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The growing importance of the UK’s Renewable Energy industry

- Gareth Bone, Lead Consultant, Power, Electrification and Utilities at Resourcing Solutions -

The continued decline of the earth’s fossil fuel reserves and climate change are two of the biggest challenges that we face today. Not only do we need to become more dependent on renewable energy for the security of supply but also for the good of the environment. Although many people have become more green conscious and are looking for a more sustainable and renewable way of living the bigger picture means that we must stick to our targets when it comes to renewable energy.

According to the Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, the UK energy industry employs around 140,000 people and accounts for 4.8 per cent of GDP. At this stage Renewable Energy contributes a smaller percentage to the sector in comparison to electricity and gas, but with the government predicting that renewables could provide up to 160,000 jobs by 2020 - this is set to increase quickly.

There are already signs that the sector is growing. In 2007 renewable energy use grew by 8.4 per cent and the equivalent of 5.17 million tonnes of oil was used to generate electricity, heat and road transport. The challenge is to meet the government targets and to have the right people in place to take the sector forward.

Resourcing Solutions was founded in 1996, to initially service privatised sectors with contract and permanent recruitment solutions. We have worked closely with companies such as Eon, nPower and network operators EDF and United Utilities, successfully sourcing scarce-skill candidates. More recently we have been responsible for placing more than 200 experienced professionals in both the traditional energy market and the now burgeoning renewable energy sector that includes recruiting Project Managers and Design Engineers.

The Renewable Energy sector is a buoyant industry that is fast becoming popular as the new ‘destination of choice’ among candidates, very much like technology was 10 years ago.

Given the skills shortage that many UK industries are experiencing to attract and retain talented people, recruiters need to consider taking a lateral approach for sourcing prospective employees. One option for Renewable Energy is to replicate the cross-skilling programmes that have been implemented for the rail industry to great affect. This involves re-training skilled professionals such as civil engineers from other industries to learn and practise the nuances of new disciplines for renewables such as Wind Farms, Wave Power, Bio Mass and Solar Energy.

The ongoing job prospects are phenomenal with the possibility that renewables could provide many thousands of new jobs in the UK, which in turn will provide a boost for the economy, just at a time when it is most needed.

In particular the UK’s wind sector has great potential and we need to capitalise on this. Britain is the windiest place in Europe and is the ideal place for an offshore wind farm. Research carried out for Border Wind suggests that if the proportion of UK energy accounted for by offshore wind power rose to 10 per cent then 36,000 jobs would be created.

These jobs will be further secured by a rapidly expanding global market for renewable energy technology. Wind power is already a $2.5 billion global industry, with growth of 40 per cent in each of the last five years. An example of what Britain could achieve is offered by Denmark, which has 60 per cent of the global wind energy market. More than 19,000 Danish wind turbines have been exported and the industry employs 12,000 people in Denmark and as many again abroad.

The UK must take this opportunity to become the leader in ‘offshore’ services just like Germany, Spain and Denmark have become the benchmark in ‘onshore’. To capitalise on this the Government needs to lead on education and training not only with graduates entering the energy sector today but also with existing workers who want to enter the renewable sector. This industry is not only becoming more stable but it is also very exciting for those entering and despite the current economic climate there is a huge demand for skilled workers.

However, the UK as a whole has a lot of work to do to reach it’s 2020 targets and this not only needs to be pushed by the government but also by energy companies around the world. Consumers need to be given the choice as to whether they would like their homes to be run by renewables, and companies should also be looking to at least substitute some of their energy consumption to renewable energy. We have to work together to become more green conscious and to seize an industry that will become a firm contributor to the UK’s economy.


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