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Job Market of the Future

The job market in the energy industry is changing. More and more jobs in fossil energy production are being lost, while new jobs are being generated in the renewable energy sector. How do the affected workers deal with this?

Where does the journey for the workers go? (Picture: Pixabay)Where does the journey for the workers go? (Picture: Pixabay)

80% of current employees in Scotland's oil and gas industry believe their jobs are at risk from climate change, according to a recent survey by Survation for industry organisation Scottish Renewables. And the figures prove them right: up to 30,000 jobs could be lost in the fossil fuel industry as soon as 2022.

The reasons for this are many and varied. More electric vehicles and low-carbon heating systems, as well as measures to reduce the consumption of plastics, will further reduce the demand for oil and gas. Added to this are new government regulations on environmental protection and the ongoing cost reduction in renewable energies.

"We've reached the point where it's now cheaper to build and operate a wind farm or solar power system than a coal-fired power plant," Joe Daniel, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, . "And this trend will continue."

"We’ve reached a point where it is now cheaper to build and operate a wind farm or solar plant than it is to operate a coal plant,” Joe Daniel, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, told The Christian Science Monitor. "And that trend is going to continue."

The starting point is very different: In Scotland, 90% of the electricity demand is already covered by renewables. It is therefore foreseeable that the oil and gas workers will not have a great future. In the federal state of Wyoming, on the other hand, 40% of all U.S. coal is produced, and there are also large quantities of oil and natural gas available. But there are also very good wind conditions for the construction of wind farms. This is why the state also calls itself an "energy state".

Light off for the mine (Image: Pixabay)

Where the trend is heading has been foreseeable for a few years now: Since 2016 alone, more than half a dozen mines have been closed in Wyoming, and almost 2000 workers have been laid off. And the clock continues to tick: last year, demand for coal fell to its lowest level in 45 years. In addition, the corona pandemic this year slowed the economy or brought it to a temporary standstill. "We’ve gone from 50% of the country’s electricity to under 20% in just under a decade," says Robert Godby, an energy expert at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. "It is just incredible." According to a recent June forecast, coal will provide 17% of the country's electricity this year, renewable energy 21% and natural gas 41%. It is expected that the share of gas will decrease next year as prices rise after the pandemic.

So what will happen to the workers in the fossil fuel industry? They have their own ideas - and at least more than three quarters (77%) of Scottish workers can imagine retraining to enter the renewable energy industry.

Claire Mack, Managing Director of Scottish Renewables, offers hope: "Our industry provides enormous opportunity for those working in oil and gas who may be facing redundancy and unemployment. These professionals possess a high level of skills and expertise which, with the right support from government to create a clear pipeline of projects to meet our climate change targets, can be utilised to help develop and grow the renewable energy workforce we will need."

However, this requires government support. There are plans to set up a training fund for the transition to renewable energy to ensure that training is specifically targeted at renewable energy careers while the country works towards its net zero ambitions. "This training fund would support oil and gas professionals, supply chain businesses, tradesmen and public servants to acquire sustainable, exportable skills and join our industry," says Mack.

Retraining is possible - with support of the government (Image: Pixabay)

The workers in Wyoming cannot hope for this, at least not at present. Donald Trump had announced in his last election campaign that he would make the coal great again, but even he could not do anything against the market power. Elections are due again in the U.S. in November, and the Democratic challenger Joe Biden has announced a major climate protection program with the creation of millions of new jobs. "It’s not only a crisis, it’s an enormous opportunity,” he said at last week's Democratic Party Conference on the climate crisis, according to the Governors' Wind and Solar Energy Coalition. "An opportunity for America to lead the world in clean energy and create millions of new good-paying jobs.”

Now all the coal workers have to do is vote for him.

Katrin Radtke
jobs, market, Scotland, USA, Wyoming, state, coal fossil renewable energy, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, election, vote, mine, wind, gas, skills, survey

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