Areas of work, specialisms and alternatives

Utilities, energy and renewables

22 Jun 2023, 13:20

The utilities sector offers jobs to engineering graduates with many different degree disciplines.

Offshore oil rig with a supply vessel docked nearby at sunset.

Engineering is primarily about problem solving and these skills can be used in many different areas, particularly as new areas of work develop. New degree subjects such as energy engineering reflect the growing interest in fields such as environmental engineering and renewable energy.

Environmental engineering

Climate change and the urgent need for sustainable living and development at all levels have underpinned the rapid need for skilled and specialist environmental engineers. Environmental engineering currently remains within the category of civil engineering, but focuses on projects related to natural resources rather than man-made projects. It prioritises environmental protection and conservation in design and development projects.

Environmental engineers can work on a wide range of projects. These could include:

  • designing and developing water purification, waste-water treatment, waste management and air-control systems
  • environmental impact assessment of current and future development projects
  • recycling
  • sustainability
  • renewable energy resources.

What degree

  • Chemical engineering
  • Civil/structural engineering
  • Electrical/electronic engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Manufacturing engineering.

Employers include engineering and environmental consultancies; local authorities; state and semi-state bodies, such as the Environmental Protection Agencies; and research organisations.


This sector operates, maintains and manages the facilities and networks that supply and distribute utilities: electricity, gas, water and telecommunications. Companies in this sector aim to minimise losses and to offer customers a low-cost, highquality service. Areas of activity include energy generation, wholesale trading, transmission and distribution, and water treatment. The industry offers opportunities for graduates from a wide range of disciplines. You could work in operational or project management roles, or become a specialist engineer.

What degree

  • Civil engineering
  • Environmental engineering


Power generation and energy supply are about converting a wide variety of energy sources (eg oil, nuclear, wind) into energy products used by consumers (predominantly electricity). Environmental issues are the drivers for change in this sector, particularly in the area of renewable energy. Energy engineers are involved in the research, design and implementation of new energy systems, such as wave energy, tidal energy and wind power. Much of the work is at research stage: as technological breakthroughs develop, more defined roles will emerge. Employers include third-level and commercial research institutes and companies involved in power generation.

Clean technology

Ireland is a location of choice for this rapidly evolving sector, both nationally and internationally. Government bodies including Enterprise Ireland are promoting and investing in Ireland’s indigenous cleantech industry with the goal of establishing the island of Ireland as a global centre for green technology in niche areas, encompassing engineering, electronics, environment, construction and ICT. In fact, many Irish companies are already considered market leaders in specialist areas such as renewable energy. Cork Institute of Technology operates a Clean Technology Centre (CTC), which has been providing innovative and effective resource efficiency solutions since 1992. The CTC is widely accepted as the leading waste prevention focused organisation in Ireland as well as being the longest established. It works with local authorities, researchers, businesses and healthcare professionals for innovative solutions in this area.

What degree

  • Chemical engineering
  • Civil/structural engineering
  • Electrical/electronic engineering
  • Environmental engineering.

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