The UK offshore energy workforce could increase by 50% by the end of the decade, according to a new study.
In a report published by Robert Gordon University, researchers found the number of jobs in the sector could increase from around 150,000 to 225,000, despite a number of challenges.
The report says new renewable jobs could outnumber oil and gas roles if a successful renewable transition is achieved.
The report – titled Powering up the Workforce – also warned that if the rate of investment and activity in renewables in the UK does not increase significantly, at a time when oil and gas activities are in rapid decline, then up to 95,000 potential offshore energy jobs will be at risk.
The report says retaining the offshore oil and gas supply chain, its workforce and skillset over the next five years is integral to the industry’s future.
Researchers say this is due to limited capacity for the UK offshore renewables sector to accommodate the quantity of skilled oil and gas workers impacted by the projected decline in their sector until later this decade.
Professor Paul de Leeuw, director of the Robert Gordon University Energy Transition Institute, said: “This report presents a range of workforce outcomes that could materialise over the coming years.
“There is a huge prize up for grabs and we want to equip decision-makers – whether in government, industry or in individual businesses – with new insight to convert those opportunities into reality.
“With investment at risk and wind projects facing delays, the findings underline the present-day situation for the UK offshore energy industry and its stakeholders.
“The big prize of a significant jobs gain is still within our collective reach.
“Inaction or simply slow progress will mean that offshore energy job numbers overall could drop by 15% to 130,000 by 2030, making the path towards net zero even harder to negotiate.”
The report said the oil and gas workforce could decline from 120,000 to 87,000 by 2030 if there is a managed and just transition towards renewables.
A more rapid decline in the oil and gas sector, resulting from limiting new investment and reducing operational activities, could reduce the workforce to around 60,000 by 2030, researchers warned.
Analysis carried out by the research team found there is a workforce “goldilocks zone” between 2024 and 2028, when the UK supply chain capacity and capability can be sustained, developed and invested in.
Prof de Leeuw said: “The UK possesses all the attributes and resources to realise the ambitions set out in government strategies and forward-looking industry programmes.
“The report clearly shows that with the right interventions at the right time, the UK can achieve its strategic energy goals in reaching its net zero objectives as well as protecting and significantly enhancing workforce numbers in the offshore energy sector.”
The report was praised by trade association Offshore Energies UK (OEUK).
David Whitehouse, CEO of OEUK, said: “Meeting more of our needs from energy produced in the UK means more jobs in the UK. The UK offshore energy sector embraces the challenges and opportunities of the energy transition.
“Not only in oil and gas but the future opportunities in wind, carbon capture & storage, and a hydrogen economy.
“This report shows that we must embrace the opportunity to work with all energy sectors or risk losing 95,000 highly-skilled jobs in the UK by 2030.
“When looking at our future energy networks and supplies, there is no simple choice between oil and gas or renewables.”
He added: “The reality is that to keep our homes warm, the lights on, and our economy growing, we need both – this report clearly shows that cross-energy sector co-operation is the route to delivering high-skilled jobs, a growing economy and a successful energy transition.”
A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “We are delivering an orderly transition to net zero that maintains our energy security, supports high-value jobs, and safeguards the expertise necessary to achieve a low-carbon future.
“We have attracted around £120 billion investment in renewables since 2010, kickstarting new industries like floating offshore wind and tidal power, and are home to the world’s four largest operational offshore wind farms.
“A further £100 billion private sector investment is expected by 2030 – supporting up to 480,000 jobs.”