With a potential skills gap in the energy industry, the Energy Institute is looking at ways of supporting and encouraging future generations of energy professionals
The global energy industry is currently going through a transition phase of such significance that it places energy issues at the top of the political, economic and media agenda worldwide. Global demand for energy is increasing rapidly as a result of the economic development of highly populated countries such as China and India. It exacerbates existing concerns over long-term security of supply set against a volatile geopolitical background, and the need to reduce the level of carbon dioxide emissions to minimise the effects of climate change. The challenge for governments and the international energy industry is to engage the economies of the world, particularly the US, China and India, in an effective programme that does not distort economic growth or competitive advantage in an unacceptable way yet meets climate change targets.
Faced with increased dependency on foreign, state-owned energy supplies, high energy prices and the need to decarbonise power, UK businesses must make critical, long-term strategic decisions and work closely with government and institutions such as the Energy Institute (EI) to ensure a secure, affordable and clean energy supply for generations to come.
For the transition to a low carbon economy to take place, a step change in thinking is needed. Energy is vital to society and governments worldwide have identified securing clean, affordable energy for the long term as a key priority. In a world of finite resources and a growing population, combining diversification in the supply of energy through the application of a wider range of technologies with efforts to reduce energy consumption is essential to achieve security of supply and meet environmental objectives.
In May 2007, the UK government published its latest Energy White Paper, which takes further steps towards greater energy efficiency and decarbonisation. The UK target is to cut CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050. The EI welcomed the publication of the paper and was encouraged by the better integrated package of measures presented in a stronger international context, with UK actions outlined against a globallycompetitive environment. But what about the skills required to deliver energy policy?
Waste disposal, energy production and the reduction of emissions are key aspects of achieving a sustainable future. There are many energy technologies, from hydro to wind to solar and new developments in carbon storage. However there is no single answer as to the best source of clean energy and to ensure a secure supply of energy, a diverse mix of energy sources is ideal. Practical and innovative solutions are required and EI members are at the forefront in responding to this challenge.
However, there is currently a general decline in the take-up of science, engineering and technical careers among young people and, with the emergence of new skills in areas such as building energy assessment and renewable energy installation, the EI is concerned that without a skilled labour force, new directions in energy policy may be difficult to achieve.
Last year, a survey carried out by the EI revealed potential skills gaps in the energy industry in the next decade. The successful implementation of focused energy policies relies on the availability of skilled individuals to take the lead and carry out the work in the field. Increased efforts are required to assess the problem, share best practice and knowledge between regions, and stimulate training activity to avoid a skills shortage becoming a constraint on meeting future energy challenges.
Working in energy is an exciting career option and offers some of the biggest technological and innovative challenges of the future. A career in energy offers good training prospects for development and promotion, opportunities to travel and the chance to have responsibility for important high-value projects and training in a wide range of skills that make energy careers a long-term prospect. Science, engineering and technology-based industries are suffering a worldwide shortage of skilled new recruits and the energy sector is no different. Therefore the energy industry needs to be well presented as a prime career choice, requiring the combined efforts of the industry itself, universities and professional bodies such as the EI.
As the leading professional membership organisation for the energy industry, the EI supports over 13,000 individuals and 300 companies across 100 countries. The EI works with universities and educational bodies around the world, accrediting and approving energyrelated courses. This in turn provides a wealth of opportunities to students in terms of networking and knowledge, as well as promoting new talent and encouraging graduates to join the energy industry. The EI also provides an international branch network which includes centres in the UK, Houston, Hong Kong and India. Each branch is served by a dedicated team of volunteer members who organise a programme of seminars and technical visits in their region, supporting career development outside of the work environment.
EI members include those working in all the major energy companies, blue-chip businesses, engineering and manufacturing organisations, local authorities and other public sector organisations, consultancies, and educational institutions. Working to promote the safe, environmentally-responsible and efficient supply and use of energy in all its forms and applications, the EI facilitates debate and sharing of knowledge on topics as diverse as oil capacity, climate change and carbon sequestration. That is why the EI is a vital partner for individuals and organisations worldwide.
The EI is committed to working with governments, organisations and individuals to work towards a greener future, but to succeed it will take contributions from all levels in order to create a safe and sustainable economy.
For more information, visit: www.energyinst.org.uk