Slower renewables transition risks 95,000 offshore jobs in UK, report warns
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Up to 95,000 jobs in the UK’s offshore energy sector will be at risk if the rate of investment and activity in UK renewables does not increase significantly, a Scottish university has said.
A new report by Robert Gordon University (RGU) found that the sector could thrive with the right investment environment, but a slower transition away from the oil and gas extraction industry that has dominated the North Sea for many years presents risks.
It said that a successful transition to renewables relied on the UK being able to retain the offshore oil and gas supply chain, its workforce and associated skills over the next five years.
This is because there is currently limited capacity for the offshore renewables sector to host the quantity of skilled oil and gas workers impacted by the predicted decline in the sector until later this decade.
The Powering up the Workforce report estimates that a successful transition could see the offshore energy workforce increase by up to 50 per cent – from over 150,000 in 2023 to 225,000 by the end of the decade.
Professor Paul de Leeuw, director of RGU’s energy transition institute, said: “With investment at risk and wind projects facing delays, the findings underline the present-day situation for the UK offshore energy industry and its stakeholders.
“The big prize of a significant jobs gain is still within our collective reach. Inaction or simply slow progress will mean that offshore energy job numbers overall could drop by 15 per cent to 130,000 by 2030, making the path towards net zero even harder to negotiate.”
The data in the report is based on a workforce visibility tool, developed by RGU, that draws together information from industry, organisations, governments, individual companies and research analysis.
A transition towards renewables will still see the oil and gas workforce decline from 120,000 today to around 87,000 by 2030, which is in line with production decline and decommissioning activities.
A more rapid decline in the oil and gas sector, caused by limiting new investment and reducing operational activities, could reduce the oil and gas workforce to around 60,000 by 2030. In addition to the loss of jobs, this would incur a “significant loss of skills” in the future energy sector, the report said.
The analysis suggests there is a workforce ‘goldilocks zone’ between 2024 and 2028 when the UK’s supply chain capacity and capability can be sustained while transferring workers over to greener industries such as offshore wind.
“The report clearly shows that with the right interventions at the right time, the UK can achieve its strategic energy goals in reaching its net zero objectives as well as protecting and significantly enhancing workforce numbers in the offshore energy sector,” de Leeuw added.
Last week, the UK’s renewable energy strategy suffered a blow when no new offshore wind projects were bought by developers at the latest Contracts for Difference auction.
Industry experts had warned that this might be the case after ministers refused to increase the maximum price for the auction despite a 40 per cent increase in the cost of manufacturing and installing turbines.
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