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Calum Watkins, Smart Grid Consultant, Q&A

Calum Watkins joined Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS) in June 2020 as a Graduate Smart Grid Engineer. He is now part of our Consulting and Analysis team and splits his time between the Integration and Consulting & Analysis Practices. His main focus is on the delivery of fleets of smart local energy assets across a variety of customers in the UK. He has a Master’s in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Strathclyde, UK.

What inspired you to work in clean energy?

From a young age I really wanted to be an inventor! During that time, I had a phase of designing and building elaborate contraptions to harvest energy. I remember being given a copy of Al Gore’s book ‘Our Choice’, which focuses on the causes of climate change and the solutions we can use to mitigate the impacts. I chose to study Electrical and Mechanical Engineering as a close second to becoming an inventor (which doesn’t exist as a course yet…) and graduated from Strathclyde University in Glasgow in 2020.

Whilst completing my academic studies I was fortunate to study and work abroad in Kenya as a researcher at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology and Kaharlyk, Ukraine as a process engineer at a plastic waste pyrolysis plant. These experiences drew my interests towards sustainable energy in various contexts aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. My passion is to deliver engineering solutions which give communities ‘access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.’ (SDG7)

In this vein, two of my academic projects were focused on developing community renewable energy on areas of urban wasteland close to deprived neighbourhoods here in Glasgow using a community ownership model. This is where I first encountered the term ‘Smart Grids’ and SGS was involved in several projects that I used as case studies in those early projects. You can check out the progress I’ve been a part of in developing community energy in Glasgow at: 

Why did you want to work for Smarter Grid Solutions?

As I mentioned, my interest in Smart Grids and renewable energy made coming to SGS a natural progression from my studies and project focuses. We are committed to delivering sophisticated control systems for enabling connection and operation of a wide variety of renewable energy systems. No doubt this work is crucial to decarbonising the energy sector. I really enjoy getting to work across various teams, collaborating on complex projects, and seeking to enable more renewable energy technologies to supply our electrical, transport and heating needs.

What do you enjoy most about working at SGS?

The people I work with are great, lots of laughs and despite working almost entirely from home at the beginning, I’ve felt very much part of the team. The projects are very varied, and every day is literally a school day with opportunities to learn from the best people in the industry!

What does a typical day at SGS look like for you?

I’m currently in the Glasgow office several days a week, which is a 15-minute cycle from my home. A lot of what I am doing currently is helping renewable energy developers to identify where is best to look for connecting to the grid. This involves client calls and using various in-house analytical tools and reporting. As the renewable energy sector has grown, our infrastructure in the UK is getting more congested and we need smarter ways of managing the variable wind and solar generators alongside battery energy storage to make the best use of the existing network.

Calum visiting the site
Calum next to large 'CIRED' sign


When did you know Consulting was for you?

I really enjoy the role as I get to participate in workshops with energy system operators, academic conferences and site work with community energy groups and local authority customers, all of which contribute to my learning as an early career engineer. This year, I’m excited to be part of a small team travelling to Rome to present at CIRED which is an international energy conference. We’ll be talking about how the energy system needs to evolve to accommodate 11 million electric vehicles by 2030 in the UK.

Is there a particular trend in the energy sector that you would like to see gain momentum?

I hope that we’ll see a real shift in society moving to sustainable energy options like electric vehicles, heat pumps, and batteries. It’s cool seeing this happening in our projects but these are often still very much demonstrators and have yet to be realised at scale. When people start seeing the opportunity for smart local energy systems, we’ll be onto a winner. Creating joined up approaches to decarbonising heat, transport and electricity as a single system will form the next evolution of the energy sector.

What project(s) are you working on at the moment?

One of my favourite projects, called Local Energy Oxfordshire has looked at connecting community-owned renewables to our smart operations platform. The project has been a fantastic learning experience working with Low Carbon Hub to deliver a smart local energy system where they can provide useful services to the grid and save money on bills. My visits to Oxford have been a highlight of the last few years and have given me a broader understanding of the technical, commercial, social and policy challenges for delivering these types of systems. You can check out the full project report at their website:

From the small community groups to the goliath distribution network operators (DNOs), I’m supporting the implementation of new regulations for the whole of the UK around the cost of connections for new developers and monitoring requirements for DNOs. These projects are all about delivering the next industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, where smart grid technology is the enabler for affordable, clean and safe power.


What would you like someone interested in this role to know?

I’m always learning new things in my role and meeting different people inside and outside of SGS. It’s a fantastic environment for innovation, creative problem solving and shaping the future of the energy system

What do you do outside of work?

I’m a keen (field) hockey player and adventure cyclist! I also like a good bit of baking and volunteering as a director for Glasgow Community Energy.


Has Calum's passion for clean energy inspired you to join the team at SGS? We are currently hiring Smart Grid Consultants based in Glasgow and the surrounding areas.