Renowned expert, John M. McWilliams sheds light on the latest innovations and advancements in the power and energy sector on the occasion of IEEE PES Day. From renewable energy sources to smart grids and beyond, McWilliams outlines a future where power is more accessible, reliable, and sustainable than ever before. Let's explore the future of power and its endless possibilities.
Invited Article by renowned expert, John McWilliams on the occasion of IEEE PES Day (25 March 2023).
In my forty-four years in the power and energy sector, the one thing I felt was denied to me was a future. This may be hard to believe, given that I have lived in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and England. Along the way, I have worked in over forty countries on almost every type of energy project. I have had numerous opportunities and have met many great people who have taught me new ways of approaching challenges. Yet still, there was never a future.
When I graduated from Iowa State University in 1978, my interest was in working on large construction projects. Unfortunately, the energy crisis of the late 1970s brought energy demand growth to about zero percent compared to the seven to ten percent that had been occurring. I worked on the construction of one power plant before my dream ended in 1981. I then worked on oil refinery projects in Saudi Arabia, but that only lasted until 1986. Since then, I have worked in jobs in an industry that wasn’t growing for companies that weren’t going anywhere or were going out of business.
Your future will be vastly different. The power and energy sector will undergo a fundamental change, and you will get to create that future. Dinosaurs like myself will be gone along with outdated solutions. You will be challenged to find ways to integrate intermittent renewable energy sources into a grid that was not designed for them. How will you maintain your energy supply for the next five minutes, twenty-four hours, or seven days? You will be challenged to find ways to bring electric vehicle charging stations to the masses. My grandchildren may never own a gas-powered vehicle. Will electric vehicles significantly increase electric demand, or will vehicle-to-grid technology allow peak load shifting to avoid the need for new-generation resources? You will be challenged to find ways to electrify technologies to help move the economy from carbon-based to non-carbon-based. How will homes and businesses switch from fossil fuel heating sources to electric space conditioning? There are many more challenges that you will face and solve.
My working experience was static. Yours will be dynamic. The industry of the late 1970s is not that much different from the industry of the 2020s. The industry in 2050 will look very different from the industry of today, and you will be at the forefront of that change. You will get to write the rules, while my rules were built around not doing anything different. For you, the rules will be built around doing almost everything differently. You will have the opportunity to grow, learn, make mistakes, and solve challenges. You have a future.
In closing, I have confidence that you will solve the challenges that you will face. I have been very impressed with the young professionals that I have met.
About the Author: Mr. John McWilliams is a renowned senior innovation engineer and has recently retired from his position at Dairyland Power Cooperative. John has been a member of the IEEE for more than 29 years. He has extensive experience in the field of power and energy, having worked on numerous projects throughout his career. John is also an expert in the area of renewable energy, having worked on the design and implementation of several large-scale wind and solar projects. John is a sought-after speaker and has delivered presentations at conferences and events around the world. To learn more about John McWilliams and his work in the field of power and energy, you can reach out to him at Email or connect with him on LinkedIn.