The UK’s position as a leading offshore oil and gas hub will be eclipsed by the North Sea’s fast-growing green energy industry within the next decade, according to new research.
An academic study by the Robert Gordon University has found that by 2030 most of the UK’s offshore energy jobs will be in the low carbon energy industry.
The research also found that the number of green jobs off the UK’s coastlines is likely to climb from 20% of the country’s offshore energy sector to 65% by the end of the decade in a “significant change for the offshore energy industry”.
Almost half of the jobs in the UK’s offshore sector will be supported by the offshore wind industry, which is the largest in the world and could support up to 90,000 roles by 2030 under a new deal with the government to support a quadrupling of wind power capacity.
Meanwhile a fifth of offshore energy industry jobs in 2030, or 40,000 roles, will be linked to other clean energy sectors such as producing hydrogen from renewable energy.
The number of jobs supported by the North Sea oil and gas sector is expected to fall to 40% of all offshore energy jobs, or just over a third of the total, as the oil industry continues to decline.
Professor Paul de Leeuw, a director at Robert Gordon University and the lead author of the report, said the swing towards green energy jobs represents a “material prize” for the UK because those currently employed in the oil and gas sector will be able to transfer their skills into cleaner sectors.
“With many of the skills and competencies required for the offshore energy sector to be highly interchangeable, the energy transition offers a unique opportunity to create a new world class net zero energy workforce,” he said.
The report follows another study which suggests that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vision for offshore wind to power every home in the UK by 2030 would require almost £50bn in investment and the equivalent of one turbine to be installed every weekday for the whole of the next decade.
The investment, calculated by Aurora Energy Research, an Oxford-based consultancy, would increase the UK’s offshore wind power capacity by four times what it is today, to reach 40GW by 2030.
The wind energy industry has become one of the country’s industrial success stories. In the past 10 years the capacity of the UK’s offshore turbines has grown from 1GW to almost 10GW at the start of 2020, and building costs have been driven down by almost two-thirds.
The government’s new plan has emerged as central to Britain’s aim to “build back better” after the coronavirus crisis towards its 2050 climate goals.