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UK could risk its net zero goal due to lack of low carbon experts

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The lack of workers with the skill to install low carbon technologies could put the UK’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050 at risk. 

While the 2050 deadline may seem like a distant problem, it is imperative that the industry begins laying the foundations for the UK’s net zero future as soon as possible. In order to do that, it’s important that the necessary workers are available to install the technologies that will be needed. 

Unfortunately, according to the latest findings from the Skills for Climate consultation, 70% of UK engineering services businesses lack the necessary amount of workers to undertake low to no carbon work. That could seriously hamper the UK’s hopes of a ‘green recovery’ to the economy. 

The UK electrical industry is lacking the necessary expertise in a number of low carbon technologies, but firms argue that it’s particularly notable in terms of solar PV, heat pumps, energy storage systems and smart building technology. Thankfully, some 39% of firms say they could address the issue by hiring more competent workers. 

Could training be to blame?

Are there enough competent workers available to hire, however? 19% of businesses responding to the survey argue that there aren’t, and there could be an important reason why — the lack of adequate training. 

In fact, 48% of respondents said that there was a lack of ‘sufficient industry training’ for those involved in low carbon work. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed urgently, especially as demand for low carbon technologies continues to grow. 

Andrew Eldred, ECA director of Skills and Employment, commented, “Our industry consultation highlights the growing scale of the skills challenge in the low carbon arena, which comes on top of broader skills shortages in many engineering and skilled trades.

“Engineering services businesses, most of which are SMEs, are key to the delivery of low carbon technologies. There is an urgent need for Government and industry to work more effectively together to build the skills-base that will be required.”

A unified approach

The Skills for Climate consultation was launched by the ECA in partnership with the Renewable Energy Association, the Solar Trade Association, the Building Engineering Services Association, and The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership (TESP). Now that the consultation has received back some results, the organisations want to continue working together to address the issue. 

Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association said, “This important survey should send a clear signal to those, particularly young people, affected by lockdown that now is a great time to become an installer and help deliver on our country’s low-carbon ambitions.

“Installation companies clearly see renewable energy and clean technologies as an area for future growth and Government can kick-start this sector by ensuring solar and energy storage are firmly part of the Green Homes Grant scheme.”

Chris Hewett, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association added, “Electrical and heat contractors are clearly seeing growing demand for solar and energy storage technologies. To deliver our net-zero targets these companies will need support to develop their existing staff and recruit a new generation of skilled workers capable of scaling up the deployment of renewables.

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