Robert Mattholie describes his role as a renewable energy engineer
Robert Mattholie is a chartered civil engineer with more than 10 years of professional experience both in the UK and overseas, working in the water and renewable energy sectors. Mattholie currently works for Renewable Energy Systems Ltd (RES) as asset manager for south west England with responsibility for more than 50MW of operational wind and solar projects. He is also a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Expert Energy Panel.
How would you sum up what you do on a typical day?
In my current role, I look after a portfolio of operational onshore wind and solar farms. It’s a cliché but there is definitely no such thing as a typical day. I have a wide range of responsibilities and my day can include organising and managing maintenance contractors; responding to plant failures; dealing with local stakeholders; identifying and implementing opportunities to maximise generation; and managing all commercial aspects of operational renewable energy assets.
What would you say is the best bit about your day?
The nature of working on an operational project means that you’re invariably working in a fast-paced environment. The range of projects with different technologies means you’re exposed to wide-ranging problems (technical, commercial and social) which definitely keeps you on your toes! I also enjoy the opportunity to work with a wide range of contractors and technical specialists, which involves a good mixture of site and office work.
And what is the biggest challenge?
Balancing day-to-day aspects of the job with unplanned events, which often require urgent attention! You might start the day with various plans but often these can be thrown completely out the window by 9am if something crops up on site.
What made you decide to become a renewable energy engineer?
I wanted the opportunity to combine engineering and project management skills in a sector I feel passionate about. The challenges posed by climate change and the urgent need for transition to a low-carbon economy means there are fantastic opportunities out there for engineers. Having worked in various sectors, the dynamism of the renewable energy sector really appealed to me, both in terms of growth and the rate of technological developments.
What is it that you love about your job?
I love working as part of a team to deliver commercially viable renewable energy projects, helping to provide clean energy to thousands of people across the UK.
As a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Energy Panel, I also get the opportunity to contribute to policy debates. I’m currently supporting the ICE with its Energy Resilience and Climate Change campaign which is examining the challenges, developments and big questions around climate change and its impact on the built environment.
What makes a great renewable energy engineer?
You must have a sound technical and engineering background, the ability to think outside the box and be prepared to innovate to overcome challenges. Good team working skills are crucial – you need passion and motivation to be part of teams, working to provide solutions to challenges posed by the transition to low carbon.
What advice do you have for people about to embark on a career in renewable energy engineering?
I’d advise focusing on gaining a solid technical background, which is invaluable to supporting day-to-day work. You need to be proactive and try to keep up-to-date with latest developments (no easy task in such a rapidly developing sector). Don’t underestimate the value attributed to transferable skills – my background was originally in the water sector. Finally, go out and meet people, attend events, and build up a network of contacts across the industry.