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 Plug Into Energy

With spending on U.S. energy spiking, and energy increasingly diversifying and evolving, the sector offers myriad outlets in which you can plug your talents and find your career spark.
Drive an electric car? Live in a cool house in the summer and a warm one in the winter? Fly to see friends and family? Flick a switch to read a book in bed? Bite into sweet corn on the cob? All of these are enabled by the utility, gas and energy sector, and hard-working, skilled professionals like those featured on the following pages. Learn from them why you, too, can find your career spark in energy, and discover what’s fueling this sector.
Soto Connects Across Southern Company
It takes 29,000 employees across seven electric and natural gas utilities to give Southern Company its great, far-reaching and diverse reach. Angelica Hernandez Soto, a transmission line design engineer for the energy company, is one of them. Because of Southern Company’s size, Soto gets to work with engineers from all disciplines.
“One surprising thing about Southern Company is that we have employees from nearly every engineering field. I currently work with electrical, civil and mechanical engineers!” Soto enthuses.
In fact, if a satellite were to take a photo of the American South at night, then much of that shining you’d see is because of the Southern Company. But the Southern Company shines in other ways, winning awards from 14th place in Forbes’ list of America’s Best Employers and a Best Companies for Millennials - Women's Choice Award.
Its reach goes beyond four Southern states and traditional electric generation, as one of its subsidiaries, Southern Power, has 46 natural gas, wind, solar, and biomass generating assets, capable of delivering more than 12,600 MW of clean, safe, reliable, and affordable wholesale generation in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Another subsidiary, Southern Company Gas, distributes natural gas to 4.5 million retail customers via utilities in four states: Illinois, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee. Then there’s Southern Nuclear and even Southern Telecom.
Connecting with so many diverse colleagues across such a huge, diverse energy enterprise is a professional asset, according to Soto. “I can’t overestimate the importance of connecting with people and always working to expand your professional network. Building authentic relationships can help tremendously with attaining your career goals.”
However, before Soto could build her professional network even more, she had to take a daunting journey that had a light at the end of the tunnel.
“About five years ago, I had to decide if I wanted to move away from my home in Puerto Rico to take this job as an engineer with Southern Company in Atlanta, GA - one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” she remembers.
She had to leave all that was familiar behind, but her new colleagues at Southern Company welcomed her, and helped her fashion a new home and a new life.
“Moving away from my family and friends was not easy, but Southern Company’s inclusive culture definitely helped,” she shares.
“From the first day I moved here, my coworkers and supervisor embraced me and became like my second family. They somehow managed to make me feel like I was home. Thanks to those amazing coworkers, I was able to navigate and overcome the scariest phase of my life.”
Inclusion is an integral part of Southern Company’s culture, Soto points out. “What I love about Southern Company is the focus we have on diversity and inclusion. There are several employee resource groups (ERGs), which are employee-run associations dedicated to ensuring employees from all backgrounds feel respected and valued.”
The ERGs have been a big part of Soto developing her professional network. “ERGs support the company’s diversity and business objectives by coordinating activities that promote networking, mentoring, peer-coaching and community outreach,” she explains.
“To me, having a diverse workforce helps to drive innovation and inspire creativity. I’m proud to work for a company that also recognized this value.”
If you ever find yourself working at Southern Company or anywhere in the energy, gas and utility sector, follow Soto’s lead and take some chances: “My advice is to have courage and never be afraid of learning new things. This has helped me to get where I am today.”
Learn more about Atlanta, GA- headquartered Southern Company via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. Explore open positions at southerncompany.jobs.
U.S. Army Vet Vargas Furthers Mission-Critical Goals at ComEd
As chief of staff to ComEd’s president and chief operating officer (COO), Anna E. Vargas is responsible for supporting the company’s overall performance in areas of service reliability, operations, engineering, safety, customer satisfaction, financial management and smart-grid development.
She also assists in achieving the vision and goals of the company, leverages the strengths of ComEd’s diverse team, and assists in promoting technological advances in electric-service delivery.
Her many duties can be daunting, but Vargas is well-versed in daunting challenges. “On any given day, my job can be as difficult and challenging as my deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan when I served in the U.S. Army,” she explains.
“Each of those roles is unique in its own way, but success is paramount in both. Understanding and believing in the mission, in any role, is the first step to success. The minute you lose confidence, trust or the will, it can lead you down the wrong path.”
What keeps her energized and focused on the mission is the importance of her work. “I love serving our customers. More than four million families and businesses depend on my company for their electric service. They don’t see electric service as a luxury, but a need,” Vargas notes.
“Having a role in delivering reliable, affordable and sustainable energy to all of our customers is what I love most.”
As Vargas served in Afghanistan with most Americans unaware of the sacrifices she and her colleagues made, so it goes today.
“I was surprised to learn that many of our customers don’t understand how power is delivered to their homes and businesses because there’s so much that goes into it behind the scenes,” Vargas further points out.
Like the U.S. Army, ComEd serves through the team, according to Vargas. “There are great people in every department across ComEd who collaborate to make sure we’re best-in-class in safety, reliability, technology and customer service. Our customers deserve the best, and we’re here to serve.”
