluctuated over the years in between. The level is projected to increase to 25,500 by the year 2025. The employment level in the Electricity Supply industry has also fluctuated, peaking in 2013 at around 38,500, and has since decreased overall to 22,800 in 2022. The level is projected to decrease further by the year 2025 to about 15,900. 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 around 12% of the workforce. The employment level for this occupation is projected to increase by around 5% until 2026. The employment level for the occupations of Electricians is expected to grow by approximately 10%, Metal Fitters and Machinists by 2% and Electrical Engineers by 10% in the same period.

Training trends

Training snapshot

There were around 240 program enrolments during 2021 and slightly more than 70 completions. Program enrolments increased steadily between 2017 and 2018, then rose sharply in 2019, before decreasing dramatically to their lowest level in 2020 (around 130). Completions were also at their lowest levels during 2020 (less than 20), having fluctuated since 2017. The proportion of subjects not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program has increased overall between 2017 and 2021 from around 74% to 84% respectively.

All enrolments during 2021 were either at the certificate IV and certificate III levels (57% and 43% respectively) and within the qualification area of Systems Operations and Support. The intended occupation for the training was Power Generation Plant Operator.

Training in this sector was predominantly carried out by private training providers (90%) for enrolments in 2021, with the remaining 10% delivered by Enterprise providers. Funding came mainly from domestic fee for service (58%), with 42% Commonwealth and state funded.

Around 38% of students enrolled during 2021 were from Queensland, 32% from New South Wales and 18% were from Western Australia. Approximately 45% of training was delivered in Queensland, 30% in Victoria, and 14% in Western Australia.

There was insufficient apprenticeship and traineeship activity to allow analysis.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

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 coding/programming, health and safety, and operational (plant and control systems). The top priority industry and occupation skills include maintenance/servicing and electrical skills.

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

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) skills
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management
  • Language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills).

 

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

  • improved customer service and operational efficiency through the adoption of automated systems, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, customer-service platforms and social media
  • the dependence of the electricity grid on digitally connected information systems requires workers with the skills to protect consumers’ personal information and the grid infrastructure from cyber attacks
  • there is increasing adoption of renewable electricity generation, including sources from wind, solar, hydro, and bioenergy:

The ESI Generation IRC’s 2021 Industry Outlook builds on the workforce challenges and opportunities identified in the 2019 Skills Forecast, reporting industry trends that relate to renewables and new control systems, automation and digital technologies, remote area service and microgrids, cybersecurity, and environmental impact:

  • The transition to renewable energy has led to changes in the skills requirements of workers and a growing need for workforce mobility across the generation industry. The UEP Control Room Operations Case for Change states that ten coal plants have already shut down, and 55% of those remaining will be over 40 years old by 2030. The predicted closure of these plants and further integration of solar panels, battery storage, and wind generation technologies presents the challenge and opportunity to upskill and retrain the workforce in the operation and maintenance of existing and emerging generation technologies, and some sectors may be able to transition workers from fossil fuels to renewables.
  • There is an increasing need for digital literacy and data analytics skills as sensors and digital devices are being used to provide real-time information about electricity consumption, potential power outages and fault identification. The integration of energy from wind and solar into the grid is also being managed using intelligence systems.
  • Remote power systems, or microgrids, that operate separately or can be connected to the main grid, are used to supply remote areas and communities with reliable and affordable electricity. An increasing reliance on renewable energy and new technology for the microgrids requires new skills, and provides opportunities for employment for people in remote communities, to support power generation maintenance and repair, emergency technical response, and ongoing monitoring and reporting of remote power generation installations.
  • The use of cloud-based systems and Industrial Control Systems (ICS) such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) exposes the sector to cyber threats, and organisations need to know how to handle information securely when digital systems are engaged in data sharing. A robust cyber security strategy and industry-specific cyber security awareness and training to enable the workforce to minimise the risk of cyber attacks and be capable of reinstating digital systems as quickly as possible if a cybersecurity incident occurs, including compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • The Electricity sector accounts for 33% of Australia’s total CO2 emissions. Australia has committed to reducing its CO2 emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. The industry trend towards green energy sources and methods such as demand management will improve the efficiency of electricity generation, and workers will be required to be aware of the regulatory and compliance issues regarding these technologies.

