More than eight out of ten energy professionals say UK will miss Net Zero


Energy professionals believe the Johnson government’s failure to delivery detailed energy policies means Britain will fail to meet its legally binding goal of Net Zero by 2050.

Eighty-five percent of over 400 members polled in the Energy Institute’s annual Energy Barometer judge the government’s lack of substance make the goal unattainable.

Just 12% think the UK will meet or exceed its net zero target. However, adopting a more ambitious target (the goal was 80% reductions by 2050) has shifted the perceptions of what is achievable. In 2015, fewer than one-in-five energy professionals expected the UK to achieve at least a 78% reduction in emissions; in 2021, four-in-five do.

Just over half – 51% – of energy managers and engineers also believe Johnson’s 2030 targets of 78% cuts on 1990s emission levels will be missed.

Alongside an absence of detailed decarbonisation commitments, a rising skills gap unaddressed by government is a second factor impeding the targets’ attainment, according to the survey.

The EI’s report quotes the National Grid-ESO’s January 2020 study Building the net zero energy workforce.  It predicts Britain must fill 400,000 energy roles before 2050, the majority of them new. That total encompasses a range of jobs, including engineers, data analysts, machine learning experts and skilled tradespeople.

Nearly three quarters of respondents –  73% – say government needs to be doing more to plug that skills gap.

EI members are investing in their own development; 57% say they’ll be extending their skills in the coming year in response to the Net Zero agenda. Hydrogen, CCUS, wind power, carbon and energy management top a list of popular topics.

Of 305 respondents not classed as imminent retirees, over half believe they’re likely or very likely to switch focus in the next decade. 52% say they recently have.

Oil and gas workers believe they face the greatest uncertainty; with over three quarters citing barriers to their continuing employment. 57% support investment specifically for skills and retraining to avoid oil and gas professionals being left stranded.  A 46% share say carbon-intensive sectors must be encouraged with investment so they can continue to operate in the UK.

EI president Steve Holliday commented: “A laser focus on policies and initiatives to drive the development of low carbon technologies is vital.  But it must not eclipse the equally important need to support and develop the net zero workforce.

The EI Barometer is clear that decarbonisation won’t happen at the necessary speed and scale without the assembly of a mass skilled workforce. So we are encouraged by signals from ministers that this will be an integral part of the UK’s net zero strategy”, Holliday added.


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