The Renewable Energy Sectors Fuelling the Demand for Green Skills


The expansion of renewable energy and the growing need for green skills is a burning issue for governments, businesses, and the public worldwide. Increasing the supply of greener energy sources to curb climate change and overcome the energy crisis has become critical, especially due to global leaders' ambitious Net Zero targets. 

Due to the urgency of its expansion, the renewable energy sector is predicted to be worth over $2 trillion by 2030. Over the coming years, greater numbers of businesses and people will switch from environmentally unsustainable energy sources, such as coal, oil, and gas, to renewable energy sources to preserve the planet and gain a much more reliable and everlasting energy source. 

In this guide, we will explore the fastest-growing sectors in renewable energy, how they will impact the industry's future, and what businesses need to implement around renewable energy recruitment to ensure they have the right talent in place. So, let's start with the sectors fueling the rise of renewable energy and the demand for green skills. 

Wind Power 

Wind has become one of the biggest hopes for a green future for our planet. Currently, it makes up a small but growing fraction of global electricity production at 5%. Worldwide, wind energy capacity is over 743 gigawatts, more than produced by grid-connected solar energy and around half as much as hydropower. Nearly three-quarters of global wind energy produced comes from farms located in the following five countries:

  • China
  • United States
  • Germany
  • India 
  • Spain

In 2022, wind electricity generation increased by a record 265 TWh, up 14% on the previous year, reaching more than 2100 TWh. This was the second-highest growth among all renewable energy sectors, behind solar. 

However, to achieve Net Zero targets by 2050, there would need to be approximately 7400 TWh of wind power generated in 2030, and the average annual generation growth rate needs to increase to around 17%. Therefore, significant investment, planning, and recruitment drives are needed to ensure the required talent and projects are in place to produce these levels of power. 

One such project is The Dogger Bank Wind Farm, a UK-based offshore wind farm being developed between 130km and 190km from the North East coast of England. The scale of the project is immense, with the farm occupying an area nearly the size of Greater London. The turbines themselves are 260m tall, almost twice the height of the London Eye. The delivery and operation of the farm will create 470 renewable energy jobs. 

When it is fully completed in 2026, the farm will have an installed capacity of 3.6 GW of renewable energy, more than two and a half times the size of the next largest offshore wind farm. It will generate enough clean energy to power 6 million homes yearly, supporting the UK government in achieving its Net Zero targets. 

Solar Power 

In 2022, the world built more new solar capacity than every other energy source combined. In fact, Solar has been the fastest-growing source of electricity for the 18th year in a row. The rise of economical solar power is one of our best hope for mitigating climate change and providing the world with reliable, clean energy.

The IEA expects global spending on solar energy in 2023 will outpace spending on oil production for the first time in history, with $380 billion on solar compared with $370 billion on oil. Some significant statistics that underline the growing presence of solar in global power production include: 

  • In Europe in 2022, solar power generated more electricity than natural gas. 
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that global solar capacity will triple by 2027, becoming the largest power source in the world.
  • Australia consumed the most solar energy per capita in 2022, reaching 3,868 kWh, followed by The Netherlands, Japan, Israel, and Chile.
  • Approximately 4.5% of the global electricity generation comes from solar.
  • Annual installations of Solar PV grew 929% from 2010 to 2021.
  • China manufactures 80% of all the solar panels produced worldwide.

Total solar capacity surpassed one terawatt (1,284 TWh) for the first time in 2022, up 26% from the previous year. The sector is growing at approximately 20% per year. If this trend continues, the sector will reach six terawatts by 2031. In terms of capacity, Solar would, therefore, be bigger than the combined total of coal, gas, nuclear, and hydropower. 

The Inflation Reduction Act is Powering Wind and Solar’s Future

In the US, wind has already become the dominant renewable energy source. The country's wind turbines can generate over 100 million watts of electricity. This is enough to supply power to around 29 million homes. With the cost of wind energy plummeting over the last decade, it is only set to increase in the US and countries worldwide. 

To drive the increase in supply even further and make the US a world leader in clean energy, the most significant recent development in the global renewables sector is President Biden signing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022. It has been hailed as one of the most important action steps the US Congress has taken in the country's history. 

The legislation will put aside $369 billion over the next ten years to support the expansion of renewable energy and play a significant role in achieving President Biden's goal of 50% to 52% reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2030. It will also extend and expand the existing tax credits, encourage investments in renewable energy projects, and improve project economics.  

