As coal-fired electric power plants close across the U.S., they take with them coal mining jobs, to be sure. And while those job losses have generated considerable political heat, a no-less important employment shift is under way within power plants themselves.
Gone are many of the mechanics, millwrights, and welders who once held high paying jobs to keep coal-fired power plants operating.
As maintenance-intensive coal-fired power plants—chock full of rotating equipment and leak-prone pipes and valves, not to mention conveyer belts and coal ash handling equipment—are retired they are being replaced to a large extent by gas-fired units that make full use of sensors, predictive maintenance software, and automated control systems.
As a result, the extensive use of analytics and automation within natural gas-fired power plants means that staffing levels can be cut to a fraction of what they were a decade ago.
Recent announcements confirm the trend.