Study identifies nature and potential demand for skills within the Renewable Energy, Residential Retrofit and Electric Vehicle sectors

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD, the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, and Minister of State for Communications and the Circular Economy, Ossian Smyth TD today launched a new report by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) – ‘Skills for Zero Carbon – The Demand for Renewable Energy, Residential Retrofit and Electric Vehicle Deployment Skills to 2030’.

This report was developed in the context of the need to urgently accelerate the transition to a Zero Carbon Economy, as reflected in the binding targets for emissions reduction over the next decade, and ultimately, carbon neutrality by 2050. In Ireland this will be driven by the government’s Climate Action Plan and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, which seeks to achieve steep reductions in Ireland’s carbon emissions by 2030.

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs report outlines recommendations for consideration with regard to the overall delivery of the Climate Action Plan in that 10-year timeframe, in areas it identifies as representing “Zero Carbon” activities: 5GW of offshore and up to 8GW of onshore wind energy generation, 1.5-2.5GW of solar energy generation, the energy efficient retrofit of 500,000 homes to a minimum B2 BER, the installation of 600,000 heat pumps, and the target of having 840,000 electric cars, and 95,000 commercial vehicles, on Irish roads.

The report advises on the nature and quantity of the skills required by these Zero Carbon sectors over the next decade, and will help inform the broader response put in place in order to deliver on the targets set for renewable energy generation, built environment energy efficiency and sustainable transport.

Skills for Zero Carbon was informed by a comprehensive consultation exercise with enterprises and key informants from across the Renewable Energy, Retrofit and Electric Vehicle sectors. The report defines the Zero carbon economy – the challenges involved and existing employment levels; sets out the core occupations and skills; identifies best international as well as domestic practice for the development of Zero Carbon skills; and identifies a range of broader issues related to skills development in Zero Carbon activities.

From a skills perspective, the report details how the transition to a zero-carbon economy will lead to changes in sectors and occupations, the phasing out of existing roles, but also demands for new skills and competencies, as well as employment opportunities, in the new Zero Carbon economy. Consistent demand will be created across engineering, environmental, science and humanities and legal/professional roles, as well as in construction, retrofit, transport and logistics and electric vehicle maintenance.

The study forecasts that in order to deliver on the Climate Action Plan targets, employment in wind and solar energy generation will have to quickly increase to 8,000 (from a 3,000 baseline) within a number of years, and ultimately stand at 9,000 by 2030, while the workforce engaged in residential retrofit and heat pump installation will similarly have to ramp up quickly and increase more than fourfold (from c.4,000), to stand at over 17,000 for the remainder of the decade. The existing motor mechanic workforce will meanwhile need to be transitioned to work on electric vehicles as EV uptake increases.

The report sets out thirty recommendations for Zero Carbon economy stakeholders to ensure that sector can deliver on the demands that will be placed upon it over the next decade. These are spread across six themes: (1) Renewable Energy, (2) Retrofit, (3) Electric Vehicles, (4) Promotion of career pathways in Zero Carbon economy activities, (5) Alternative sources of skills supply for Zero Carbon economy activities, and (6) Public Sector Programme Management and Carbon Accounting skills.

These recommendations were developed by a broadly-based Steering Group established to guide the progress of the study. This group was representative of key Zero Carbon and skills development stakeholders from across the public and private sectors.

Launching the report, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD said:

“This report by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs is a timely and critical contribution to the government’s understanding of the skills required to deliver on our Climate Action ambitions in the decade to 2030. These ambitions will transform our economy and society, impacting existing activities and roles, but also generating demand for new, more sustainable skills and occupations. Given the employment potential that has been identified, development of sectors such as Renewable Energy, Retrofit and Sustainable Transport, and the transition to a Zero Carbon economy that they signify, will also play a crucial role in supporting our recovery from the pandemic and the government’s target of having at least 2.5 million people in employment in Ireland from 2024 – in excess of pre-pandemic levels. The findings and recommendations of this report can play a key role in realising this employment potential.”

The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD welcomed the publication of the report and said:

“As Minister for Further and Higher Education, I welcome this report by Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. The Expert Group plays an important role in skills forecasting within the wider skills ecosystem. This report will be an important input as we continue to drive forward on the transition to a Zero Carbon economy. As the Climate Action Plan and this report highlight, skills policy will play a crucial supporting role in delivering on our Climate Action commitments in the decade to 2030 and beyond. Responding to the overarching green agenda will continue to be central to the work of my department.”

The Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD said:

“Having the necessary skills base will be crucial to supporting the ambitious targets we have set out in the Climate Action Plan, and ultimately, our transition to a Zero Carbon Economy. As the Minister responsible for the development of the renewable energy, energy efficient retrofit and electric vehicle sectors, I welcome the comprehensive evidence base that has developed by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. My department will work closely with the Department of Further and Higher Education and industry to ensure the report’s recommendations, and the identified skills needs, are fully delivered upon. In particular, my department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland will work to maximise awareness of the emerging career and training opportunities in Zero Carbon activities, to ensure the necessary pipeline of talent to deliver on our Climate Action priorities.”

The Minister of State for Communications and the Circular Economy, Ossian Smyth TD said:

“This report from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs underlines how while the decarbonisation of the economy will impact sectors and job roles, it also has the potential for significant employment creation in some of the key enabling activities for this transition. The report sets out a comprehensive evidence base and roadmap for facilitating the labour market shift into emerging Zero Carbon activities, including onshore and offshore wind, solar energy and residential retrofit. As well as the welcome commitment of the Department of Further and Higher Education to respond to these emerging and growing skills needs, my department will work with other stakeholders to promote the employment opportunities that will emerge across multiple occupations and sectors: engineering, environmental science, the humanities, law and finance, construction and transport.”

Chairperson of the Expert Group on Future Skills Need, Tony Donohoe, said:

“This Expert Group on Future Skills Needs report was informed by a comprehensive research exercise across the renewable energy, retrofit and electric vehicle sectors. This engagement has informed a comprehensive set of recommendations for addressing the skills priorities for Zero Carbon activities over the next ten years, and which, as the report highlights, will require the full and urgent commitment and collaboration of all stakeholders for their successful implementation. As well as the important contribution to be made by the State and its agencies, these emerging sectors will also have to ensure a proactive approach to building the necessary quantity and quality of its skills base. The EGFSN welcomes the government’s intention, as reflected in the latest Climate Action Plan, to formally progress the implementation of the report’s recommendations with relevant stakeholders across the public and private sectors.”

The full report, ‘Skills for Zero Carbon – The Demand for Renewable Energy, Residential Retrofit and Electric Vehicle Deployment Skills to 2030’, is available on the website of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and the website of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

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