Scenario analysis for the 2020 Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) Integrated System Plan (ISP) projects the National Energy Market (NEM) is evolving from a centralised coal-fired generation system, to a highly diverse portfolio dominated by distributed energy resources (DER) and variable renewable energy (VRE), supported by enough dispatchable resources to ensure the power system can reliably meet demand at all times. The analysis expects that by 2040, coal-fired generation will fall, mainly in line with announced retirements, small scale DER may double or triple, more new grid-scale VRE and dispatchable resources will be needed beyond what is already anticipated, and investment in power system services will be needed due to the reduction in centralised thermal generation.

The Lower Emissions Technology Statement 2021, the second statement to accompany the Commonwealth Government Technology Investment Roadmap, introduces ultra low-cost solar electricity generation as a priority technology, setting an economic stretch goal for solar electricity generation at $15 per MWh, or approximately a third of today’s costs. Australia’s Bioenergy Roadmap states that bioelectricity, along with gas, pumped hydro, and long duration batteries, can address the additional firming requirements for intermittent renewable energy such as wind and solar combined with the progressive reduction in baseload fossil generation. State and Territory Climate Action: Leading Policies and Programs in Australia reports the current state and territory 2030 renewable energy targets represent an implicit Australian renewable energy target of approximately 55 per cent.

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.

For occupations related to the Electricity Generation Industry, the Skills Priority List includes Fitter (General), Fitter and Turner, Fitter-Welder, and Metal Machinist (First Class) under occupations in national shortage, with moderate future demand. Occupations in national shortage, with strong future demand include Electrician (General), Electrician (Special Class), and Electrical Engineer. The analysis undertaken by Infrastructure Australia to assess and understand the labour and material requirements for the transmission and generation projects identified in the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) 2020 Integrated System Plan, which estimates that over the next 15 to 20 years $66 billion will be invested in large-scale renewable energy generation and storage (mostly in regional areas) and $27 billion in rooftop solar and battery storage, includes in the key findings that labour and skill shortages may become a significant factor for the build out of renewable generation and transmission infrastructure, especially in regions with tight labour markets. Key risks for shortages and constraints are identified both in the larger occupational groups such as electricians, construction managers, electrical and grid engineers, but also some more specialised jobs.

Links and resources

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

IRC and skills forecasts

ESI Generation IRC

 

Relevant research

2020 Integrated System Plan – Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)

Australia’s Bioenergy Roadmap – ENEA Consulting and Deloitte

Lower Emissions Technology Statement 2021 – Australia. Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Market Capacity for Electricity Generation and Transmission Projects – Infrastructure Australia

Skills Priority List – National Skills Commission

State and Territory Climate Action: Leading Policies and Programs in Australia – ClimateWorks Australia

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

UEP Control Room Operations Case for Change – Australian Industry Standards

 

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 (ISACNT)

NSW Utilities and Electrotechnology Industry Training Advisory Board (UENSW)

Pump Industry Australia

The Australian Power Institute

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 2021, Industry Employment Projections viewed 1 August 2021, Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit employment projections to May 2025
    • 261 Electricity Generation
    • 260 Electricity Supply, nfd.

 

National Skills Commission 2022, Occupation Employment Projections viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/topics/employment-projections

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2026
    • 2992 Chemical & Gas & Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operators
    • 3232 Metal Fitters and Machinists
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 2333 Electrical Engineers.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2002 to 2022, 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
    • UEP40322 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance - Electrical Electronics
    • UEP40412 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Fabrication)
    • UEP40418 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Fabrication)
    • UEP40422 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Fabrication)
    • UEP40512 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance - Electrical Electronics
    • UEP40518 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation Maintenance (Mechanical)
    • UEP40522 - 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)
    • UEP50322 - 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
    • UEP20122 - Certificate II in ESI Generation - Operations Support
    • UEP30112 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP30118 - Certificate III in ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP30122 - Certificate III in ESI Generation
    • 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
    • UEP40122 - Certificate IV in ESI Generation
    • 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
    • UEP40622 - Certificate IV in Wind Power Generation
    • UEP50118 - Diploma of ESI Generation - Systems Operations
    • UEP50122 - Diploma of ESI Generation
    • 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:

  • 2017 to 2021 program enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 subject enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 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.

 

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Lightcast 2022, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Boston, viewed August 2022, https://lightcast.io/apac.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2019 and June 2022 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • Labourers
    • Machinery Operators and Drivers
    • Technicians and Trades Workers
    • 26 Electricity Supply.
  • Employers
    • 3129 Other Building and Engineering Technicians
    • 3411 Electricians
    • 3999 Other Miscellaneous Technicians and Trades Workers
    • 7331 Truck Drivers
    • 8999 Other Miscellaneous Labourers
    • 26 Electricity Supply.
Updated: 30 Nov 2022
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