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When it comes to employment opportunities for engineers the global renewables industry is becoming an increasingly favourable source of opportunities.

According to a new report by industry-body The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), global employment in this burgeoning industry hit 9.8 million by the close of 2016 (an increase of 1.1% from 2015).

A diverse and global industry

Whilst employment opportunities in the industry are available across the globe, the report highlights those countries in which roles are highly concentrated; China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany account for the bulk of employment growth. The report also highlights that the overall global ‘balance’ of renewables employment has shifted East towards Asia with 62% of the global total renewable jobs located in the continent.

Drilling down beneath the broad term ‘renewables’ we can observe that certain clean energy technologies are providing the majority of employment opportunities. Solar photovoltaic (PV) is by far the largest employer (and has registered a growth of 12% from 2015). Liquid biofuels, hydropower and wind power follow respectively.
IRENA renewable energy employment by technology
Image via IRENA

An untapped talent pool?

The bedrock of energy generation over the past century, the fossil fuel industry, is coming under pressure from multiple angles; the ongoing depressed oil price, continued low-levels of capital expenditure on new projects, the usurpation of coal by natural gas, political pressure and unfavourable legislation are all combining to create a difficult operational environment for fossil fuel based energy generators. The knock-on effect is a depressed jobs market and a pool of talent that could be unleashed upon the global renewables industry. Looking at the Oil & Gas industry alone, it is estimated that at least 440,000 people were laid off in 2015 and 2016. This included 196,000 jobs in support services, 91,000 in exploration and production, and 45,000 in drilling.

As we have previously written, there is significant potential for these Oil & Gas workers to make the switch and apply their talents within the growing renewables sector. The Energy Industries Council (EIC) summarises the options for Oil & Gas workers succinctly:

“Some ways you can diversify from Oil & Gas to wind are through design and engineering work, support structure installation, cable lay, foundation work, offshore substations, and operations and maintenance. Some of the shallow water turbines are supported by steel jacket structures, which are also used in shallow water offshore Oil & Gas. There are also geological surveys, diving, and much more, so there is huge potential to diversify.”

We agree!

New projects on the horizon

Falling costs and supportive policies and legislation mean that we can look forward to the ongoing growth of the renewables industry and the attendant jobs that this entails.

Not only are we witnessing a raft of new projects coming online, but we are also witnessing a sharpened focus amongst key players within the industry. Take for example last week’s announcement by Dong Energy that they will be divesting their Oil & Gas arm so that they are better able to focus on their core wind business. Consider also GE’s recent acquisition of LM Wind Power. Such moves and investments inspire confidence that the best is yet to come for the renewables industry.

Turning our focus from global to local, let’s look at some of the major new renewables projects that are on the horizon here in the UK:
Vine Farm Solar Photovoltaic Park
Vine Farm Solar (Photovoltaic) Park

Currently under construction by German firm BayWa r.e. Vine Farm solar (photovoltaics) park in South Cambridgeshire is set to have an impressive capacity of 45MW with the solar panels covering over 250 acres. It is expected that Vine Farm will be completed and operational this year.
Kilgallioch Onshore Wind Farm
Kilgallioch Onshore Wind Farm

Scottish Power Renewables is currently developing the large onshore wind farm Kilgallioch in Dumfries and Galloway County, Scotland. Once completed, at a cost of around £300m, Kilgallioch is expected to generate 239MW of electricity from its 96 turbines. All being well, Kilgallioch should be operational this year.
Rampion Offshore Wind Farm
Rampion Offshore Wind Farm

13km off the coast of Sussex, E.ON is in the process of constructing the Rampion offshore wind farm that will have a capacity of 400.2MW. The project’s 116 wind turbines will cover an area of 72km and will be visible from Brighton beach.
MeyGen Tidal Energy Project
MeyGen Tidal Energy Project

Located in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth, a body of water between the north Scottish mainland and Stroma Island, the MeyGen tidal energy project will produce 398MW of electricity from its 269 turbines once completed in the early 2020s.
Lynemouth Biomass Power Station

Lynemouth Biomass Power Station

What was once a coal power plant for many years, Lynemouth Power Station on the Northumberland Coast, is now in the process of being converted into a biomass power plant that will be able to generate 420MW of electricity from burning wood pellets.

With a plethora of new projects either planned or current under construction, and major engineering companies making big commitments to the industry, it’s clear that renewables will go a long way toward ‘renewing’ the engineering job market.

Supporting global leaders in renewable energy

Fircroft supplies some of the biggest names in the industry with workforce solutions that are cost effective, compliant, innovative and delivered with our deep understanding of the specialist needs of renewables businesses.

Power up your recruitment efforts with Fircroft. Speak to us today.



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