What’s ahead for offshore energy workforce as the world strives for net-zero?

01-02-2022 IRO Nieuws, Netherlands Suppliers Catalogue

As the energy transition is accelerating across all facets of the offshore energy industry, a question arises: what will happen to its workforce while the industry changes its modus operandi, develops new technologies, and pushes for sustainability and efficiencies in its operations?

Following the challenges we faced in 2020 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, this year has more than any other before seen some crucial changes happening in the offshore energy sector, affecting everyone involved, especially its most important element, the workforce.

While the governments and companies across the world are working on their net-zero and sustainability goals, it has become evident that the net-zero world will require massive numbers of skilled workforce to drive the changes needed to reach them. However, concerns have been raised over the impact the net-zero changes might have on those working in oil and gas.

A recent survey from the UK’s Energy Institute (EI) has revealed that professionals across all walks of UK energy are seeking from the government and industry to coalesce around a national skills strategy that underpins the development of low-carbon energy and supply chains in a just way that does not leave today’s skilled workers stranded.

Research by the UK’s National Grid estimates that 400,000 diverse new recruits into energy will be needed for the UK to reach net-zero by 2050, more than half of which will be in new roles. Previously, as part of the landmark North Sea Transition Deal, the UK government pledged that high-skilled oil and gas workers and the supply chain would not be left behind in the transition to a low carbon future.

A deal between the government and the oil and gas industry will support workers, businesses, and the supply chain through the energy transition, harnessing the industry’s existing capabilities to exploit new and emerging technologies such as hydrogen production, carbon capture usage and storage, offshore wind, and decommissioning. While acknowledging progress in the UK’s energy policy over the past year, respondents to the EI’s survey underlined that further action is needed, highlighting that action to bring on the necessary workforce is pressing.

UK’s Cerulean Winds, a green infrastructure developer, has recently estimated that the current 160,000 oil and gas jobs can be safeguarded and 200,000 new roles within the floating wind and hydrogen sectors will be created within the next five years. Meanwhile, Cerulean Winds has a plan to accelerate the decarbonisation of oil and gas assets through an integrated 200-turbine floating wind and hydrogen development that would shift the dial on emissions targets and create significant jobs.

Both offshore wind and hydrogen are considered the backbone of the energy transition. With that in mind, the UK government last year revealed its ambition to create 2 million green jobs by 2030, launching a Green Jobs Taskforce to help reach that goal. The focus is on the immediate and longer-term challenges of delivering skilled workers for the UK’s transition to net-zero.

This includes ensuring the country has the immediate skills needed for building back greener following the pandemic, including those in offshore wind, and supporting workers in high carbon transitioning sectors like oil and gas to retrain in new green technologies. The taskforce was put in charge of assessing how the UK jobs market and the skills sector would adapt to support net-zero, developing ideas and solutions for how the UK can deliver the green jobs of the future.

But, to achieve the planned offshore wind capacity of 300 GW and 40 GW of ocean energy installed capacity by 2050 in the EU, there needs to be a massive change of scale for the sector in less than 30 years and that applies to the available workforce as well.

A report published in March 2021 by the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) stated that the number of people working in the offshore wind industry in the UK was projected to increase to 69,848 by 2026. It is worth noting here that the UK is considered a leader when it comes to installed offshore wind capacity with further aggressive expansion planned.

While the UK and Europe already have massive scaling up plans for the offshore wind market, the U.S. is somewhat of a newcomer to the sector. However, things are about to change during this decade as the government is now working to jumpstart its offshore wind energy and create tens of thousands of jobs in the sector.

The country’s ambitious offshore wind target of 30 GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030 will support around 77,000 direct and indirect jobs and trigger more than $12 billion per year in capital investment in projects on both U.S. coasts.

Specifically, more than 44,000 people are expected to be employed in offshore wind by 2030, with nearly 33,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity. To achieve this goal, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) plans to advance new lease sales and complete a review of at least 16 Construction and Operations Plans by 2025, representing more than 19 GW of offshore wind capacity to be installed off the U.S. coasts.

In addition to focusing on policies and initiatives that will drive the development of low carbon technologies, it has become clear that further action needs to be taken to identify the skills needed and assemble that workforce, ensuring that concerns about cost, time, and availability of courses crucial for re-skilling are addressed. The energy transition needs a skills transition, otherwise, the lack of a skilled workforce could become yet another barrier to meeting net-zero.


Nermina Kulovic

This article was previously published on www.offshore-energy.biz