ComEd also servers its more than 6,000 employees. “I was surprised how many organizations there are within ComEd that provide countless opportunities to grow your career. We strive to develop our people in many ways to keep them engaged and satisfied in their work. We know that as our team members improve, our whole organization gets better,” she says.
ComEd improves in tangible ways, drawing ever more energy from renewable sources and maximizing efficiency.
“The passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in Illinois allows ComEd to evolve with the future of the utility industry so we continue to meet customers’ changing needs and leverage technology to better serve them,” Vargas states.
“We promote energy efficiency to all of our customers to reduce their electric use, save money, benefit the environment and offset society’s growing power needs.”
If working at this evolving, ever-modernizing company appeals to you, then there are opportunities. “Our industry continues to grow and, coupled with many retirements from our highly experienced workforce, we’re always looking for talented young women and men who are willing to put their best foot forward and grow with us. It doesn’t matter where you came from, what matters is where we’re going together,” she shares.
If you want to work at ComEd, then Vargas has some advice for you: “Network by reaching out to different student and professional groups, and establishing business relationships. This can open up opportunities that you might never consider. Participate by getting involved in community projects, focus groups and company-sponsored events. Empower yourself by believing in your abilities and embracing your company’s vision. You are the leaders of tomorrow, and the world needs you.”
For information about Chicago, IL-headquartered ComEd, go to careers.comed.com/search/jobs. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr.
Duke Energy Line Technician Lugo Keeps the Lights in FL
First responders across America are rightfully heralded for their courage. Whether police or paramedics or firefighters, they run toward the flames, either literal or figurative, while the rest of us flee.
There’s also another kind of first responder who dons necessary safety gear and goes out when the skies darken and winds howl, while the rest of us hunker behind walls. They’re line technicians like Miguel Lugo of Duke Energy, one of more than 7,800 Duke Energy and contract lineworkers who are part of the Duke Energy team across the U.S.
That’s a lot of lineworkers, but they have a lot of responsibility. They construct, operate and maintain more than 300,000 miles of power lines, enough to wrap around the Earth 12 times.
Sure, there are balmy days when they work, but there are dark days, too, when Floridians literally shutter their windows while Lugo and his colleagues go to work. Lugo was also part of the response team for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017.
“I’m half Puerto Rican, and I had never been there before. It was an awesome experience. Lots of poisonous plants, chopping trees and climbing mountains,” he recalls about his time as part of the response team.
That upbeat attitude is Lugo’s everyday attitude. “Every day is a good day. I love it here!” he enthuses.
Lugo, who was raised in Brooklyn, doesn’t just love Duke Energy and his job. He also loves Florida, where he’s lived since 2009. “I’ve loved it since I was 14 when I came down on vacation, and knew that I would live here one day.”
And Floridians love their lineworkers in return, for imagine Florida without air conditioning and lights. “The best way to describe what we do on a daily basis is keeping the lights on and upgrading the overall quality of service we provide to our customers,” he points out.
The weather changes from day to day, as do Lugo’s duties. “What I love about this company and this job is the uncertainty of what the workday will entail. Some days we have to deal with inclement weather and other days, we deal with a vehicle that hit our power pole,” he shares.
Lugo also loves the opportunities at Duke. “I love that the company offers ample opportunities for growth in various fields. The outlook on jobs in this industry is endless. Linemen will always be in demand, and it’s a career that travels well, worldwide.”
If this career appeals to you, then prepare, suggests Lugo.
“The advice I would offer someone majoring in this sector, would be to study hard and get started as soon as possible. This is a very ‘hands-on’ type of job, and with the combination of studies and on-the-job training, the sky is the limit.”
Of course, there will be demanding days.
“With big storms, the workdays get really long, the ‘off days’ don’t exist, and the weather gets nasty, but the thing that keeps us going is the fact that our families and neighbors are counting on us to do our jobs and bring back a sense of normalcy.”
However demanding the work, Duke keeps its workers safe. “The most surprising thing about Duke Energy is our safety record. It is one of the safest utilities to work for,” Lugo points out.
Find information about Charlotte, NC-headquartered Duke Energy at duke-energy.com/our-company/careers. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.
Duque Continuously Improves Service to AEP Customers Along With His Skill Set
Jorge E. Ramos Duque, engineer senior, is part of the asset performance and renewal team for American Electric Power (AEP) transmission.
“In the 11 states AEP services, we ensure the transmission infrastructure can meet the demands of the electric grid. What I love about my job is that we get the opportunity to improve and rehab the transmission lines, which means more reliable, affordable electricity for our customers,” he points out.
AEP operates companies that serve customers in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, meaning AEP keeps the lamps lighted and the air conditioners running from the deep South to the deep forests of Michigan, from Ohio’s cornfields to Oklahoma’s prairie. It’s tremendous responsibility, but AEP’s 18,000 employees don’t just embrace it. They perpetually improve delivery and service.
And as AEP’s thousands of workers distribute electricity, AEP is also there for them, distributing opportunities.
“I love the diverse career opportunities here,” says Duque. “AEP has three main business units: generation, transmission and distribution. Our company generates power, transports it over long distances, which is my business unit, and delivers it to customers and communities, so there are a wide array of positions available.”
