UK facing green skills gap of 200,000 workers

11th August 2022

A significant green energy skills gap of around 200,000 workers is emerging that must be addressed if the UK is to meet its net-zero target, analysis suggests.

In a new report, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) highlights how there are currently around 270,000 workers in the oil and gas sector who can transfer their skills towards delivering net zero.

However, around 20% are expected to retire by 2030, leaving only 216,000 transferable workers to help plug the 400,000 jobs needed to build the new energy workforce across areas such as nuclear, hydrogen and renewables.

The report also suggests that increases in renewable energy generation will be constrained by this significant shortage of skilled labour.

PwC said that there is an “urgent need” for policy makers and the energy industry to work together to promote re/upskilling and encourage a fresh pipeline of talent, or risk the successful transition to net zero by 2050.

According to the research, demand is already building, with a 3.5% increase in green job adverts across the electricity and gas sectors recorded between 2020 and 2021.

“Demand for new skills and capabilities will only accelerate so it’s vital we attract and build a diverse pipeline of talent,” said Vicky Parker, power and utilities leader at PwC.

“Meeting such a challenge needs to start at school age, continuing through university programmes, apprenticeships and beyond. However, all this must be underpinned by confidence around long-term job security and stability to attract and retain the necessary talent.”

On a positive note, the report suggests that job loss caused by the demise of carbon intensive industries will be far less than feared.

Demand for additional jobs in offshore wind is set to rise to 41,000 by 2026, and to increase to 40,000 by 2030 for nuclear. PwC said that as much as 90% of roles in the energy sector are transferable, meaning that net job losses are set to be minimal.

However, given that women and ethnic minorities are traditionally underrepresented in the energy industry, there is a risk that this could become more pronounced as the sector expands, exacerbating the skills gap challenge.

Dr Eduardo Rodriguez Monemayor, PwC’s labour market economist, said: “To secure the significant volume of workers needed to fuel the energy transition, the sector will need to draw from a more diverse pool of people.

“To attract more people into green energy jobs a range of interventions should be considered including ‘green’ apprenticeship programmes and technical green career pathways.

“If action to address this isn’t taken now, the UK is at risk of falling behind its roadmap to reach net zero and combat climate change, something that is front of mind given current energy prices, supply chain challenges and record-breaking temperatures.”

Image credit: iStock

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