Green energy is having a banner year. In the European Union, policymakers have effectively “turbocharged the green transition” in response to the growing threat of an all-out energy crisis due to the Russian war in Ukraine and its associated sanctions. In the United States, the Inflation Reduction Act, which represents the largest single step that Congress has ever taken to address climate change, is just beginning to create a major clean energy gold rush thanks to billions in incentives. Meanwhile, China is spending more on clean energy innovation and expansion than the United States and Europe put together.
After decades of treading water, evasive political and corporate tactics, and a litany of broken promises, the world is getting serious about the green energy transition. And it’s not a moment too soon. Back in 2021, the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared a “code red for humanity” as we edged toward the point of no return for catastrophic global warming. They warned that inaction would be fatal. Maybe that point finally hit home. Maybe the public and private sectors’ hand was forced by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the war in Ukraine, which upended energy markets and interrupted the status quo as no amount of willpower alone could have done. Either way, it’s a ray of hope at the eleventh hour.
There’s just one problem. There aren’t enough skilled workers to make the clean energy transition happen at the industry’s current rate of growth. Of course, as we’re staring down the barrel of a major global economic downturn, high demand for workers is a very good problem to have. While the labor shortage has proven to be a key point of frustration for the clean energy sector, seen from other angles the growth of clean energy jobs is great news for workers, for the unemployment rate, and for the economy as a whole.
This month saw the release of the seventh edition of the Global Energy Talent Index (GETI), an annual report surveying 10,000 energy professionals from 149 countries across five industry sub-sectors: oil and gas, renewables, power, nuclear and petrochemicals. This year’s report revealed some exciting trends for the renewables sector. “Of the respondents working in clean energy, 78% said they had been headhunted for at least one new job within the past year,” summarized sustainability information source Edie. “Almost one-third (31%) said they had been headhunted for six or more new roles within this timeframe.”
Those surveyed said that the renewable energy sector is an attractive employer due to high and increasing wages, positive company culture which allows workers to comfortably express their views and values, and the feeling that they are positively contributing to the global energy transition. However, these workers aren’t necessarily loyal to the renewables sector – two thirds of these workers said that they would leave the sector for the right offer. While many of those surveyed suggested that they perceive the fossil fuel sector to have better wages and benefits, the survey reveals that the fossil fuels industry is no longer the primary choice for overall energy workers looking to move sectors. Instead, the tech industry is now the most popular option.
The reality is that at the moment, the clean energy sector needs workers more than the workers need them. Clean energy firms are having a hard time hiring, and they’ll have to get creative to keep poaching talent from other energy sectors. “Renewables workers are the most likely to care about their employers’ values, but this now goes beyond the environment and encompasses metrics such as their contribution to society and workplace flexibility. Green energy firms will now have to compete with fossil fuel firms on a wider range of metrics from societal impact to flexibility by creating more meaningful roles with KPIs linked to social as well as environmental contributions, and by reducing fixed hours and physical deployments,” Airswift’s chief executive Janette Marx was quoted by Edie.
The good news is that it’s more than likely that the clean energy sector will be an increasingly competitive and attractive employer for energy workers as the industry continues to expand and demand for new fossil fuels continues to diminish. The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s Electricity Market Outlook for 2023, released earlier this month, forecasts that renewables and nuclear energy will “dominate” new global electricity production over the next three years, representing more than 90% of additional global demand.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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