Photo: Illustration; Source: RGU

Majority of UK offshore workforce transitioning to low carbon energy by 2030

The offshore energy workforce mix will change significantly in the next 10 years, with roles in decarbonised energies projected to increase from 20 to 65 per cent of all jobs in the sector.

According to new research from Robert Gordon University (RGU), over 90 per cent of the UK’s oil and gas workforce have medium to high skills transferability and are well-positioned to work in adjacent energy sectors like offshore wind, carbon capture utilization and storage, and hydrogen.

With over $241 billion in investments to be made in capital and operating activities in the UK offshore energy sector over the next ten years, around 200,000 skilled people are expected to be required in the UK offshore energy industry to ensure delivery in 2030.

As stated in the UK Offshore Energy Workforce Transferability Review by RGU, around 80 per cent of the jobs in 2030 are envisaged to be in nine key job families – operations, technicians, engineering, projects, commercial/business development/marketing, procurement/supply chain management, finance, HR, and HSE. Soft skills and other non-technical skills are generally highly transferable to adjacent energy sectors

Around 100,000 of the jobs in 2030 are projected to be filled by people transferring from existing oil and gas jobs to offshore renewable roles, new graduates, and new recruitment from outside the existing UK offshore energy sector.

Currently, around 160,000 people directly and indirectly employed in the UK offshore energy sector in 2021. To underpin the developing offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage as well as the vital ongoing oil and gas activities in the UK that number must increase by at least 40,000.

The offshore energy workforce mix is also expected to change with over 65 per cent of the workforce by 2030 projected to support low carbon energy activities.

As for the spread, of the 200,000 people projected to be employed in the UK offshore energy sector by 2030, around 90,000 or 45 per cent are expected to support offshore wind, 70,000 or 35 per cent will work in oil and gas, and the remaining 40,000 or 20 per cent will cover other offshore-related energy projects and clusters.

The review also indicated that the impact of a reduced ambition, combined with a lower activity level and accelerated decline in the oil and gas industry could reduce the offshore energy workforce requirements to fewer than 140,000 jobs by 2030. 

Paul de Leeuw, director of the energy transition institute at RGU and the Review’s lead author, said: “Successful delivery of the UK and the devolved Governments’ energy transition ambitions has the opportunity to secure around 200,000 jobs in 2030 for the offshore energy workforce.

With the overall number of jobs in the UK oil and gas industry projected to decline over time, the degree of transferability of jobs to adjacent energy sectors such as offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen or other industrial sectors will be key to ensuring the UK retains its world-class skills and capabilities. 

With many of the skills and competencies required for the offshore energy sector to be highly interchangeable, the energy transition offers a unique opportunity to create a new world-class net-zero energy workforce.  

There is a significant role for the higher education sector to play in ensuring the targets set out by governments and the industry are achieved and that the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce is delivered to meet the demands of the changing energy landscape”.

UK Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan added: “Through our leading North Sea Transition Deal, we set out how we will make certain we have an energy skills base in the UK that is fit for the future, while our Green Jobs Taskforce will advise on how we can create the broader skilled workforce to deliver net-zero by 2050”.

Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work Richard Lochhead said: “The re-deployment and, where necessary, re-training of oil and gas workers will be key to ensuring a just transition over the next decade, and to meeting the labour and skills needs of a growing renewables sector.

Our Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan puts knowledge and skills at the heart of a systematic approach to retaining skills and expertise as we transition to becoming a net-zero economy”.

Celia Anderson of RenewableUK concluded: “Renewables are creating new opportunities for people across the UK, including workers leaving fossil fuel industries who have relevant transferable skills. We’re going to see a huge expansion in offshore wind over the course of this decade, quadrupling our current capacity by 2030.

That means we’ll need a massive influx of highly-skilled UK workers to build vital new energy infrastructure, as this report shows. Former oil and gas workers offer a wealth of knowledge and experience in this field.

Another important step is for Government to ensure that it reaches consenting decisions on major renewable energy projects on time so that we can maintain our strong project pipeline in the years ahead. This will help the UK to help to reach net-zero emissions as fast as possible”.