The UK North Sea energy jobs count will drop by at least 20 percent in the coming years without urgent investment in the clean technologies needed to create a net-zero offshore energy system, a report by OGTC and Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult shows.
However, according to the report, investing up to £416 billion (USD 555,9 billion) in total, between today and over the next 30 years into clean energy projects, could deliver £125bn ($167 billion) per year to the UK economy and, could support 232,000 North Sea jobs by 2050 – up 66% from today - offsetting expected employment losses in the oil and gas sector.
"Up to £416bn of front-loaded investment is needed over the next 30 years if the UK is to maintain its position as a global energy leader, as the world transitions to the net-zero era," the report reads.
"The UK offshore energy sector will miss the opportunity to be a global leader in clean energy if it does not invest now in technology innovation to create a net-zero North Sea," OGTC and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult have warned.
‘Reimagining a Net Zero North Sea: an integrated energy vision for 2050’ highlights the opportunity for the oil and gas and renewable energy sectors to work together to transform the UK’s energy system and help deliver the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
Investment at pace, together with commitment to a net-zero North Sea, will accelerate new job opportunities which could mitigate major job losses otherwise expected over the next decade, the report says.
Focused investment in technology innovation could also deliver savings of £154bn by 2050, reducing costs for consumers and delivering affordable clean energy for UK homes and businesses.
"Being a leader in clean energy skills and technology presents a valuable export opportunity that the UK must seize," the report further says.
The report outlines three scenarios that have been modeled on the Committee on Climate Change’s Further Ambition scenario. Each sees the UK achieve its net-zero goal by 2050, using a combination of energy solutions to meet demand, but delivering greatly differing levels of economic benefits and green jobs.
In the Emerging scenario, renewable energy plays an increasing role, with gas still a significant contributor to the offshore energy mix and a significant requirement for carbon capture and storage (CCS).
In Progressive, an increased share of offshore renewables dominates the electricity market alongside a blue/green hydrogen mix, with a major role for CCS.
Transformational outlines an energy system driven by offshore wind and green hydrogen, with oil and gas demand matched by clean domestic supply.
Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng MP said: “I welcome this report and its ambitious vision to help transition the North Sea offshore oil and gas sector towards a Net Zero future.
"Protecting highly skilled jobs in the oil and gas industry is important to our net-zero aspirations, as we need the same skills, businesses and infrastructure to underpin net-zero solutions.
“That’s why we have committed to supporting the energy transition with a transformational North Sea Transition Deal and I look forward to working alongside industry to deliver on our world-leading target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”
Scotland Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “I welcome this timely report from OGTC and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult as the oil and gas sector reaches a critical period as it moves on from the huge effects COVID-19 and looks to the future. The three scenarios outlined provides us with further intelligence to support and accelerate the development of an updated integrated energy vision, building on our 2017 Scottish Energy Strategy.
“An integrated offshore energy system – including carbon capture, utilization and storage, and the use of hydrogen – can help Scotland and the UK meet our challenging greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in the timescale necessary for action, while also supporting Europe’s decarbonization.
“We recently announced a £62 million Energy Transition Fund to open up opportunities as companies move from oil and gas to low carbon and renewable investments, supporting our energy sector by investing in projects that help us make significant progress on energy transition as we move toward a net-zero society by 2045.
“The skills, expertise, and infrastructure of the oil and gas sector and its supply chain will be vital in unlocking these opportunities and contributing to the development of the great potential for offshore wind, floating wind and marine energy deployment in Scotland’s waters.”
Colette Cohen OBE, CEO at OGTC said: “These detailed scenarios paint a picture of what the UK’s offshore energy system could look like by 2050. None are definitive, but they highlight the need to drive investment and innovation today. There are tremendous opportunities for the UK, but we need strong alignment and urgent action from industry, governments, and regulators to realize these benefits.”
Andrew Jamieson, CEO at ORE Catapult said: “The UK leads the world in offshore renewable energy and we now have a very real opportunity to capitalize on this and reshape an economy around green energy. Leveraging the innovation, skills, experience, and investment of our oil and gas industry is imperative to seizing this moment, to protect and create thousands of jobs and deliver net zero”.