The University of Southampton

Power Academy launched for future generations

Published: 1 July 2004

Southampton is one of three leading universities joining forces with the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) and the UK's electricity networking companies to combat a serious shortfall in the number of power engineers in the UK. The University's School of Electronics and Computer Science is one of the partners in the new Power Academy, launched with Government backing.

Around 25 per cent of the industry's most experienced and senior engineers, who keep the country's electricity networks running, will retire within the next 5-10 years, with little sign that they are being replenished. This will create a potentially serious deficit if more young people are not attracted into the profession. In addition, the network companies face significant challenges to upgrade the country's ageing network and accommodate small renewable generators onto the system to deliver the government's new energy policy.

The IEE and the network electricity companies are launching the Power Academy to reverse the decline in students opting for degree courses in 'power engineering' disciplines.

In its first year, the Power Academy will recruit around 40 undergraduates, rising up to 60 students in a year's time, who will be sponsored throughout their course by the network companies. Benefits will include tuition fees being paid, a £2000 bursary, £250 to spend on course materials, an IEE membership, vacation training and a summer school in business related issues designed to enhance students' career prospects. Stephen Timms, UK Energy Minister, said:

"We are committed to maintaining reliable and secure power supplies and that means ensuring that the people who manage this process are of the highest calibre. We have a global reputation for expertise in the energy supply field but we must continue to set new standards and ensure there is a large enough pool of talent on which to draw. The Power Academy will prove an invaluable asset in identifying and nurturing expertise in the electricity generation field. It will have a key role to play in helping to power the nation in coming years and I am pleased to give the Power Academy my unreserved support in this venture."

The power networking companies backing the Power Academy are Central Networks, Scottish and Southern Energy, EDF Energy, Scottish Power, Western Power Distribution, CE Electric, United Utilities and National Grid Transco as well as EA Technology, the R&D arm of the networking companies. The universities involved are the University of Southampton, the University of Strathclyde and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST).

Energy & Utility Skills, the Sector Skills Council for power, gas, water, waste and utility contractors, has welcomed this initiative to address the higher education skills gap in electrical engineering and is delighted to be a partner in the programme. The Energy Networks Association and the industry regulator OFGEM are also supporting the imitative.

Power engineers are responsible for the design and implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects that power the nation and are employed by, amongst others, the major electricity networking companies. The Power Academy will help ensure there are sufficient engineers entering the industry to meet future needs, by co-ordinating co-operation between the electricity network companies and university engineering departments.

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