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Investment in select industries can generate over 100,000 green energy jobs in the north

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A new study by Transition Economics and Platform found significant potential for regional job development in the clean industries of housing retrofit, offshore wind and hydrogen electrolyser manufacturing. The recent report focuses on the potential for clean job development in areas with considerable employment in the oil and gas industry and its supply chains.

The study discovered that 42,000 new clean energy jobs could be created in Tyneside, 33,800 new jobs in Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire, 28,300 jobs in Teesside and an additional 34,200 in Fife and Tayside over the next decade.

Jake Molloy, an RMT Union representative and ex-oil rig worker explain that the research shows it is possible to eradicate oil and gas that ensures communities are not at risk and believes we now need further political support.

Molloy explains that any discussion about a just transition must ensure offshore oil and gas workers are supported in the shift toward renewables. As we continue to phase out North Sea oil and gas, we must create the necessary measures for workers, such as skills transfers, job guarantees and significantly improved conditions.

At present, individuals are struggling to gain employment in the offshore wind industry due to challenges with training and conditions associated with pay, safety and job security in offshore oil and gas. Rosemary Harris, the just transition campaigner at Platform, explains that in these current political conditions, we must look toward government leaders in regions dependent on offshore oil and gas to push for investment in renewables to ensure a fair and just transition for professionals in the UK. Oil and gas extraction is detrimental to people and the climate. We must continue to focus on scaling up alternative energy systems and enable people in carbon-intensive industries the opportunity to move toward renewables.

Focusing on accelerating upskilling

Molloy believes that holding on to the fossil fuel industry isn’t possible and will only impact employees who could potentially end up lost in these industries as they continue to decline.

Existing UK Government and industry policy must focus on replacing jobs lost through the decline of oil and gas. There has been a significant drop in jobs linked with offshore oil and gas, with reports suggesting a decrease from 326,000 in 2016 to 178,500 in 2020. Moving away from fossil fuels can create a significant number of new jobs by 2032 as the number of oil and gas jobs is impacted.

Creating jobs on this scale requires structured policies and investment in industries with the highest potential to reduce emissions and deliver high-quality jobs. This involves creating secure contracts, fair pay, training and upskilling and good HSE practices.

Many professionals in conventional energy industries have the necessary experience to enable a move to the clean energy industry. For example, some oil and gas professionals have the skills for offshore wind, carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) and low carbon production and transport. Coal miners have the experience to mine vital minerals, such as lithium, copper and cobalt, which is forecast to see a considerable rise in demand in the coming years. Furthermore, the environmental restoration of closed mines or wells can provide important jobs for several years after closure.

Managing the impacts of the changing labour market is a big focus for the energy transition, and enabling businesses to find qualified people for new positions is also a big challenge. The clean energy industry is facing difficulty hiring professionals to maintain pace with the progression in the clean energy market. If solar and wind development increase as predicted, the labour constraints could hinder the ability to accelerate the shift toward a low-carbon future.

Employment development can target key regions, and communities impacted by the decline of local industries or are historically disadvantaged. Making the transition function for people is critical for consistent progress in decarbonising global energy systems. 

As highlighted by the IES, clean energy transitions at the core are for people and about people. Recognising the challenges of managing negative employment factors isn’t delaying the transition to a clean energy future but ensures we can design and deliver it a the rate required to benefit everyone.

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