A power engineer works in the field of electrical power to deliver reliable, stable sources of power to customers ranging from individual households to manufacturing facilities with very high energy needs. Power engineers work for regulatory agencies, utilities, private firms, and consulting agencies that offer assistance with power engineering tasks. They typically have advanced degrees in the field of engineering along with experience in the power industry.
Power engineers explore topics related to the generation, distribution, transmission, and storage of electrical power. This work can include the design of new systems as well as evaluations of existing grids and equipment to determine when they will need upgrades and what kinds of upgrades may be necessary. Power engineers can act as safety inspectors to check on conditions at working power plants. As government agents, they may issue fines and citations if noncompliance threatens the health and safety of workers or the general public.
Many power engineers work in the field of conventional power, handling coal and nuclear power issues as well as hydropower facilities. Others may have an interest in green energy and can study alternative fuels, wind turbines, wave energy, solar power, and other topics. Balancing current power needs with the desire to clean up power sources can be an important part of the work of a power engineer; power companies that want to increase the percentage of energy from sustainable sources, for instance, need to meet current needs while working on getting new plants online.
Working environments for a power engineer can vary. Some work in power plants, which can be hot, noisy, and dirty. This work can be dangerous, as engineers may work around a variety of heavy equipment, some of which can be malfunctioning. Other power engineers spend much of their time in the office working on the development of new technology, with some lab work for testing purposes.
Like other people in the engineering field, a power engineer may pursue continuing education for career reasons. Conferences, trade publications, research magazines, and other resources provide an opportunity to learn about developments and trends in the field. This can be important for engineers who want to keep up with the latest technology and have a desire to offer more services to their employers. Awareness of emerging technology can also help a power engineer adapt to changes in the industry and regulatory climate that surrounds electrical power generation and associated services.