DOE, Exelon, NRG, B&W highlight POWERGEN+ February series on the utility workforce and plant management

By Rod Walton, Power Engineering and POWERGEN+ content director

The key question in the power generation future is not really how much renewables we have in the mix or how many natural gas or nuclear or coal-fired plants we keep operational.

The real question-and answer-is people. It’s about those we have working in those generation stations, wind farms and control rooms. We are giving them a different world, but they are needed in it more than ever. This is what POWERGEN+ took on last week.

The utility workforce of the future will face a tidal wave of change which is already gathering force and rolling toward shore. How do we go with the flow but in the right direction?

Digital tools, predictive maintenance, sensoring and unceasing complexity are all meant to simplify the choices we, the customer, have in our electricity service. For the power producer and its employees, however, this is a revolution which needs ever adaptive, energetic and talented soldiers.

POWERGEN+ online last week tackled the major issues facing the electricity generation industry. These sessions included executive viewpoints, research findings and forecasts, operational experience, workforce management for both planned outages and unplanned pandemics, and, finally, asset management to keep conventional and renewable facilities operating longer and more efficiently.

POWERGEN+ is free to those in the industry and asks only for a little registration information to ascertain your role in the sector. It’s Clarion Energy’s way of staying connected to attendees who otherwise would have attended a live POWERGEN International event to gain access to training and informational sessions delivered by peers in the field.

POWERGEN+’s February series offered a host of expert leaders from regulatory, government, research, utility and service provider entities. These include the U.S. Department of Energy, Exelon Corp., NRG Energy, UBC Millwrights and more.

“It’s absolutely critical…and a premium on having a workforce development program in line with the suite of technology investments,” Terry Donnelly, president and COO of Chicago-based utility ComEd, told Power Engineering last year.

Terry Donnelly

Donnelly kicked off the latest POWERGEN+ with his keynote address Wednesday, Feb. 17. His title, no surprise, was “The Utility Workforce of the Future” highlighted many of ComEd’s efforts in helping develop STEM education for the next generation.

The POWERGEN+ editorial session began 12:30 a.m. ET Wednesday at This 45-minute webcast, “Future Power Plant Workforce Needs and Challenges,” featured Thomas Sarkus, project director for DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Victor Reyes, who is managing director of Deloitte’s human capital practice.

Later that day, UBC Millwrights and Exelon Generation teamed up and shared best practices and lessons learned on “Planning and Conquering Power Plant Outages.” The presenters were John Del Sordi, who is senior regional director for the Eastern Millwrights, and Michael Shue, who is HR labor relations manager for Exelon.

On Thursday, Feb. 18, POWERGEN+ started the day with a session on “Planning and Execution Strategies for Plant Outages during COVID-19.” This session featured NRG Energy’s stories and case studies of work during the pandemic, with Charles DeMatteo, manager of outage management, and David DesRoberts, senior director for operations planning and analysis, offering their deep insights from the NRG perspective.

The February series wrapped up with its final editorial session Thursday, Feb. 18. “Asset Management for Plant Life Extension” spotlighted a panel including Eric Soderlund, vice president at Sargent & Lundy; Denis Osowski, director of technology development at Babcock & Wilcox; and Richard Clubb, engineering director at ENERCON Services.

This asset management panel was moderated by Jay Dauenhauer, an industry veteran who is host of the Energy Cast podcast. The discussion will range from renewables and fossil plants to nuclear.

The POWERGEN+ audience now includes thousands of people in the generation industry. Registration is free and the events are both live and will exist on-demand for months. Click here to learn more.

In April, POWERGEN+ will focus on Optimizing Plant Performance. Future bi-monthly sessions include The Future of Electricity, Decentralization and the New Energy Mix, Gas-Fired Power’s Role in the Energy Transition and Energy Storage Breakthroughs.

The live POWERGEN International event, by the way, is scheduled to return January 26-28, 2022, in Dallas, Texas. It will be co-located with the T&D-oriented DISTRIBUTECH International.

(Rod Walton is content director for POWERGEN+ and Power Engineering. If you have ideas for sessions focused around projects or industry specific topics, you can reach him at 918-831-9177 and

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