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Skills Gap Could Delay Europe’s Energy Transition

Europe’s ambitious green energy plans could be held back by a shortage of skilled workers in the renewables industry, which, generally, still pays lower wages than the oil and gas industry, analysts say.

Governments in the European Union (EU), the UK, and the U.S. will need to address the shortage of skilled workforce for the new energy roles that will drive the transition to lower-carbon economies, trade associations say.

“As increased deployment of clean energy technologies further boosts job creation, both current and future workers will need to be equipped with the requisite expertise to maximise benefits from this growth and to avoid bottlenecks caused by skills and labour shortages,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) said last year in a report on skills development for the transition.

The leaders of the countries on the North Sea pledged a combined 120 gigawatts (GW) of North Sea offshore wind capacity by 2030, and 300 GW in 2050, compared to the current installed capacity of 25 GW.

However, the leaders recognized that “Increased offshore renewables deployment is creating an increasing demand for skilled workforce to carry out the necessary planning, construction and operation of the relevant offshore assets. The need for skilled workers is a regional challenge. We will therefore explore the possibilities of enhanced qualification, reskilling and training across the North Sea regions.”

The WindEurope association said that that the offshore wind workforce in Europe alone needs to grow from 80,000 today to 250,000 by 2030 if the goals are to be met.

“Investments alone don’t manufacture blades, navigate vessels or operate wind farms. Above all, national Governments must support build up the necessary skills base,” the association added.

The EU has recently launched a large-scale renewable energy skills partnership, but the wage gap between green energy jobs and oil and gas industry jobs continues to be in favor of the conventional energy sector.

Despite the higher skill requirements in most cases, jobs in renewables aren’t paying more than high-carbon jobs, which “is problematic for attracting workers into low-carbon jobs,” a study by London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute found earlier this year.

Markus Janser, a senior researcher at Germany’s Institute for Employment Research told the Financial Times, commenting on the skill shortages,

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“We will have no problems with skills shortages as soon as these jobs are attractive in terms of wages and working conditions.”

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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