With hundreds of thousands of energy jobs lost worldwide during the pandemic, there have been huge worries about the future of energy sector employment, especially due to all this talk about a shift away from fossil fuels. However, the recent impetus for renewable energy growth and the introduction of climate policies around the world are expected to spur the growth of renewable energy jobs for decades to come. Following the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act last month, the U.S. renewable energy employment sector is suddenly booming. Companies that were anticipating moderate expansion are now looking to grow their workforce more rapidly, as the new act supports the fight against climate change and the growth of the green economy. The new law provides $400 billion over the next decade to speed up the rollout of EVs and the development of renewable energy projects, mainly in the form of tax credits.
And we’re already seeing the rapid response to the bill, with major automakers such as Honda and Toyota announcing massive EV battery plants in Ohio and North Carolina. And green energy companies are looking to develop larger-scale projects than previously anticipated ahead of the rush to go green. Experts suggest that the bill will help triple the renewable electricity capacity by the end of the decade.
As well as enhancing renewable energy capacity, it will also have a major impact on the job market. Clean energy jobs are now expected to reach 1 million by 2030. John Hensley, research vice president at the trade association American Clean Power, explains “There will be the establishment of an entire supply chain that will build upon industries that are already well established.” The bill is expected to add 550,000 new jobs to the existing 442,000 clean energy jobs in the U.S.
Tax credits in the EV sector could help electric car manufacturers reduce battery prices by around $3,400 by 2025 to make EVs more cost-effective for consumers looking to switch from ICE cars to EVs. This will be done by pumping funds into research and development and expanding manufacturing operations by hiring thousands of new employees across the country to build these batteries.
And many of these renewable energy jobs will be given to employees from the fossil fuel industry who already have years of experience in the energy sector. America has gradually been developing its renewable energy capacity in recent years, as it moves away from its sole reliance on fossil fuels for power. CEO of Houston-based ConnectGen, Caton Fenz, explained, “you’re talking about major project management skills, and those are absolutely transferable.” However, in addition to the shift in profession for oil, gas, and coal workers, for the green energy sector to be expanded at the rate expected over the coming years, a huge amount of training and development will have to be carried out to provide the skilled workers needed to manage these massive renewable energy projects.
Studies show that the average age of workers such as electricians, home contractors, and other skilled professionals is getting higher, with fewer young graduates trained to replace them as they retire. There are worries that with the rapid expansion of the renewable energy sector, there will not be a big enough skilled workforce to fill the jobs needed. However, this does open a huge opportunity for the introduction of new university degrees and other training programs for the development of a specialist renewable energy workforce.
At present, this is a major bottleneck, with 80 percent of solar companies surveyed in the National Solar Jobs Census by the U.S. Interstate Renewable Energy Council last year stating that they found it difficult to find enough qualified applicants to fill jobs. The executive vice president for people and culture at wind giant Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Kerstin Knapp, explained that a lack of skilled workers “is really an underestimated element of the energy transition.”
There is a huge opportunity to offer additional training to skilled workers from the fossil fuel industry to transition to renewables, as well as to offer youths university degrees and other training schemes to support the growth of the industry. There is a severe lack of skilled workers for positions such as safety experts, construction managers, and cybersecurity professionals which is only going to get worse unless training opportunities quickly improve. Knapp suggested that ”in the immediate future, we will mainly be hiring from utilities and the industrial sector because the transfer of skills from traditional sectors to renewable energy is more direct," and in terms of longer-term staffing needs, "the world needs a skills and training revolution."
Following two years of worries over employment in the energy sector, recent developments in renewables are offering greater hope for a growth in energy jobs. However, the industry could struggle to find workers with the necessary skills. This increase in green energy job opportunities will provide fossil fuel workers with the potential to transfer their skills to work in renewables, but demand for oil and gas workers is also climbing. In the longer term, governments and private institutions must invest heavily in the development of training programs and university degrees to develop youths with the skills required to match new jobs in the sector.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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