Energy Sector Not Ready for Rapid Rise of Renewables, Analysts Say

Yearly global investment in clean energy and fossil fuels.

Yearly global investment in clean energy and fossil fuels. IEA

The rapid growth of wind, solar, and electric vehicles means that demand for fossil fuels is likely to peak this decade. Is the energy sector ready for the transition?

A survey by the International Energy Agency of clean energy firms finds that not enough workers are pursuing the training needed to fill the growing number of skilled jobs. There is a great need, in particular, for trained electricians. “The unprecedented acceleration that we have seen in clean energy transitions is creating millions of new job opportunities all over the world — but these are not being filled quickly enough,” IEA chief Fatih Birol said in a statement.

At the same time, the oil and gas sector faces the prospect of being left behind by the shift to renewable energy. Currently, oil and gas firms account for just 1 percent of money invested in clean energy globally, according to the IEA. If countries meet their targets to ramp up renewables, then oil and gas companies could lose 25 percent of their value, analysts estimate.

The IEA says that oil and gas companies could apply some of their existing expertise to clean energy, transitioning, for instance, from drilling oil wells to drilling for geothermal energy, or from erecting offshore oil rings to erecting offshore wind turbines.

“The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide, and it’s unstoppable,” Birol said. “It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ — and the sooner the better for all of us.”

If the world radically accelerates the transition to renewables, doing what’s needed to keep warming to 1.5 degrees C, then by 2030, the IEA says, the energy sector will add two jobs in clean energy for every one job it loses in fossil fuels.


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