Report: More than 30,000 offshore jobs in Scotland reliant on UK speeding up energy transition

Professor Paul de Leeuw (RGU)

SCOTLAND faces a loss of 30,000 jobs in the offshore sector unless the transition to renewables is accelerated.

A new report from Robert Gordon University (RGU) estimates that £200bn needs to be invested in offshore wind, carbon capture, hydrogen production and oil and gas projects by the end of the decade.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

Why? Free to subscribe, no paywall, daily business news digest.

Political uncertainty around a future Labour government remains an area of concern as a faster decline in North Sea activity is expected to disproportionately impact on the North-east of Scotland.

The findings add that the UK needs to install one offshore wind turbine each day until 2030, as well as lay nearly 10,000 miles of cabling, to meet energy targets.

The report adds: “If the UK is unsuccessful in delivering the offshore wind ambition and UK content percentage by 2030, it is unlikely to be able to retain the offshore energy workforce without additional activities (including oil and gas) over the remainder of this decade.”

Academics at RGU spent eight months analysing more than 6,500 scenarios as the country transitions into greener energy.

The United Nations says a just and fair transition “ensures that environmentally sustainable economies are promoted in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind. It aims to ensure that the transition to net-zero emissions and climate resilience is orderly, inclusive and just”.

Of the 6,500 scenarios studied at RGU, they found fewer than 15 (0.3%) meeting the definition.

That could mean jobs in industry in Scotland decline from 79,000 today, to 48,000 by the end of the decade, while offshore jobs in England would increase from 72,000 to 78,000.

Failed transition to disproportionately hit North-east

Around one in 30 of the working population in Scotland are currently employed in or support the offshore energy industry, compared to one in 220 across the UK.

The university says the most optimistic scenario would see a jobs boost of 21,000 in Scotland, though that would be reliant on Scotland securing work from international business to manufacture equipment locally.

The report adds that steps are needed to address the decline in North Sea activity – which is expected to reduce by 40% by 2030 – to maintain a path for a “just and fair” transition.

Professor Paul de Leeuw, co-author of the report and director of RGU’s Energy Institute, insists the prize for getting the transition right remains “enormous” but requires “action and urgency”.

He said: “Accelerating the re-purposing of the North Sea as a world-class, multi-energy basin will ensure the sector can power the country for decades to come.

“The prize for the UK to get this right is enormous. But to deliver this requires action and urgency, which means faster planning and consenting and access to the grid.

“We also need more flexible electricity pricing mechanisms to avoid project delays or cancellation and a proactive focus on building UK content so we can design, manufacture, install, commission and operate some of the critical new infrastructure required. This, as well as building and maintaining the world class skills and capabilities developed over the last few decades, will be crucial.

“While there is consensus across all stakeholders including governments, politicians, industry organisations and economic development bodies that we need to realise a ‘just and fair’ transition, a far more agile and joined up approach is required to address how the country can best secure its energy ambitions, while addressing the cost-of-living crisis, managing energy security and delivering on the net zero agenda.

“The latest research reinforces the need for urgent alignment across the political spectrum to agree the short-term actions that will deliver a just and fair transition, maintaining the workforce to 2030 to deliver a long-term net zero future and the associated economic benefits for the country.

“If the UK is unable to deliver close to 40GW (from 15GW at the end of 2023) of installed offshore wind capacity and UK content ambitions for the new activities by 2030, it is unlikely to retain the offshore energy workforce without additional activities.”

Offshore Energies UK has endorsed the findings of the report.

Mike Tholen, Offshore Energies UK sustainability and policy director, said: 

“The UK energy transition has the potential to provide tens of thousands of new jobs in the next few years and many of them will require the skills and expertise of the UK’s oil and gas sector.  

Our manifesto published ahead of this year’s election, has highlighted research demonstrating £200 billion of investment potential in the UK energy sector. We’re in regular contact with policymakers. Our message is simple. Support homegrown energy and recognise the critical role of our existing industries. We need to unlock greater investment to secure jobs, energy security and economic growth.” 

The latest stories