The new power generation… 5 years on!
Cast your minds back to 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, Prince Harry announced his engagement to Meghan Markle and the only thing most of us knew about Corona was that it was a brand of beer that went well with a slice of lime!
In 2017 we also wrote a guest blog for Energy World, the monthly journal published by the Energy Institute, where we introduced the challenges facing the Energy sector.
Five years on, the world is certainly not the same, but what’s changed in the Power Generation sector between 2017 and 2022 and what are the new power generation challenges in 2022? Our energy expert Lee Elwell takes a look below.
In 2017, we reported that the energy sector is transitioning from traditional to renewable generation, and assets and infrastructure are also undergoing major renewal, with new connected technologies radically shifting the types of skills needed to meet future requirements.
What’s happening in 2022? Massive transformation! A big driver of the evolution in the sector is due to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021. A pledge was made at COP26 to, among other things, try to keep temperature rises within 1.5 degrees, to reduce use of coal and increase money to help poor countries make the switch to clean energy.
UKCop26 also stated that ‘The power sector accounts for a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions but there was a big opportunity: solar and wind power are now cheaper than coal in most countries, generating more jobs, and giving us cleaner air.’
In 2017, we reported that by far the biggest challenge, according to NSAP, is that over the next 10 years 80% of the existing workforce will retire. It is imperative that these highly knowledgeable assets are fully involved in engaging, inspiring and training the engineers of the future.
What’s happening in 2022?
The average age of an engineer varies depending on the technical specialty; however in the United Kingdom, it is reported to be in the mid-50s. This means that many will retire within the next decade or two, leaving a big skills gap that the sector will have to fill in some way.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to more people retiring early or considering early retirement too, as they began to re-evaluate what’s important in life which means we are reaching a critical point more quickly.
There isn’t much that can be done about an ageing workforce other than strive to keep as many as possible for as long as feasible. With engineers in the UK having an average of 30 years of experience, there will be a massive knowledge transfer required before this wave of retirements begins.
Women in engineering
In 2017, women still represented just over 10% of the engineering community.
What’s happening in 2022?
According to Engineering UK, there were 936,000 women working in engineering roles in 2021, equating to 16.5% of the total engineering workforce. This means there are now an extra 374,000 women working in engineering roles compared to 2010.
It’s also good to know that this isn’t just as a result of the overall number of engineering jobs rising (from 5.3 million in 2010 to 5.6 million in 2021) but there is an actual overall % rise in the number of women working in engineering roles.
Promoting working in Power Generation
In 2017, we predicted that a collaborative approach to workforce planning, people development, and promotion of the industry as an attractive place to work, would also be vital.
What’s happening in 2022?
In an effort to address not only the perception of the industry but also to encourage more young people from various backgrounds to choose engineering as a future career, the United Kingdom designated 2018 as the “Year of Engineering.” It was also intended to address the third concern stated above – ensuring equal opportunity for all.
The government and industry collaborated on a year-long campaign aimed at young people, their parents, and teachers. The campaign urged everyone to think about what engineering is and to combat prejudices through a series of activities, seminars, open houses, and general information flow.
Recently, engineering employers have been working hard to break the stereotype that engineering is for white males with university degrees. The lack of diversity in the profession was emphasised by a study conducted for the Year of Engineering, which revealed that the engineering workforce was just 6% ethnic minority. The figure has altered marginally in recent years, with BAME engineers now accounting for 8% of the workforce. Addressing the under-representation of women and people of colour in engineering will undoubtedly result in a larger talent pool.
In 2017, with Brexit looming large, we warned that drawing in skilled engineers from overseas would need careful management. In the context of providing complementary skills and experience that cannot be found in the UK, job swap schemes might be a way of developing skills. Collaboration with other international players, if managed effectively, could accelerate knowledge sharing and re-skilling of the wider workforce for the future, as well as aiding urgently needed project delivery.
What’s happening in 2022? The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and the transition period ended on 31 December 2020. EU workers now have to prove they have a right to work in the UK and employers have to have a sponsor license.
This has reduced the amount of EU workers able and willing to work in the UK and increased the time it takes to employ from EU countries, something that is likely to have an effect on energy projects throughout the UK in the short term.
New Power Generation challenges in 2022
There are many new challenges facing the world of Power Generation in 2022 these include:
An increased focus on decarbonisation and sustainability as a whole, including an overall emphasis on reducing the amount of plastic in the world (with research conducted into how to turn plastic into green generation).
An increase in electric vehicles – There were 397,497 Battery – electric vehicles registered in 2021 compared to 44,266 BEVs in 2017. An increase of nearly 800%. This increase is likely to add pressure to the electricity grid and infrastructure, something that companies are working hard at addressing.
Rise of nuclear power
One way in which The Government plan to reduce Oil and Gas reliance is by increasing their use of nuclear energy instead. Most of the original nuclear plants are reaching the end of their life but the Government is committed to delivering up to eight new reactors overall with the aim of approving one a year by 2020. The Government has already backed the construction of Hinkley C in Somerset.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has led to a necessity for Europe to decrease its reliance on Russian oil and gas, and are looking at options to source fossil fuels from emerging areas in Africa as an alternative. As Frost & Sullivan recently reported ‘the amount of oil & gas storage capacity will also increase as an insurance against future supply disruption’.
New public body to oversee the energy network
As a result of the above the UK Government recently reported that ‘The Future System Operator (FSO), to be launched once legislation is passed and timelines have been discussed with key parties, will look at Great Britain’s energy system as a whole, integrating existing networks with emerging technologies such as hydrogen.’
Power Generation recruitment
The Power Generation world continues to evolve and expand and we’re here to help you whatever your staffing or recruitment needs.
Jonathan Lee Recruitment has been matching quality candidates with leading companies for over 40 years now, and, we have energy specialists supporting power generation and energy professionals and businesses nationwide.
We understand the current candidate shortage being acutely felt in the sector and we have the knowledge, experience, and contact pool to help you through challenging times. Click on the link for more information about our Power Generation recruitment services.
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