Many renewable energy projects are needed to reach these goals, and with that, there are necessary green skills in demand to design, plan, and build the infrastructure needed. Analysis has shown the act will be responsible for more than 1 million wind and solar jobs by 2035. It is also expected to boost the country's installed solar and onshore wind capacity by 40% by 2030. 

Marcelo Ortego, a renewables analyst from Rystad Energy, commented on the significance of IRA. 

'The Inflation Reduction Act is a game changer for the US wind and solar industry. The tax credits in the bill will strengthen the economic feasibility of new project developments and boost the wind and solar markets' growth trend this decade and beyond. In particular, onshore wind capacity growth, which was expected to slow towards 2030, is now expected to regain momentum towards the end of the decade.' 

Clean Hydrogen

Today, we use approximately 100 million tonnes of hydrogen for practices such as fertiliser production and chemical feedstock. However, the issue with this type of 'grey' hydrogen is that it is produced from fossil fuels. It is estimated that around a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions are produced yearly from hydrogen production, which equals around 2% of total global emissions. 

However, there has been a rise in 'clean' hydrogen, an energy produced using water and other renewable energy sources. Clean hydrogen can be used as an alternative to fossil fuels in heavy-polluting industries such as steel, aviation, and shipping. Due to the growing demand for clean hydrogen, it is expected to play a central role in helping the world reach its net zero targets by 2050, alongside wind and solar. 

McKinsey and the Hydrogen Council, whose members consist of more than 140 companies, conducted a series of reports on how clean hydrogen can revolutionise the energy sector. The report's key findings included:

  • Clean hydrogen can contribute as much as 80 gigatons of CO2 reduction by 2050.
  • More than 680 large-scale hydrogen projects have been announced worldwide, amounting to $240 billion of investment. The region breakdown of these projects is as follows:
  • Europe - 314
  • Asia - 154
  • North America - 103
  • Oceania - 54
  • Middle East and Africa - 34
  • Latin America - 25
  • Clean hydrogen costs are expected to decline over the next 10 years, opening the door for further future investments.
  • The steel industry, which accounts for more than 8% of global emissions, has announced 52 global steelmaking projects with green-energy ambitions. 

The rise of the clean hydrogen economy has the potential to provide 18% of the global energy demand with a $2.5 trillion annual revenue, generating 30 million jobs by 2050

Innovative Talent Acquisition Strategy for Securing Green Skills

For net zero and other environmental targets to be hit, the rapid expansion that the renewable energy sector is experiencing cannot stop and arguably needs to increase. IRENA (the International Renewable Energy Association) stated that for these ambitious targets to be met, renewable energy jobs would need to rise from 12.7 million in 2021 to 38 million in 2030 and 42 million in 2050. 

For the industry and businesses to find the talent they need to guarantee the further expansion and success of the sector, leaders need to take urgent action to ensure they have the professionals with the right green skills in place now and in the future. 

STEM can Provide the Green Skills the Industry Demands

Due to the scale of the challenge of finding and retaining talent in renewable energy jobs, governments and businesses need to go beyond the usual recruitment methods, such as benefits, compensation packages and career progression paths. While these incentives are vitally important, it does not solve the issue of the volume of professionals needed with the required green skills to fill the millions of jobs needed over the coming decades. 

Many governments have prioritised developing the next generation of local talent to fuel national industry expansion, but none have done it on the scale of China. In 2016, The World Economic Forum reported that in 2016 the country had 4.7 million recent STEM graduates. Due to the country's renewable energy expansion in recent years, this number is expected to rise 300% by 2030, a significant increase compared to only 30% rises in Europe and the US. 

Securing future talent with the right green skills will help cement China's position as a global leader in renewable energy. However, other countries must follow their lead due to the global effort needed to tackle climate change. 

In the UK, as part of the Department of Education's Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy, the government has increased its focus on key subjects, including STEM, to encourage young people to pursue a career in renewable energy. Some of the apprenticeships and training courses that have been introduced as part of the strategy include: 

  • Green Jobs Delivery Group
  • All-Energy Apprenticeship (AEA)
  • The National eNERGY Skills Accelerator (NESA)
  • Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB)

The UK also hosted the 2023 International Green Skills Conference, which explored the challenges and opportunities for developing green skills training and career paths. The annual event brings together education leaders and business leaders worldwide to discuss vital topics such as:

  • What does "green skills" mean in a national economic context, and can there be an effective national strategy?
  • Why are there challenges in providing green skills in response to the clear job demand?
  • How can universities improve on meeting local, national, and worldwide needs for green skills? 
  • Best-practice strategies for effective partnerships between educators, policymakers, and industry professionals.

