KIVI: Shortage of skilled workers a potential showstopper in energy transition

A shortage of skilled workers could be a potential showstopper in the energy transition and the industry needs to be more connected to the educational level, according to Sjoerd Meijer, Advisor at the Royal Institute of Engineers (KIVI).

At last year’s Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference (OEEC), Meijer, together with Erik Hiensch, Head of Offshore Operations from TenneT, talked about the challenges the industry is facing when it comes to shortage of workforce.

Europe is determined to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. For this, the EU targets at least 60 GW of offshore wind capacities by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050. Reaching these goals is ambitious, especially in times of shortage of skilled workers, global supply chain issues, and tight market capacities, according to Hiensch.

During his speech, he revealed that TenneT is actively working to contribute to these goals. The company already operates 18 offshore grid connections in the Netherlands and Germany and four interconnectors across European borders. This means it is currently supplying more than 18 million European households with electricity.

Until 2031, TenneT plans to deliver 19 more offshore grid connection systems, nine in Germany and ten in the Netherlands. The systems have a capacity of around 34.5 GW. However, to fulfill the goals and complete the projects, a skilled workforce is needed.

“The market is facing a shortage of skilled workers,” Hiensch remarked. “Capacity rising, steep curves, connection to people.”

In the coming years, TenneT will need more and more workers to work on its systems, and not just for the offshore part, but also for the onshore. Old infrastructure will also need to be replaced.

“It’s also the onshore part. because we know that building out offshore also means that capacity needs to be transmitted inland in the onshore grids,” he said.

During his speech, Meijer from the Royal Institute of Engineers talked about the challenges and possible solutions. There is a need to form good connections at the scientific level/higher vocational level. Also, more efforts are needed in intermediate vocal education.

“The workforce challenge is one of the potential roadblocks if we talk about moving to a sustainable future,” Meijer said.

“If you talk about onshore in numbers, we see that in 2022, there was already a total shortage of energy-related or, actually, energy transition-related professions of about 48,000 jobs that were not fulfilled. Out of those 48,000, about 15,000 were linked to the offshore energy skills shortage.”

KIVI is actively working on connecting the industry with engineers and students. However, more effort from industry partners and governments is needed if the targets are to be reached. Meijer revealed also several solutions to these problems.

“Firstly, one solution we believe is that craftsmanship should be promoted, appreciated, and remunerated. Secondly, to promote technical professions at primary and secondary schools.” Meijer said.

So the question arises, should the industry lead the initiatives and find solutions, or should the government ensure the gap is closed?

In the end, Meijer remarked that to solve part of the energy transition roadblock, which is skills shortage, “it’s about educating, and informing the future workforce, which is the children”.

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