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Training and focus events critical to tackle green skills shortage

The demand for clean energy technologies is rising fast as the push toward decarbonisation and the rising energy prices force people to shift their attention to greener solutions.

While general vehicle sales declined, the sales of electric vehicles rose by 70% year-on-year as of the end of May as customers increasingly turned to cleaner alternatives ahead of the 2030 ban on conventional vehicles. Solar, heat pump and thermal storage industries are experiencing a similar rise. In Q3 2021, nearly 100MW of solar capacity was deployed on rooftops nationwide, making up over 90% of the total Solar launched during that period. Chris Hewett, the CEO of Solar Energy UK, explains that these summer rooftop deployment figures are very positive for the UK solar industry. Hewett states that homeowners and businesses alike are rapidly looking to install rooftop solar and tap into reliable ways to reduce costs and carbon emissions. Hewett highlights that their members are incredibly busy and expect further growth for the future.

Despite the positive gains, several existing challenges need to be faced, particularly ensuring there is a workforce capable of meeting the rising demand. A survey coordinated by Solar Energy UK and the Electrical Contractors Association discovered that 48% of those operating in the solar and storage industries lacked access to skilled employees. The report also suggested inadequate training opportunities were available to improve the number of professionals required for these green industries. As the energy industry progresses, further recognition and experience within low-carbon sectors will become more vital than ever. To support this rising demand for installers and training, the recent InstallerSHOW launched a target event, ‘Installing the Future’. The event aimed to provide installers with practical insights into heat, biomass and hydrogen boilers, solar panels and energy storage. Visitors had the opportunity to discover how these products are fitted and integrated into existing systems, as well as the benefits to both the customer and business. Industry leaders in heat, water and energy industries gained practical insights into the potential of these technologies and how they can be scaled further for installation and generate energy savings.

The UK has various energy targets set to support the transition towards net-zero. For example, the UK targets to replace natural gas boilers with heat pumps for millions of properties. There are, however, concerns this will not be possible without a significant change in training opportunities. Industry members are calling for a more structured heat pump certification scheme with financial support and incentives to boost installer numbers. In the report ‘how to scale a highly-skilled heat pump industry’ by innovation charity Nesta, the findings suggested a complete rethink was critical around recruiting and training people to install 600,000 heat pumps every year from 2028. The proposed changes could involve a more clear training route for potential engineers. The report also suggested exploring financial support to encourage more people to train as low carbon heat engineers. The charity estimates there are currently 3,000 trained heat pump engineers in the UK. An additional 27,000 installers are required in the industry to achieve our 2028 targets. Industry analysts believe the lack of skilled engineers could severely impact legal targets of reaching net zero by 2050. The UK requires thousands of trained professionals to enable continued progress toward low-carbon alternatives. This shift can only happen if people can see the opportunity and have financial support. Often, initial training is expensive and deters people from pursuing this as a career. 

Further training and financial support are critical in preparing energy industry professionals for a net-zero future. Targeted low-carbon energy events provide opportunities for industry leaders from across renewables to showcase the best technology and expertise and a platform to collaborate and highlight both the benefits and challenges within the industry. People must be given a clear pathway toward low-carbon and have the financial support that enables them to follow a green career.

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