A green recovery – accelerating and supporting local jobs

It is recognised that heating, which now accounts for over a third of the UK’s carbon emissions, is the greatest decarbonisation challenge the UK faces to reach net zero targets. However, it is also a massive opportunity – the transition will create thousands of green jobs right across the country.

To realise these benefits, installers and specifiers of energy systems today must lead the way. The installer is still the primary, most trusted source of information for clients when considering a new heating system and the advice provided can have a substantial impact on the future decarbonisation potential of the property. As such the importance of ensuring installers are able to provide reliable, technology agnostic advice to households on the best solution for their property to deliver affordable low carbon heat cannot be underestimated.

However, unsurprisingly, a large proportion of installers focus their trade on fossil fuel heating systems today. If we are to meet the net zero aspirations for 2050, we must see a shift towards low carbon solutions and the number of competent installers will need to increase.

Experts have stressed the need for a green recovery as we emerge from lockdown and start to return to normal. We must use this as an opportunity to ensure that our economy is put on the right track, and that the decisions we make enable us to protect jobs and the environment at the same time.

A new report developed by Ecuity Consulting LLP for the Local Government Association (LGA) analyses the emerging skills gaps in low carbon and renewable energy (LCREE) sectors. Based on industry expert views, the report considers the skills requirements that will be needed to boost employment numbers in these sectors post-COVID lockdown and presents new projections of the number and location of jobs in England.

Demand for green jobs will rapidly increase as the nation transitions to a net zero economy. Through engagement with local government and industry experts, Ecuity developed the employment projections and assessed the emerging skills gap at a national and regional level. The report forecasts that the net zero target will support an estimated 690,000 total low-carbon jobs in England by 2030, rising to more than 1.18 million by 2050.

Of these, 23% will be associated with producing low-carbon heat for homes and businesses such as manufacturing wind turbines, installing solar panels and heat pumps. A further fifth will be involved in installing energy efficiency products such as insulation. Improving the performance of a building through energy efficiency is an essential step in the decarbonisation journey, lowering energy demand therefore reducing energy costs and emissions. But our workforce is currently not equipped to deliver.

The roll-out clean technologies will require a diverse range of skills and expertise to meet soaring demand for green jobs. The report utilises industry expert insight to assess the skills and qualification requirements in each of the LCREE sectors. Immediate skills gaps were identified in the low carbon heating sector and the fast-developing low carbon power sector. 

Those who embrace low carbon solutions will help stimulate the growth in demand for low carbon heating and by leading the way, they will realise the benefits of the transition. The research identified that councils are also likely to play an important role in the net zero transition, supporting the creation of new jobs, and developing a pipeline of skilled workers at a local level. Industry bodies and government are working collaboratively to create the policy and training frameworks to support installers upskill and enter this market for example the Heat Pump Association recently published “Building the Installer Base for Net Zero Heating” outlining a proposed route for installer training.

Not only is it essential that we upskill the current installer base but there is a need to encourage the younger generation into the sector as demand ramps up, however, to do this it must adapt and demonstrate a commitment to the low carbon agenda. National Grid reported that that over two thirds (81%) of young adults aged 18-24 think it is important to play a role in the UK’s journey to net zero, while over half (58%) want to work for an organisation that contributes to this goal. A green recovery for the energy sector is possible and is desirable.

“The industry is responding to these challenges by offering opportunities for installers to take part. A coalition of industry bodies is helping the government map out the future of low carbon heating and they are looking for contributions from installers to help shape the qualifications needed to upskill our industry. In June, installers were invited to be involved in two consultations on the qualification criteria for low temperature heating systems and heat pumps specifically. We look forward to seeing the outcome of these consultations soon.”