UK's offshore energy workforce 'could reach 220,000 by 2023'

The number of workers in the UK's offshore energy sector could reach as much as 220,000 by the end of this decade, according to a new report.

Experts at Aberdeen s Robert Gordon University (RGU) also forecast that around 100,000 of the jobs in 2030 could be filled by people transferring from existing oil and gas jobs to offshore renewable roles, new graduates, and workers joining from outside the sector.

The new UK Offshore Energy Workforce Transferability Review has also stated that for the UK to meet its target of producing 40 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2030, 2,500 new wind turbines would need to be installed by then – the equivalent of one each weekday for the next nine years.

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As well as forecasting a possible increase in the workforce, the study suggested roles in "decarbonised energies" – such as offshore wind and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) – would increase from just a fifth of jobs currently to almost two thirds by 2030.

Of the 200,000 people projected to be directly and indirectly employed in the UK offshore energy sector by 2030, about 90,000 are expected to support offshore wind. Picture: Sebastien Salom Gomis/AFP/Getty Images.
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With around 160,000 people currently directly and indirectly employed in the UK offshore energy sector, it is being predicted that this could grow to 200,000 or even 220,000 in the best-case scenario.

The report also predicts that an estimated £170 billion could be invested in capital and operating activities in the UK offshore energy sector between 2021 and 2030 – with this taking in spending on oil and gas, offshore wind, CCUS and hydrogen.

But it warned that factors such as “reduced ambition” could see the workforce in the sector drop to 140,000 by 2030.

As a result, the report said: "It is key that UK and devolved governments work together with the offshore energy sector to ensure the managed transition of skills and experience in a way that protects and sustains key UK energy jobs."

Professor Paul de Leeuw, director of the Energy Transition Institute at RGU and the review’s lead author, said: "This review highlights the material prize for the UK. Successful delivery of the UK and the devolved governments' energy transition ambitions has the opportunity to secure around 200,000 jobs in 2030 for the offshore energy workforce.


"With the overall number of jobs in the UK oil and gas industry projected to decline over time, the degree of transferability of jobs to adjacent energy sectors such as offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen or other industrial sectors will be key to ensuring the UK retains its world-class skills and capabilities."

According to the report, more than 90 per cent of those working in the oil and gas sector have "medium to high skills transferability", making them "well positioned" to work in other parts of the offshore energy sector.

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The Scottish government's new employment minister Richard Lochhead said: "Ensuring a just transition is critical for the energy sector and I welcome the findings of this review, which recognises that the knowledge and skills of the offshore oil and gas workforce are required for a successful and sustainable energy transition."

Alix Thom, workforce and skills manager with the trade body Oil & Gas UK, also commented, saying: "Many companies in our industry are already active in renewable energy, and this report confirms that our changing industry will continue to support jobs in communities across the UK for many years to come."

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