On Tuesday 17, Boris Johnson announced his latest plans for the green revolution in British energy. The PM said the 10-point plan would create up to 250,000 jobs, with much of the focus aimed at the north of England, Midlands, Scotland and Wales. The plan follows his announcement in October to ‘Build Back Greener’ post-Covid, creating jobs, slashing carbon emissions and boosting exports.
Johnson’s latest announcement also sets the platform for the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow next year. After a politically turbulent few weeks, the PM is eager to show that the UK is taking the initiative with a hybrid approach to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While pledging to make London the “global centre of green finance”, the PM outlined the scope of his vision in his article for the Financial times, stating:
“There will be electric vehicle technicians in the Midlands, construction and installation workers in the North East and Wales, specialists in advanced fuels in the North West, agroforestry practitioners in Scotland, and grid system installers everywhere. And we will help people train for these new green jobs through our Lifetime Skills Guarantee.”
The UK already leads the way in wind power with the largest capacity in the world. The PM’s plan to make the UK the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’ will quadruple offshore wind power by 2030 with £160m investment, producing enough to power every UK home. The investment will also upgrade the Northern port infrastructure, creating 2,000 immediate construction jobs, which will increase to 60,000 by 2030.
The plan’s £500m pledge to back hydrogen proved divisive, with green factions favouring commitment to zero emissions. However, the EU is backing a major hydrogen policy, and there are many who believe the UK should follow. The UK needs to include hydrogen in its journey to net-zero emissions, as wind, solar and electricity don’t currently offer the efficiency or capacity to completely replace fossil fuels. The investment in hydrogen will focus on research to increase carbon-free production methods such as electrolysis.
The UK is now home to world’s largest electrolyser factory for generating ‘green hydrogen’. In 2019, the energy storage and clean fuel company ITM announced an agreement to make Sheffield its global manufacturing headquarters. The factory will be a centrepiece for international hydrogen technology and is already attracting local talent from other industries hit hard by the pandemic, including metal workers and aerospace engineers.
The ‘Hydrogen Strategy Now’ collective wants to see a clear, strategic plan to help unlock significant private funding in hydrogen technologies and manufacturing across the country. This could see opportunities arising for specialist corporate finance contractors working in fund administration, private placement, fundraising and private equity. Mark Carney, the UK Prime Minister’s Finance Advisor for COP26 and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action, said at this week’s Green Horizon Summit, “Achieving the net-zero will require a whole economy transition, involving every company, bank, insurer and investor, and creating the greatest commercial opportunity of our time.”
There will also be £525m towards new nuclear power based on “the next generation of small and advanced reactors”. A group led by Rolls-Royce has pledged to create 6,000 regional UK jobs within the next five years under plans to build 16 mini nuclear power stations. The consortium said the jobs would help support the government’s “levelling up” agenda, with up to 80% of the power station components set to be made in factories across the Midlands and the north of England. The nuclear power plant plans could deliver a further 34,000 roles in 15 years.
Like Hydrogen, nuclear energy remains controversial in its transition towards achieving net-zero, however significant research into cleaner forms of nuclear energy are underway. A pioneering nuclear fusion experiment based in Oxfordshire was switched on for the first time in October. The £55m Mast Upgrade has taken seven years to build. Unlike fission, it will use nuclear fusion, which does not produce long-life radioactive waste.
UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “We want the UK to be a world leader in fusion energy and to capitalise on its amazing potential as a clean energy source that could last for hundreds of years. Backed by £55m of government funding, powering up the Mast Upgrade Device is a landmark moment for this national fusion experiment and takes us another step closer towards our goal of building the UK’s first fusion power plant by 2040.”
The plan also saw a £40m additional investment into the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, bringing total investment to £80m. This will help to create and retain thousands of green jobs in areas such as tree planting, environmental education and the restoration of damaged habitats, such as peatlands and wetlands. The successful projects from the first funding round will be announced in the coming weeks, creating significant opportunities for environmental, forestry and STEM contractors.
The PM’s 10-point plan comes at a crucial time for the UK amid rising unemployment caused by the pandemic. It will create jobs across multiple sectors, from environmental and science research to high value manufacturing jobs, construction and assembly, as well as the wider supply chains that will support the operation of factories and power stations. While some opportunities will be immediate, the green sector has long-term potential for sustained demand in skilled, project-based work for contractors. There’s also great potential for contractors working in the gas and oil sectors to transfer their skills to the renewable sector.
Next time we’ll continue our focus on energy with a look at the top five roles in the renewable energy sector, in the meantime you can read about the latest hiring news here. ContractingWISE have access to a wide range of hassle-free services that can help you with setting up a limited company or finding the right umbrella company for you. To talk to a member of our team, call: 0203 642 8679