UK energy industry needs workforce boost to meet climate targets

Matthew Hall 28 January 2020 (Last Updated January 28th, 2020 14:18)

The UK energy sector must recruit 117,000 more staff in the next decade if the country is to meet its climate target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, according to a report by National Grid.

UK energy industry needs workforce boost to meet climate targets
Independent researcher Development Economics estimated the scale of the recruitment drive needed, concluding that the UK energy sector needs a total of 400,000 new recruits by 2050. Image credit: National Grid

The UK energy sector must recruit 117,000 more staff in the next decade if the country is to meet its climate target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, according to a report by National Grid.

Independent researcher Development Economics estimated the scale of the recruitment drive needed, concluding that the UK energy sector needs a total of 400,000 new recruits by 2050.

Of those roles, 260,000 will be new, while 140,000 hires will be needed to replace staff members who leave the workforce.

The report, ‘Building the Net Zero Energy Workforce’, outlines the challenges the UK power industry must overcome to meet the UK’s binding climate targets.

National Grid highlighted the loss of existing talent due to a baby boomer retirement crunch – one-fifth of people working in the energy sector are set to retire by 2030 – as well as a lack of young people taking STEM qualifications to plug the gaps. Development Economics estimated that the number of undergraduates enrolling in engineering and technology courses has to grow by over 30% by 2050.

National Grid has urged energy companies to tap into climate awareness to recruit a new generation into the sector. Research conducted by YouGov on behalf of National Grid found that 78% of UK adults think it is important to play a part in the UK’s efforts to reach net-zero emissions, and 58% of respondents aged 18-24 said they are interested in working for an organisation that contributes to that goal.

National Grid Chief Electrical Engineer David Wright said: “To build a skilled, diverse and motivated net-zero energy workforce that will tackle the global climate crisis, we’ve got to look at every stage of the pipeline.

“We know that over half of people want to work in this space so we’ve got to help the existing workforce to reskill while bringing new talent into the sector and inspiring the next generation to pursue STEM subjects at school and beyond.”

In this decade, the UK must increase electricity generation through low carbon means such as wind and solar power by around 50%, develop carbon capture usage and storage technology and hydrogen networks, and install 60,000 charging points to power 11 million electric vehicles to meet its net-zero targets.

UK Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Tackling climate change is not only saving the planet but is significantly boosting our economy. As we work to reduce our emissions to net zero by 2050, the UK has the potential to support two million green-collar jobs across our world-class renewables sector, among other industries.”