Switching positions requires courage and adaptability on the employee’s part, according to Duque.
“I think the most stressful moment I went through was when I was looking to change positions at AEP,” he shares. “It’s stressful because you’re already comfortable in your current role, you know the people around you, and the work you’re doing is very familiar.”
However, meeting the challenge makes you a more complete professional, he contends.
“I think it’s important to keep challenging yourself. Once you make the change and give it time, you find out it’s not as hard as you thought,” he states. “In fact, it’s common for AEP employees to take on new roles to learn another aspect of the business to broaden their knowledge of the industry.”
Duque urges job applicants in the energy sector to not limit themselves to one role in their job search.
“Don’t be afraid to apply to a wide array of jobs,” he advises. “Limiting yourself to a certain industry or position can work against you. Keep in mind that each company has different opportunities and maybe exploring a business area or function you didn’t expect can lead you to a job that you’ll love.”
Duque also recommends getting your feet wet before jumping into a new career.
“I think an internship or co-op is the best way to experience and explore all of the different career paths within an electric company. AEP offers internship and co-op opportunities for college students, which include some great benefits, on top of receiving invaluable hands-on experience.”
If you’re hired by AEP, then you’ll enjoy some plush perks. “The amount of benefits we receive at AEP and the flexibility that it gives to employees is pleasantly surprising,” Duque notes. “It’s great to know that a company this size wants the best for its employees, and recognizes they have responsibilities outside of work.”
AEP doesn’t just support its employees with benefits either. “AEP also has employee resource groups (ERGs), which are made up of diverse groups of employees to create inclusion in the workplace. I’m a part of the Hispanic Origin Latin American (HOLA) ERG, and our focus is to support the Hispanic community in Columbus, OH,” details Duque.
And what do the ERGs at AEP do? “In addition to volunteer work with community partners, HOLA gives employees the opportunity to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture,” he answers.
“The ERGs are great because they encourage diversity in addition to giving back to the community - all with the support of AEP.”
Learn more about Columbus, OH-headquartered AEP via LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Explore careers at aep.com/careers.
U.S. Energy Spending Spikes
The Houston Chronicle has recently reported that the share of the U.S. economy dedicated to energy spending is increasing, after a years-long decline.
In an August 2019 article, it cited the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which noted the country’s energy spending in 2017 amounted to 5.8% of the nation’s gross domestic product - up from 5.6% the previous year.
“These increases are primarily a result of increased average U.S. energy prices, up almost 9% nationally from 2016 to 2017,” says the August 2019 EIA report. “Average U.S. prices for petroleum and natural gas increased by 14% and 13%, respectively, and electricity prices increased by 2%.”
The increase in energy spending relative to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) was the first since 2014.
Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the Houston Chronicle
What Powers U.S. Energy Consumption?
U.S. energy consumption has reached a record high of more than 101 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) in 2018, barely surpassing the previous high recorded in 2007 by less than 0.3%. As a result, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has redesigned its U.S. energy consumption by source and sector chart, eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=41093, to separate the electric power sector from the four end-use sectors. The new chart shows electricity retail sales to each end-use sector and the amount of electrical system energy losses within the electric power sector from generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.
Since 1950 the electric power sector - which both consumes and produces energy - has been responsible for some of the largest changes in U.S. energy consumption. In 2018 the electric power sector consumed 38 quads of energy and provided 13 quads of electricity retail sales to the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors. Learn more in the accompanying infographics.
Nearly two thirds of the energy that the power sector consumes (25 quads in 2018) is lost before it reaches end-users. Most of these losses occur at steam-electric power plants (conventional and nuclear) when heat energy is converted into mechanical energy to turn electric generators. Other losses include the electricity used to operate power plants, and the electricity lost in the transmission and distribution of electricity to end-users.
What Are the Primary Energy Sources?
Petroleum products, such as motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, and hydrocarbon gas liquids, which have remained the largest sources of primary energy consumed in the U.S. since 1950.
Natural gas, which is the second largest source of energy consumed in the U.S., with it increasing substantially since the mid-2000s, mostly as a result of increases in natural gas-fired electricity generation.
Coal, the consumption of which in the U.S. has decreased for the fifth consecutive year in 2018, reaching 13.2 quads, the lowest level since 1975 and about half of its peak in 2005.
Renewable energy, the consumption of which in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 1950, reaching a record 11.5 quads in 2018, with it becoming increasingly diversified to include everything from wood and hydroelectric power to wind, biofuels, solar, biomass waste, and geothermal energy.
Nuclear energy, the consumption of which has increased to a record 8.4 quads in the U.S. in 2018.
What Sectors Primarily Use Energy?
The transportation sector accounted for 28.3 quads of energy consumption in 2018 and has been the largest end-use consuming sector in the U.S. since 2000, when it surpassed the industrial sector.
The industrial sector is the second largest end-use sector in the U.S., accounting for 26.3 quads in 2018.
The U.S. residential and commercial sectors consumed 11.9 quads and 9.4 quads, respectively, in 2018, and they have been the third and fourth largest end-use sectors since 1950.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Energy Review
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