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Wednesday, 17 May 2017 14:45

Optimistic global trends for jobs in renewables

Miriam Heale, Marketing Manager at specialist recruitment consultancy ALLEN & YORK, is optimistic about employment prospects across the global renewable energy sector.

In a recent White Paper published by ALLEN & YORK, entitled ‘Recruitment and career opportunities within the UK, European and global renewable and clean energy markets’ we take a look at employment trends across the sector and analyse the results of our annual renewable energy salary survey 2017.

allen  york renewable jobs 1 web2017Around 9.4 million people are currently employed globally across the renewable energy sector (IRENA, 2016).  Countries with the highest number of renewable energy jobs are China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany.  In the region of 67 countries have a renewable energy policy and most are looking at between a 15-20 per cent target of total energy production from renewables by 2020.  These global commitments show the strength of the industry and the progress made over the last 20 years.

Global Recruitment Trends 2017
Globally, China continues to lead the world in renewable employment, with more than with 3.5 million people in the sector.  Last year, China contributed to more than a third of the global renewable energy capacity and as the country’s solar boom continues, we hope to see a reduction in the chronic air pollution caused by its long dependency on coal.
Renewables employment in the US increased by 6% last year, reaching 769,000 people, driven by a boom in solar and wind. According to figures published by the US Department of Energy (US DOE), the solar workforce increased by 25% in 2016, while wind employment increased by 32%.  Driven by plummeting costs and growing consumer appetite, the renewable energy sector in the US looks set to thrive, despite their climate change sceptic President.
The EU are on course to meet their Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which is to fulfil at least 20% of their total energy needs from renewables by 2020. On 30 November 2016, the Commission published a proposal to revise the target to 27% renewables by 2030, giving an indication of the EU’s commitment to the renewables industry.  Solar and bioenergy will continue to be strong growth sectors, with consistent job growth within wind.
The UK is expected to provide 30% of its electricity, 12% of heating, and 10% of transport energy from renewables by 2020, but is estimated to be less than half way towards meeting its heat goal, while transport fuel from green energy has been capped at 4.75%.  In short, the UK need to improve their performance if they are to hit the 2020 RED targets.  Growth across AD and bioenergy looks set to continue, with an increase in job opportunities.  A slowdown in new wind and solar developments, has given rise to a steady flow of O&M and asset management positions.  However, over the next 2-5 years we should see an increase of new job opportunities as R3 developments continue to come on stream.

Current UK Recruitment Trends 2017
After a long period of growth in UK wind and solar over the past 10 years, the last 2 years has seen a major slowdown in large-scale developments, due in the main to the change in government subsidies and a perceived saturation of the marketplace.  However, these markets are well-established and strong across the UK and although new development may have slowed, the existing wind and solar farms still require staffing and optimising to their full-capacity. This has however reflected a shift in job opportunities within these markets, from EPC and development to asset management and O&M (operations and management).  
Optimisation of assets is paramount to achieving maximum output from existing developments, and as a result we have seen a steady demand for analysts and asset managers, as well as site managers and technicians to enable the smooth and consistent output of power from these sites.
allen  york renewable jobs windfarm webOffshore wind has also undergone a period of reduced recruitment activity throughout last year, however we anticipate an upturn in 2017/18 as the R3 developments across the UK coast come on-line. There are four offshore wind farms currently under construction, and a significant extension to the Burbo Bank farm off the North-West coast underway.  
Another exciting area of growth is Energy from Waste (EfW), Anaerobic Digestion (AD), biomass and gasification.  This is a marketplace that has really boomed over the last 2 years.  The RHI has had a direct effect on this strong growth, as well as tighter waste to landfill restrictions.  We have seen more small to medium sized bioenergy plants being built and as such the jobs market is strong.
The creation of smaller power plants across the country, has created an increased demand within Transmission and Distribution (T&D), an already candidate short market.  There is no shortage of opportunities for those skilled professionals working within grid connection and overhead line engineering.
Energy regulation is another area which has shown strong growth within the renewable energy jobs market over the last 2 years.  Understanding the regulation and policies within this very dynamic and ever changing sector, as well as managing investment and financial assets has become a vital role within energy companies and consultancies.  Increasingly ALLEN & YORK are working with employers to source specialists across energy; economics, policy, regulation and investment, and we see this as very much a growth area.
As a final note, it is worth mentioning that many of the consultancies we partner with are looking to Europe to expand their client base, particularly with the slow-down in the UK across the wind and solar markets, where the European market continues to remain steady.  The UK has very strong expertise across these industries, our health and safety records are exemplary, and as a result job opportunities are becoming more available for professionals interested in working across Europe on some very interesting and varied projects.
In summary, employment prospects across the global renewable energy sector continue to be optimistic.   IRENA research estimates that doubling the percentage of renewable energy across the global energy mix (which is in-line with current targets) would result in more than 24 million jobs worldwide – offering plenty of exciting new job opportunities across the industry.

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