The renewables sector is revered by engineers according to our recent Voice of the Workforce survey. Not only is renewables the sector which engineers from around the world expect to grow the most over the next 12 months, it is also the sector which they would most likely consider transferring to.
And confidence amongst those working within the sector is high too. Two thirds of the renewables engineers we surveyed believe the sector they work in will increase its revenues over the next 12 months and over half believe the sector has a better reputation than it had 12 months ago. So why is confidence in renewables so high? And why do engineers from other sectors regard it so highly?
The rising reputation of renewables
In recent years, the role of renewables in the world’s energy supply has been a high talking point. In 2015, renewable energy capacity increased by 142 gigawatts (around 8.3%) – the fastest growth it has ever seen (International Renewable Energy Agency). Now, in 2017, it seems renewables is firmly on the agenda of many governmental institutions around the world as the benefits of cleaner energy have been further confirmed and the cost of the process to create energy from renewable sources has come down.
Renewable sources are now recognised as the cheapest option when constructing new power plants. In 2014, coal plants cost $109 per megawatt-hour whereas onshore wind costs as little as $59 on the same basis. And this lower cost is now decreasing even further due to diminishing prices of the components that make up wind turbines, such as panels, inverters and racking.
Our research amongst engineering professionals working in the renewables sector confirms that its reputation is improving and the main factor attributed to this enhanced reputation is high profile projects.
Tony Harding, Renewables Team Leader, Matchtech describes some of the exciting UK offshore wind projects that are currently underway:
“Offshore wind in particular has seen a consistent number of projects being approved and beginning construction in recent times. Organisations like DONG Energy are managing projects across all phases of development and construction, such as the Race Bank offshore wind farm near Norfolk, the Walney Extension just off the Cumbria coast and the Burbo Bank Extension in the Irish Sea which generated power for the first time in November. The Race Bank project is currently seeking maintenance engineers and Senior Authorised Persons, but there are also plentiful opportunities for structural engineers, electrical engineers, HSEs and Project Managers across the other projects."
"Other energy providers and power plant developers are also developing or in the early construction phases of offshore wind farms across the UK including Scottish Power (East Anglia One), Innogy Renewables (Galloper and Triton Knoll) and Statoil (Dudgeon).”
Technology advancements were also noted as having a significant influence on the improved reputation of the renewables sector. One example of this is in wind turbine upgrades which are now being fitted with sensors that enable the pitch and yaw of the blades to be controlled remotely in response to weather conditions. Other recent technology advancements in the sector include the first solar powered aircraft, organic solar PV and using carbon fiber to build wind turbine blades in order to reduce weight.
Samuel Warnett, Renewables Team Leader, Matchtech comments on these innovative developments:
“It is exciting to see so many new technological advancements continuing to be made in the renewables sector. The collaborative convergence of engineering and technology skillsets is changing the types of qualifications engineers now need in the renewables industry, with electronics, hardware and systems controls skills in high demand.”
Jobs to tempt engineers from other sectors
As a result of increased investment in new renewable energy projects and technology advancements in the sector, a large number of jobs have emerged and engineers within the sector (47%) anticipate that more jobs will become available over the next 12 months. In particular, the sector is seeking engineers at technician level, as well as Project Managers and Senior Authorised Persons, with demand peaking mostly within the wind division of the renewables sector.
As the market continues to grow, there is the inevitable potential for skill gaps to emerge due to an imbalance in supply and demand. This is a problem recognised by those working in the sector, with 57% of renewables engineers acknowledging that a skills shortage exists. Whilst the promotion of engineering as a career choice to younger generations and apprenticeships are often seen as key ways to tackle the skill shortage, another way to alleviate the lack of skills is to upskill engineers from other sectors. Fortunately for the renewables industry, many engineers (28%) are happy to consider transferring into this developing sector.
Samuel Warnett describes the skills transference trends he has noticed in the market recently:
“Typically there has been a rise in the number of engineers from the oil and gas sector transferring to renewables, following a period of decline over the past couple of years. But the ability to transfer isn’t just limited to the energy sectors and depending on which phase a power plant is in engineers from across the industry could be relevant for roles within renewables, specifically those with experience in construction, maritime, systems controls as well as electrical fitters and mechanical engineers.”
Continued growth and opportunity
With estimates suggesting that renewable energy sources will account for 26% of the world's energy supply in 2020, countries like China, Chile and Kenya are investing billions into renewable energy sources in an effort to meet their targets and move from carbon-rich fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy. With investment, comes opportunity and there is high confidence that more jobs will be created within renewables over the coming year. With an abundance of opportunities and a positive outlook from those working within the sector, it’s no wonder that so many engineers want to work in renewables.