Science 3 min read

Automation is Changing the Job Market in Power Plants

Daniel Prudek |

Daniel Prudek |

Many people worry about the effects automation will have on the job market.

With the rapid approach of everyday integration of artificial intelligence, workers worry about how robots could replace them. Regardless of industry, automation is definitely the future, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the death of “real human” jobs.

Automation is changing the market by actually creating opportunities for power plant workers.

Automation Could Improve Power Plant Job MarketClick To Tweet

Valid Concerns About Automation 

image of Homer Simpson as a worker for Power Plants before jobs became automated having human workers replaced by robots

People who worked in factories already know the reality of automation which originated as early as 1947 in General Motors’ “automation department”. It has even permeated modern pop culture in literature and film such as the modern adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The general consensus is that robots can do what humans can do faster, with fewer errors, and without as many resources or needs. While the reality of automation isn’t that simple, many power plants have fully embraced the concept of an automated future.

How Does Automation Affect Power Plant Jobs?

As a result of the latest automation advancements, there is a reduced need for welders, mechanics, and millwrights.

Machines replace these skilled specialists utilizing automated control systems, various sensors, predictive maintenance software, and other mechanisms.

Due to this decreased need for oversight and skilled labor, there are significant reductions in ancillary staff, as well.

As of August 1st, DTE Energy in Michigan unveiled a nearly $1 billion USD construction plan for a 1,100-megawatt gas-fired power plant.

Not only will it replace three current coal-fired units and 500 jobs, it will only require thirty-five full-time employees, according to a DTE spokesperson. Vice President of Power Generation for EntergyW. Dale Claudel, described the dramatic change in staff as an issue related to the needs of an automated future.

More jobs at the new plant will require people who are able to troubleshoot, tune-up, and program the turbines and automated systems. This means that people who understand automated processes will become highly valuable in the post-automation job market.

So…How is This GOOD For Power Plant Workers?

Due to the rapidity of technological advancement over the last fifty years, implementing automation in power plants is not a new thing. 

Some jobs may definitely go the way of robotics like professional drivers and customer service representatives. Other roles are merely shifting focus. Many have argued that automation simply improves productivity rather than threatening jobs. In fact, some claim that automation can increase the number of available jobs across various markets and industries.

image of working side by side with robot to show how automation can improve job market for workers at factories and power plants
Universal Robots

What many don’t realize is that automation could actually bring production jobs back to the U.S. It could ensure safer working environments, fewer critical incidents, and other safety oriented benefits.

Of course, each nation will have to keep infrastructure in place to ease the automation transition.

To top it all off, there are some things that robots just can’t do. Robots, at this point, are not capable of the same levels of creativity as humans despite what some neural networks might suggest.

Robots also lack emotional intelligence at this point. Identifying, reacting to, and displaying emotional responses matters a great deal–especially in the workplace.

What are some other ways in which robots could never replace humans in workplace environments?

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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