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What Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers Do

Power plant operators, dispatchers, and distributors control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.


Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers typically do the following:

Electricity is one of our nation’s most vital resources. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control power plants and the flow of electricity from plants to substations, which distribute electricity to businesses, homes, and factories. Electricity is generated from many sources, including coal, gas, nuclear energy, hydroelectric energy (from water sources), and wind and solar power.

The following are types of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers:

Nuclear power reactor operators control nuclear reactors. They adjust control rods, which affect how much electricity a reactor generates. They monitor reactors, turbines, generators, and cooling systems, adjusting controls as necessary. Operators also start and stop equipment and record the data. They may need to respond to abnormalities, determine the cause, and take corrective action.

Power distributors and dispatchers, also known as systems operators, control the flow of electricity as it travels from generating stations to substations and users over a network of transmission and distribution lines. They prepare and issue switching orders to route electrical currents around areas that need maintenance or repair. Distributors and dispatchers also monitor and operate current converters, voltage transformers, and circuit breakers. They must detect and respond to emergencies, such as transformer or transmission line failures.

Power plant operators control, operate, and maintain machinery to generate electric power. They use control boards to distribute power among generators and regulate the output from several generators. They regulate the flow of power between generating stations and substations, and they monitor instruments to maintain voltage and electricity flows from the plant.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition