EU may require four times more workers for wind and solar projects by 2030

Europe’s investments toward net zero could reach about $1.81 trillion by decade's end

Wind turbines turn behind a solar farm in Rapshagen, about 136km north-west of Berlin. AP
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Demand for talent in wind and solar power projects is expected to rise by “as much as fourfold” in EU countries by 2030, according to McKinsey & Co.

The wind and solar industry will require 990,000 full-time workers by the end of the decade, compared with 290,000 in 2020, the consultancy said in a report last week.

That includes blue-collar and white-collar employees who will be responsible for the development and operation of such projects.

The EU has intensified its renewable energy efforts to cut carbon emissions and reduce its reliance on Russian natural gas exports.

The bloc narrowly avoided a full-blown energy crisis last year thanks to an unusually warm winter and rising gas supplies from Norway and the US.

“The energy transition could offer broad economic benefits for the EU such as increased energy reliability, economic growth, and job creation,” McKinsey said in an earlier report.

The consultancy has said that Europe’s cumulative incremental investments towards net zero could reach about €1.7 trillion ($1.81 trillion) by 2030.

In April, the EU adopted several laws that are a part of the Fit for 55 package, aligning policies with a 55 per cent greenhouse gas reduction by 2030 to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

Fit for 55, which was proposed in 2021, includes a carbon border tax, a just transition fund, and a carbon price for gasoline and household heating.

McKinsey has said that a shortage of labour could impede moves towards a more orderly energy transition in Europe.

A part of a new solar park outside the northern Greek city of Kozani. AP

“The expected surge in wind and solar installations, for example, could make them difficult to staff with qualified development and construction employees, as well as operations and maintenance workers,” the consultancy said.

“Almost one million full-time skilled workers would be needed in 2030 just to develop and construct centralised renewable-energy assets. That is more than triple the number needed today,” it said.

While the transition could eliminate six million jobs through 2050, it could also generate 11 million, McKinsey said.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc was aiming for a “fair and just transition” to a carbon-neutral future, balancing the fight against climate change with the concerns of business and farmers.

In her annual state of the union speech to the European Parliament, she said Brussels would be “supporting European industry”, while adding that the bloc would “fast-track” permits for wind power installations.

The goal for the bloc's energy transition would be to raise the proportion of renewable energy in the final energy mix to 45 per cent by 2030, compared with 22 per cent today, McKinsey said.

By 2030, these changes could reduce the EU's total energy bill by 10 per cent, it added.

Updated: September 17, 2023, 5:46 AM