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What Is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is harnessed from renewable resources which are naturally replenished. This includes energy sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.
Emerging concerns about global sustainability have catapulted renewable energy into both mainstream and political concerns. Between 2009 and 2015, the Obama administration invested over $150 billion into renewables in the US in attempts to combat global warming. As of 2020, renewable energy sources accounted for about 12.6% of total U.S. energy consumption and about 19.8% of electricity generation.
As countries convened in Glasgow to re-align strategies and renew ambitions at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), there have been calls to increase the momentum of the global energy transition into renewable energy.
Subsequently, the following initiatives have been pledged:
The Transition to Renewable Energy - Where Is This Talent Coming From?
The sprint towards renewable energy has been excelled by its widespread socio-economic benefits, including job prospects. The Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2021 report by the IRENA found that the renewable energy sector employed 12 million people in 2020 – a steady increase of 7.3 million since 2012. Furthermore, renewable energy jobs also appear to be more inclusive, showing better gender balance with 32% women employed in the sector - compared to 22% in the fossil fuels sector.
The question is, do we have enough talent to fill these roles?
Recent reports suggest that recruitment professionals are worried about an impending talent crisis for the sector, leaving companies unable to fill essential roles. Furthermore, with an increase in funding by government and online projects, there is a high risk of delays if we do not have the subsequent talent.
Transitioning Skills & Knowledge from Traditional Power Generation into Renewable Energy Roles
The future of jobs in energy, in particular traditional power generation, is uncertain. Certainly, the switch towards renewable energy by all major, global economies may result in several traditional roles becoming obsolete. Those with skills from traditional power are realising they can utilise their transferable skills to transition into the renewable energy space.
Prior to offshore wind farms, offshore gravity-based concrete structures were utilised by traditional power generation for drilling, storage, or extraction. Those with experience working on these structures hold attractive and transferable expertise in engineering, construction, and project management.
Built with the same structure, wind farms now require candidates with similar skills. Therefore, the industry should consider looking towards the oil and gas industry for experienced talent.
Moreover, some of the most technical and advanced instruments within energy are used in traditional power generation. If we want to achieve renewable energy globally, those with experience managing or engineering these instruments in other energy sectors could be a great source of talent.
Certainly, those with senior, managerial experience will play a crucial role, overseeing candidate transitions into the renewable sector.
High voltage Skills and Safety:
Similarly, high voltage work within the oil and gas industry is also needed within the renewable energy sector as the safety procedures and high voltage environments are similar across all the energy sectors. Therefore, exposure and knowledge in this area can make for a smoother transition into renewables.
The Race Towards Renewable Energy Storage
Due to the intermittency of renewable energy such as wind and solar, we cannot control renewable energy in the same way we could with fossil fuels such as coal. Therefore, there is a huge demand to create complementary technology to help fill the gaps - a renewable energy storage solution.
In a recent TedxDanubia Talk, Michael Shellenberger, Time Magazine’s “Hero of the Environment'' and energy expert, explained that renewable energy sources can be particularly problematic during summer months revealing that some US states have had to pay neighbouring states to take their electricity so that they do not suffer a blow out of their electrical grid, after receiving too much power from solar developments.
As a result, we must innovate and invent to overcome this hurdle. It is, therefore, not surprising that the demand for renewable energy storage solutions is already soaring - and innovators are responding to the call:
1. Pumped Hydropower Storage
2. Battery Storage
Intelligent battery software employs complex algorithms to coordinate energy production and computerised control systems are used to decide when to keep the energy to provide reserves or release it to the grid.
This type of intelligent energy storage is already being utilised by Amazon:
During Q3, ESS Inc announced several agreements that indicate big changes are on the horizon:
3. Green Hydrogen Storage:
Hydrogen is often forgotten about with the increased popularity of lithium batteries. However, a recent simulation completed by the University of California, Irvine (UCI) showed that to meet the total world annual energy demand of global solar and wind dynamic production, it would require the support of nearly 20,000TWh of energy storage. Meaning, even if all our planet’s lithium was dedicated to support grid storage, we would still fall short of the energy storage capacity the grid requires.
Although Hydrogen has the highest energy per mass of any fuel, its low ambient temperature density results in a low energy per unit volume, therefore requiring the development of advanced storage methods that have potential for higher energy density.
Education, Training and Upskilling is Paramount:
As the renewable energy sector continues to expand, education and training, alongside upskilling and reskilling will play a pivotal part in the successful global transition into renewable energy.
The Annual Global CEO Survey from PwC revealed that more than 76% of CEOs from the energy, utilities, and resources sectors said the availability of skills (particularly digital) was among their list of future concerns. The report concluded that the lack of upskilling programmes, combined with a reluctance to recruit from outside of the sector was holding back successful transitions.
Similarly, in September 2020 campaign groups ‘Friends of the Earth Scotland’, ‘Greenpeace UK’, and ‘Platform’, reported that 81% of UK-based employees working in fossil fuels wanted to transition from the sector into renewables. The group added that although many skills were transferable, few companies were tapping into already available knowledge.
It’s a similar story for recruiters. When asked about the main reasons for the ongoing skills shortage in the Energy industry, over half (56%) of recruiters said the biggest challenge they face is an ageing workforce and lack of skilled staff, while 40% felt the biggest driver of the skills shortage is insufficient education and training.
This suggests that a cross-pollination between talent from traditional power generation into the renewables space may be the short-term solution for finding talented candidates to begin the transition. However, as an industry, we must pay closer attention to education and internship opportunities for renewable energy engineers if we want a secure talent pipeline in the long-term.
So, Do We Have Enough Talent to Power This Transformation?
The global movement towards sustainable energy storage makes renewable energy an attractive sector to work in, and with the turmoil in oil prices affecting job security for workers in traditional power generation, many engineers are open to moving into the renewable energy sector.
Meanwhile, while renewable energy storage may be hailed as the ultimate ‘just-in-time’ product, its success won’t be possible without increasingly sophisticated software solutions, from the right talent.
This is where the benefits of strategic talent mapping come into their own, providing the insights required to maximise human potential and accelerate business success. Without a doubt, businesses must consider more robust recruitment strategies such as talent pipelining, employer brand, talent motivations, flexible working, competitive salaries, and sustainable projects if they’re to succeed.
At CSG Talent, we’re already sourcing candidates who can innovate and build creative, renewable storage ideas, championing diverse talent who can power this transformation and ultimately, help save the planet.