Report: T&D industry should focus on digital skills training to accelerate energy transition

Digital technologies are on display at DISTRIBUTECH International.

Barriers in implementing digitalization measures in the transmission and distribution (T&D) industry could hold back the success of the global energy transition, says one of the findings from a new DNV GL report, titled Digitalization and the future of power grids.

The report surveyed nearly 2000 engineers and senior executives from start-ups to large corporations in the energy sector, according to DNV GL, and found that despite an ongoing transformation in the power industry towards the integration of digital tools and systems, just over half (52%) of Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and only 39% of Transmission System Operators (TSOs) have digitalization as a core part of their publicly stated strategy.

One third of the T&D industry considers itself less advanced than the wider energy industry in its current application of digitalization.

However, the report also found that stakeholders in the T&D industry are fully aware of the perceived benefits of digitalization with grid perators listing the following top 3 digital technologies as making an impact on their industry: 

  1. Cybersecurity (76% TSOs / 67% DNOs)
  1. Data Visualization (67% TSOs / 71% DNOs)
  2. Automation and digital workflow (73% TSOs / 68% DNOs)

The survey revealed that that T&D stakeholders are heavily focused on including additional digital skillsets into their workforce, said DNV GL. 67% of respondents highlighted a need for employees with combined data and domain expertise, which comes as no surprise in an industry where IT skills have traditionally been separated from electrical power systems expertise.

 When questioned about which skills would be most important for the industry, understanding and application of IoT systems (48%), data science (47%) and big data analytics (41%) were cited as the most sought-after competences by the T&D industry. 

 “Our survey also shows that 40% of T&D stakeholders believe that a lack of digital mindset is a barrier within their organization, which is defined as lack of staff engagement with digitalization. This reveals that although the technology and ambition might be there, unless organizations can concentrate the efforts of their entire workforce towards the adoption of new technologies and harvesting the opportunities provided by big data and enhanced connectivity, the impact of digitalization will be limited,” said Lucy Craig, Vice President of Technology and Innovation at DNV GL – Energy. 

“The role that the T&D industry needs to play in making the energy transition a success cannot be overestimated, which is why we call on organizations to invest in digital skills training to equip their employees with the necessary competences to tackle the challenges the T&D industry is facing,” she added. 

The report Digitalization and the future of power grids is available to download here.

Digitalization is one of the most important topics covered at DISTRIBUTECH International each year. Attendees can learn about it through educational sessions in the Summit, the Knowledge Hubs, and at exhibitor booths on the show floor. DISTRIBUTECH 2021 takes place in San Diego, California, February 9-11, 2021.

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Jennifer Runyon manages content on Renewable Energy World and POWERGRID International and also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH International. You can reach her at

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