With the government committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, the UK will need to deploy technologies such as carbon capture to decarbonise the industrial and energy sectors.
The ECITB (Engineering Construction Industry Training Board) commissioned Element Energy to identify the implications of decarbonisation for the industry. The report identifies the potential for over £40bn in revenues for the engineering construction industry by 2050 alongside the challenges that need to be met in switching to low carbon technologies.
The research finds that while the UK has many of the skills needed to deploy these technologies, gaps exist in areas such as C02 pipeline monitoring, production of synthetic fuels and repurposing of salt caverns for hydrogen shortage. In addition, uncertainties lie in the number of workers required and the timeframe for their deployment, which could lead to skills shortages.
In a statement, Chris Claydon, ECITB chief executive, said: “Engineering construction is a dynamic industry and the widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies in recent years shows industry can successfully adapt to transform big challenges into great opportunities.
“If we are to meet our climate change targets, we need a vibrant and skilled contracting industry to successfully deliver the technologies and infrastructure required to decarbonise industrial sites and processes. The ECITB is embarking on a programme of work, on behalf of the industry, to identify and address the skills challenges posed by the net-zero transition, so that we deliver a workforce equipped to tackle this most pressing of challenges.”
Emrah Durusut, associate director at Element Energy, said: “The UK’s net-zero target requires deep decarbonisation of six industrial clusters; carbon-intensive hotspots located at Merseyside, Teesside, Humberside, Grangemouth, South Wales and Southampton. The government has committed hundreds of millions of pounds towards deploying technologies like carbon capture and storage, and low-carbon hydrogen production in industrial clusters over the next few years. The engineering construction industry’s skills and services are already needed to progress multi-billion projects across all industrial clusters.”
Under the government’s plans, at least one industrial cluster must decarbonise fully by 2040, with the remaining five becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Identifying and closing skills gaps: harness existing expertise of the engineering construction workforce, many of whom have the necessary skills, and repurpose these skills to tackle the net-zero challenge.
Minimising skills shortages: ECI companies must embrace collaboration, systems thinking and digitalisation to ensure the workforce is adequately prepared to deliver decarbonisation projects. Attract a new workforce by making engineering careers more appealing - highlighting how the industry is central to tackling climate change is a huge opportunity to attract the next generation of talent.
Leveraging policy and innovation: link education and industry more closely at regional level, so government policy and educators reflect local skills needs. This is critical to the success of the industrial clusters, which will require a pipeline of skilled workers in their regions to achieve their decarbonisation milestones.