A new report by Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen has revealed that the UK and Scotland will fail to achieve a “just and fair” transition by 2030 unless there is urgent alignment across the political spectrum to sustain the size of the workforce and supply chain.

In ‘Delivering our Energy Future’, RGU researchers analysed over 6,560 pathways for the UK offshore energy industry between now and 2030. The report concluded that UK and Scottish political decisions, rather than energy market economics, will determine the size of the workforce and supply chain.

Additional investment needed

Of the thousands of pathways analysed, fewer than 15 or <0.3% meet the ‘just and fair’ transition principles. Even these limited scenarios require success by the renewables sector in achieving higher levels of ambition through billions of pounds of additional investment in the next six years. One key finding was that for the UK offshore energy supply chain activities and capacity sustained at an average of 2023 level, the UK must deliver around £10 billion spend by 2030.

For work force to remain on similar levels to 2023, the report stated the UK must deliver close to 40GW of installed offshore wind capacity (compared to c. 15 GW cumulative capacity in 2023) and up to 40% of the investment needed to achieve this to be spent in the UK by 2030. In addition, the report highlighted significant levels of new operational capacity and capability will be required to deliver on the ambition of up to 40% UK capex content for new offshore wind projects and up to 50% for oil and gas decommissioning activities by 2030.


Credit: Photo by Jack Lucas, Scotland Marine Directorate


Retaining workforce challenges

The report discusses that if the UK is unsuccessful in delivering the offshore wind ambition and UK content targets by 2030, it is unlikely to be able to retain the offshore energy workforce without progressing additional activities, including oil and gas over the remainder of this decade. For Scotland, roughly 1 in 30 of the working population are currently employed in or support the offshore energy industry versus 1 in 220 across the UK.

Professor Paul de Leeuw, Director of the Robert Gordon University Energy Transition Institute, said:

The ongoing decline in the oil and gas industry needs to be offset much more rapidly by identifiably greater levels of activity and higher UK content in renewables if any of the pathways to a ‘just and fair’ transition are to remain open. Otherwise, interim steps will need to be taken to address the decline in activities, including oil and gas production – which is currently expected to reduce by more than 40% by 2030.

To achieve this outcome, the UK offshore energy sector needs to deliver on spend of up to £200 billion over the remainder of this decade across offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and oil and gas projects. Given the magnitude of change that is needed in the energy industry over the coming years, this report is highlighting that the UK, and devolved administrations must urgently pursue credible energy pathways, which deliver a ‘just and fair’ transition for the sector and its workforce.”

Additional findings

  • Each additional 10% of UK capex content for the offshore wind sector is estimated to yield between 3,000 (‘worst case’) and 12,500 (‘best case’) jobs by 2030.
  • Between 50% and 85% of spend in renewables over the coming decade is likely to be capital expenditure related, requiring a shift toward a more capex focused workforce.
  • RGU analysis highlights that every 10% salary differential between oil and renewables may require up to 7% more people to maintain economic contribution.

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero & Energy Mairi McAllan said:

“The Scottish Government is determined to play its role in maximising these benefits – and negotiating the challenges – not least through the publication of our Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, which will set out our vision for a future energy system that delivers affordable, secure, clean energy and delivers economic benefits to every part of the country. We will continue to work closely with industry, communities and other key partners to deliver this vision and ensure a just transition for our energy workforce and for everyone in Scotland.”

Access the report “Delivering out Energy Future – Pathways to a Just and Fair Transition” here

Explore the RGU’s Energy Transition Institute and their additional reports here

For the purpose of its analysis, RGU used the United Nations definition of a ‘just and fair’ transition – ‘ensuring that no one is left behind in the transition to low carbon and environmentally sustainable economies and societies’ and defined this further by linking it to sustaining the UK’s 154,000 direct and indirect offshore energy industry jobs and by maintaining the supply chain and offshore workforce economic contribution at 2023 levels or better by the end of the decade.

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