The conference highlights that the education system will be crucial in equipping young people and adult learners for careers that support the transition to renewable energy. Education systems must be updated to include content on climate change, sustainability, and other environmental issues. They also need to provide opportunities for learners to develop the skills and knowledge they need to work in green jobs, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and environmental conservation.

In addition, business input is needed to ensure that learners and trainees leave their education systems with the skills employers require for renewable energy jobs. Businesses are the ones who will be hiring these workers, so they need to be involved in the design of education programs to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the workforce. Organisations can also provide internships and apprenticeships to give learners hands-on experience in green jobs.

Should the Industry Consider Transferable Skills?

Due to the sheer number of renewable energy jobs needed in the coming years, just recycling the existing pool of talent and supplementing this with school leavers and graduates isn't going to be enough to support the growth the renewable energy sector needs. 

Whilst investing in STEM is vital, there are obstacles, such as transformational policy change and the time it will take for governments and the private sector to raise the funds needed to provide training courses and apprenticeships. Therefore, to find today’s talent, do business leaders and hiring managers need to be increasingly looking for candidates outside of the industry who have transferable skills?

Shifting the Mindset for a Greener Future

To encourage this change in mindset, we must offer compelling reasons for professionals to make the switch. According to the 2021 UK Offshore Energy Workforce Transferability Review by the RGU Energy Transition Institute, approximately 70% of the UK oil and gas workforce possesses medium skills transferability to other energy industries, particularly onshore wind. An additional 20% have high transferability. This is particularly evident in offshore wind, where transferable skills exist in manufacturing, planning, maintenance, and operations, all closely aligned with the challenges of large engineering projects in deep-sea environments.

The Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2021 by IRENA sheds light on another promising aspect: approximately half of all jobs in the sector require minimal formal training and non-degree level education. Individuals with practical problem-solving skills and good manual dexterity possess highly transferable skills. Such talent can be sourced from various industry sectors, broadening the diversity of the renewable energy workforce.

Furthermore, considering that a significant portion of roles within renewable energy companies falls under corporate and administrative functions, there's ample opportunity to bring in professionals with no prior sector experience. Talent acquisition teams must work to challenge the notion that renewable energy experience is a 'must-have' requirement for these roles.

By shifting the mindset and recognising the value of transferable skills, we can tap into a broader talent pool, accelerating the sector's growth. As the urgency of our environmental challenges continues to mount, it's time for the renewable energy industry to embrace innovation in technology and its approach to talent acquisition.

If you would like to discover more about the role of transferable skills in closing the skills gap in renewable energy recruitment, download our latest report, Talent Must Lead the Renewable Energy Revolution.  

The Future of Renewable Energy

The future of renewable energy is undeniably bright, with remarkable growth in several key sectors that hold the promise of a greener and more sustainable world. Wind, solar, and hydrogen are at the forefront of this transformation, with each sector showing substantial expansion and potential. 

The global push towards renewable energy is not limited to technological advancements but extends to workforce development and talent acquisition strategy. The industry is undergoing a monumental shift in its approach to securing the talent it needs. Governments and businesses recognise the importance of STEM education and invest in developing future professionals with the green skills needed for renewable energy jobs. 

Additionally, there is a growing recognition of the value of transferable skills, allowing professionals from various sectors to contribute to the renewable energy revolution. This innovative approach to talent acquisition strategy is vital to meet the ambitious targets of net-zero emissions and a sustainable energy future. As the renewable energy industry continues to evolve, its success will hinge on tapping into a diverse talent pool and embracing new opportunities for growth and innovation.

Purpose-Driven Executive Renewable Energy Recruitment 

At CSG Talent, we bring you extensive industry knowledge and a worldwide network of renewable energy professionals, enabling us to identify high-calibre executive talent to fill vacant positions in your organisation. By doing so, we contribute to your business's success and shape a more sustainable future for our planet. 

Please explore our dedicated renewable energy recruitment page, or contact our team directly for more details on how we can support you.