Case study

Graduate trainee energy engineer — Roederer Rose Lyne

Roederer studied for a MEng in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Aberdeen. She now works for the institution as a graduate energy engineer in the Estates and Facilities section

How did you get your job?

I first joined the University of Aberdeen as an energy and carbon management summer intern in 2016. I was awarded 'best internship' for researching and significantly contributing to a new five-year carbon management plan for the university.

Following the internship, I was offered a part-time job as an energy and carbon management assistant within the same team during the final year of my Masters degree.

When it came to thinking about my career I realised that energy management was an emerging sector in its own right, which I found interesting and progressive. It was also an area that I had an aptitude for and enjoyed.

My internship highlighted the importance of proper planning, preparation and research with regards to carbon and energy management at the university, and the development of the graduate scheme I am currently progressing through was a direct result of the progress made through the internship and subsequent part-time employment while I finished my degree.

What’s a typical day like as an energy engineer?

My days can be very different; I can jump from visiting plant rooms to investigate heating pumps, to looking at the PV solar panels on top of the university's Sir Duncan Rice Library, to running staff engagement workshops.

However, in general my day involves the following:

  • maintaining energy performance indicators and reporting against these
  • maintaining energy and water monitoring and targeting software
  • investigating how well heating consumption matches Aberdeen's weather patterns
  • carrying out building energy audits and making recommendations for energy saving measures and operational changes
  • writing energy awareness segments for the university's internal staff web page and the university's sustainability Facebook page
  • researching and calculating the energy, carbon and financial savings from potential projects.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I find my job rewarding as I am constantly learning how the theories I studied in my degree apply in real life scenarios. For example, I used the Affinity Laws to predict the reduction in a pump's power demand by reducing its operating speed - following an experiment; it was found that these laws were within 2% of the actual achieved savings.

I also enjoy seeing awareness surrounding sustainability issues moving to the forefront of the university's long-term plans as a result of our team's application of efficient technology and design projects and the significant impacts we have achieved.

What are the challenges?

The nature of my role means that I have to adopt differing approaches to different scenarios. I am based within the maintenance section of the university's engineering section. To that end, being surrounded by technical experts and engineers means I have to produce technical reports and presentations with the application of solid engineering principals. At the same time, this approach is not appropriate for presentations to staff on the softer behavioural change elements, so I have to make sure that I present data and proposals in an easy to understand format that still conveys the necessary data appropriate to the audience of the moment.

Understanding that you can't fix everything instantly is definitely difficult; by improving/changing one thing, you might uncover three other things that are preventing you from achieving the sustainability level you envisaged in the appraisal stage of a project. As annoying as this can be, in the long term you can achieve greater savings than you initially expected and you could have identified issues that would have been expensive to fix if something went wrong.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My engineering degree covered a variety of technical subjects but also provided me with a comprehensive knowledge base that I use daily.

The ability to utilise Microsoft Excel to a high level is also a very useful skill that my degree helped me develop and one that I rely on every day.

Additionally the skills developed while undertaking my degree gave me confidence to work in a team as well as being able to give individual technical presentations.

How has your role developed?

During my summer internship, I was primarily focussed on putting together the Carbon Management Plan (CMP).

When I worked part time, I was still involved in the CMP as I calculated the impact of potential energy savings projects and added them to the CMP project register. However, I was given greater responsibility by collating data for the university's submissions to various governmental carbon emissions schemes and by leading the EMT's staff and student engagement efforts.

Once in full-time employment, I was expected to become more proactive in regards to visiting different university sites to try and identify opportunities for energy efficiency. I have also been encouraged to develop my own energy-saving proposals rather than researching my teammates' ideas. I still collate data for our government submissions but I am now trusted to submit this data myself and also troubleshoot any issues during this process.

My ambitions are to become a chartered energy engineer (CEng) and energy manager. I would like the opportunity to advise Scottish Government agencies, and lead an energy management team that produces methods of best practice and produces significant reductions in an organisation's energy consumption and carbon footprint.

How do I get into energy management?

  • Be confident with using Microsoft Excel. A large part of the job involves calculating the impact of energy saving projects and displaying the data in various ways, which can be showed to different audiences.
  • Have some level of technical background, so you can understand how equipment operates and be comfortable with technical data and manuals.
  • Be willing to go on site and get your hands dirty. It's the best way to learn and to see how things are connected. It's also an excellent way to discover that real world applications are not always as the textbook says they should be.
  • Don't be afraid to contact your university's or college's sustainability team to find out about what they are doing and what their jobs involve, as each organisation is different.

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