Europe’s push towards a greener energy future may encounter hurdles due to a lack of adequately skilled workers in the renewable energy sector. This shortage is particularly concerning given that the renewable industry often offers lower salaries compared to the traditional oil and gas sector, according to industry analysts.
European Union (EU) nations, along with the UK and the U.S., are being urged to address this skills gap to ensure a smooth transition to low-carbon economies. Trade associations have highlighted the importance of preparing both the current and upcoming workforce for the evolving energy landscape.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) emphasized in a report last year that as the adoption of clean energy technologies accelerates, resulting in more job opportunities, it’s crucial to equip workers with the necessary skills. This would not only capitalize on the sector’s growth but also prevent potential slowdowns due to labor and skills shortages.
Highlighting the scale of ambition, North Sea nations have committed to a combined offshore wind capacity of 120 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, aiming to reach 300 GW by 2050. This is a significant leap from the current capacity of 25 GW. However, these leaders acknowledge the growing demand for skilled professionals to plan, construct, and operate these offshore assets. Addressing this demand is seen as a regional challenge, prompting discussions on enhancing qualifications, reskilling, and training across North Sea regions.
WindEurope, an association focused on the wind energy sector, stated that the offshore wind workforce in Europe needs to expand from its current 80,000 to 250,000 by 2030 to achieve these targets. The association stressed that while investments are essential, they alone cannot drive the industry. It’s the skilled workforce that will truly propel the sector forward, emphasizing the role of national governments in fostering the required skills base.
In response, the EU has initiated a comprehensive renewable energy skills partnership. However, a persistent wage disparity remains, with the conventional energy sector still offering more attractive salaries than green energy roles. A study by the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute earlier this year highlighted this wage gap as a potential deterrent for professionals considering a shift to low-carbon roles.
Markus Janser, a senior researcher at Germany’s Institute for Employment Research, shared his perspective with the Financial Times. He opined that addressing the skills shortage would become more manageable once the renewable sector offers competitive wages and working conditions.