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Professor of Practice Janne Seppänen: The need for experts in the energy sector is growing

The pursuit of a climate-neutral society will cause the energy sector to undergo a major transformation.
Työelämäprofessori Janne Seppänen
The most important researcher qualities are curiosity and a genuine interest in one’s field of research, says Janne Seppänen. Photo: Samuli Skantsi

Janne Seppänen, who started his five-year tenure as a Professor of Practice in May, will bring expertise in electricity transmission systems to the Aalto University Department of Electrical Engineering and Automation. He will also continue to work for Fingrid on a part-time basis.

The future energy system will be very different from the old one, with the electricity transmission network being at the core of this system. In this whole, there is a huge amount to be researched and extensive research problems to be solved. Seppänen is excited to return to a familiar environment in his new role.

What are you researching and why?

I am researching electricity transmission systems. The power transmission system refers to a power transmission backbone and related components. In particular, I study phenomena and properties of the future electricity transmission system, which involves a great deal of renewable energy production and new types of consumption.

At the moment, the entire energy system is in an exceptional state of transition as the aim is to achieve climate neutrality in society. The future system will look very different from the current one, and it will also contain new phenomena that are not yet well known. Regarding these, there is enough to research.

How did you become a researcher?

I began writing my doctoral dissertation at Aalto University immediately after graduating as a Master of Science in Technology. I actually made the decision to write my dissertation and embark on a research career well before I graduated because I have always been interested in research.

However, I moved to the industry about two years after starting my dissertation project and finished it alongside my work. Throughout my career, however, I have actively followed the research field in electricity networks and have written articles for scientific journals and conferences. It is great that I now had an opportunity to return to research to do it in a more focused manner.

What have been the high points of your career?

There have been many great moments along the way. With regard to research, the most memorable successes have been associated with “eureka experiences” as we learned something new about the way an electricity grid works. Both the methods that I developed and the methods developed as a result of the cooperation have been used to identify new phenomena in the Finnish power system related to the dynamics of a system, for example, and to find components the operation of which is undesirable. These discoveries help us to understand better the power system and to develop control systems of components. This will improve the operational reliability of the entire system and, thus, secure more reliable electricity transmission in Finland.

What qualities does a researcher need?

The most important qualities are curiosity and a genuine interest in one’s field of research. In the energy sector, we are now struggling with very big issues when considering the functioning of the future clean energy system. Solving such issues also requires bold new ideas from researchers.

In today's world, research is increasingly collaborative and it is not possible to only stay in one's academic hole - researchers are required to have teamwork skills and, sometimes, also to leave their own comfort zone. In addition, researchers must be open to new ideas and be prepared to change their opinion if the research results show that the old conclusions are no longer valid.

What are your expectations for the future?

The pursuit of a climate-neutral society will cause the energy sector to undergo a major transformation. The future energy system will be very different from the old one, with the electricity transmission network being at the core of this system. In this whole, there is a huge amount to be researched and extensive research problems to be solved. I expect to be able to make my contribution to the investigation of this whole.

In addition, the need for experts in the energy sector will increase and the sector will be a significant employer in the future. I am also looking forward to teaching and to being able to guide future experts to choose the energy sector as their field of work.

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