Modernising power systems requires workers with strong digital skills

Digital technologies are set to play a key role in the transition to more secure and sustainable energy systems, fostering greater connectivity, efficiency, reliability and emissions reductions. New digital tools – such as those that can help match power supply with demand; predict and detect faults in networks; or give greater control to consumers – will enable the faster integration of renewables, improve grid stability and unlock greater energy savings. However, the pace of digitalisation will depend heavily on the energy sector’s ability to build a workforce with the right skills.

The number of digital roles across the energy sector has picked up globally. Yet there is growing evidence that it remains broadly insufficient, inhibiting greater investment in digitalisation; in a survey of energy professionals conducted by EY, 89% identified skills gaps as the main challenge to accelerating the adoption of digital technologies.

With most jobs set to require digital skills in the coming years, energy utilities will increasingly be competing for a limited pool of qualified workers to bridge the sector's skills gap. This will require stronger and more cohesive digital hiring strategies and training efforts. 

Digital Skills and Applications in the Power Sector

Digital skill


AI and Machine Learning

  • Demand response management
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Renewable energy forecasting
  • Smart buildings
  • Power plant monitoring
  • Energy trading
  • Energy storage management

Internet of Things

  • Real-time grid monitoring
  • Monitoring of generation and demand-side operations
  • Energy management systems
  • Smart buildings
  • Demand response management

SQL Databases and Programming

  • Real-time grid monitoring and control
  • Monitoring of generation and demand-side operations
  • Billing and automated customer management
  • Energy management systems
  • Analytics and reporting
  • Regulatory compliance


  • Protection of critical infrastructure
  • Data security
  • Prevention of cyber attacks
  • Regulatory compliance

Data Analysis

  • Operational efficiency
  • Risk management and hedging
  • Customer analytics
  • Asset management
  • Operational efficiency

Scripting Languages

  • Automation of tasks and systems
  • Complex simulations
  • Operational efficiency
  • Asset optimization

The extent of hiring for digital roles varies widely around the world

New International Energy Agency (IEA) analysis of job vacancy data for a large sample of countries in 2022 and 2023 from the labour market database Lightcast offers fresh insights on the landscape for digital job1 opportunities in the power sector.

It finds that countries can be divided into four groups based on interest in hiring workers with digital profiles. The first includes nations such as Singapore, Portugal and the Slovak Republic, where employers are actively hiring workers with digital talents across all sectors, including for roles at power utilities. In a second group, which features countries such as Australia and New Zealand, hiring for digital roles by power utilities is even stronger – outpacing digital hiring across all sectors. This can be explained by several factors, including the identification by the government of certain essential digital skills and their inclusion on a skills priority list – which facilitates visa processing for foreign workers and allows to promote training and education programs.

Meanwhile, among a third group of countries – including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Colombia – the share of job vacancies that require digital skills posted by power utilities is higher than for the economy as a whole, but overall digital recruitment remains low. Colombia notably maintains a 3-to-1 ratio of digital job postings from utilities compared with all sectors of the economy.

Share of digital job postings among total from power utilities, 2022-2023


In contrast, the fourth group sees low demand for digital roles overall and in the power sector. It includes the majority of European Union (EU) member states, along with certain Latin American and North African nations. This group can be further divided into subgroups: one consisting of Spain, Germany, Poland and Morocco, which display less digital job demand within power utilities compared with their broader national economies, and another that includes Chile, Mexico, Italy and France, which maintain a share of digital job postings within power utilities (between 4% and 7%) that is similar to overall digital job market trends.

Job postings should be understood as a proxy measure for demand for digital skills. The number of postings may be affected by higher turnover rates and the availability of talent in some countries, sectors and occupations.2

Regional differences can also be analysed over time, highlighting the various stages of the digitalisation of the power sector. Between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the second quarter of 2023, Australia and New Zealand had high shares of digital job postings, though they declined recently. The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom had lower shares, but they are now rising. Europe has consistently had a low share of digital jobs, especially between 2022 and 2023, indicating that countries in the region may not be fully leveraging their investments in digital equipment.

Share of primarily digital job postings in power utilities, per country and region, 2018-2023


A separate long-term analysis reveals that power utilities have been slower to post significant shares of digital jobs than other sectors such as finance and insurance and public administration. In recent years, digital job postings approached 16% of total listings by finance and insurance companies, whereas the share for power utilities stagnated around 11%, with a decline below 9% between 2017 and 2021.

Share of digital job postings among total by sector in the United States


The nature of digital skills required by power utilities is changing rapidly

Lightcast data also indicates that the types of digital skills prioritised by power utilities have changed substantially over the past decade. In 2012, expertise in SQL – a programming language used for managing and manipulating data – was among the most sought-after digital skills in the sector, while scripting languages or knowledge of cloud solutions were rarely required. However, since mid-2021, demand has grown rapidly for workers with skills in data analysis, scripting languages and cloud solutions, in addition to SQL database skills and cybersecurity expertise. Demand for workers with knowledge of more recent technologies, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things, is still at very low levels, even though these are extremely powerful tools for power system management

Share of digital skills demand among total job postings by US power utilities, 2012-2023


Skills must be at the core of power utilities’ digital strategies

Failing to bridge the current skills gaps could create bottlenecks in efforts to build more secure and sustainable energy systems. Given this, setting a skills-focused digital strategy is becoming essential for energy utilities – which can take the following steps as they seek to improve and expand current initiatives.

  • Take stock of employees’ skills and identify and prioritise the ones that are needed: Utilities can develop mechanisms to track skills and systematise measurements of digital literacy to ensure they have the talent to manage changing power systems. In parallel, having a clear understanding of the skills needed can improve the effectiveness of the policy actions for supporting the shift towards a more sustainable economy.
  • Foster attractiveness for digital talents: Utilities can leverage digitalisation to create an environment of innovation and growth, offering appealing career paths and opportunities for digital professionals seeking dynamic roles.
  • Empower workforces through internal digital training: Utilities can implement training and upskilling programs to equip current employees with essential digital skills, fostering a culture of continuous learning, a sense of ownership and allowing for adaptation to technological advancements.  
  • Collaborate on market-driven training programs: Utilities can engage with governments and other stakeholders to develop training initiatives and curricula tailored to address current and future market demand for digital skills, creating a solid pipeline of well-trained talent.  
  • Focus on greater inclusivity: By designing training programmes to be more inclusive – for example, making them targeted to increase gender parity – governments and industry can respond to labour demand while capitalising on opportunities to build a more diverse workforce of the future.

This work forms part of the Digital Demand-Driven Electricity Network (3DEN) Initiative, supported by the Clean Energy Transitions Programme, the IEA’s flagship initiative to help energy systems worldwide move towards a secure and sustainable future for all.

  1. Digital jobs are here defined as all jobs categorized under Computer Occupations (Code 15-1100) in the United States’ 2010 Standard Occupational Classification System and their equivalent in other occupational classification systems.

  2. Online job postings cannot be precisely compared with official national employment data, since the latter may reflect vacancies that are not posted digitally, and they give no information on the hiring process and therefore may or may not correspond to a real job. Besides, their granularity is not always optimal. Despite these shortcomings, they can still be used as a proxy to track and understand trends in jobs demand.