The renewable energy industries are providing a lifeline for oil and gas workers in the United States who’ve been laid off since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, according to a recent analysis by consultants at Deloitte.
The fossil jobs lost number in the tens of thousands, and many of them will never return. “COVID-19 has abruptly fast-forwarded the spectre of peak oil demand, degraded the investment climate and investors’ appetite for fossil fuels, and reminded organizations to take the energy transition seriously,” Deloitte stated in the report.
“Yet the downturn has given new impetus for fossil fuel companies and workers to reposition, with the energy transition presenting a tremendous opportunity,” Recharge News reports. “Energy services contractors and employment businesses are already seeing increasing numbers of former fossil fuel employees moving into the renewables sector.”
“We’ve been able to consistently transfer oil and gas experience into renewables,” said Beth Bowen, Americas president at global recruitment firm Brunel.
Bowen told Upstream, Recharge’s sister publication, that renewables firms will need outside expertise to hit their targets. And even established fossil businesses like oilfield services giant Baker Hughes are looking to both outside and internal talent “to identify those who can help move the company’s energy transition plans forward,” Recharge says.
Many Baker Hughes staff “have capabilities and expertise that easily apply to alternative and renewable energy markets, the company told Upstream, noting that its subsurface expertise in oil and gas development is applicable to geothermal energy development and below-ground energy storage.” Recharge adds. Matt Kirk, a senior VP at Wood, cast that skills transfer as a natural extension of the industry’s technical capability.
“For example, on the operations side, we have many tradespeople that provided support to onshore shale projects in the U.S.,” Kirk said. “They crossed over and now support the solar projects, as the work there has definitely picked up.”
Wood is a global fossil engineering and consultancy firm that drew 90% of its business from oil and gas as recently as 2014.
Kirk said former fossil workers and the companies that used to employ them also have the skills to help the offshore wind industry get the job done. “We understand how to design and install things for operations in underwater and harsh marine environments for significant periods of time,” he said. “All of the challenges we will face on the renewables side will require the same engineering know-how that we’ve deployed in the upstream oil and gas space over the past 40 years.”