Want to change the world and make yourself attractive to employers? Turns out you can do both! Jobs in renewable energy are on the rise – and with a shortage of skill, now is a great time to train.
In this article, we explore:
- What is renewable energy?
- What renewable energy jobs are most sought after?
- What are the different jobs in renewable energy you can do?
'Careers in renewable energy are great for the planet and great for employability'
What is renewable energy?
As we’re sure you’ll remember from geography, energy can be produced from renewable and non-renewable sources. So-called "fossil fuels" like coal, gas and oil are made from the remains of dead animals and plants, and take millions of years to form. This means we can’t replace them as quickly as we use them, so we call them “non-renewables”.
We can also harness energy from resources that won’t run out in our lifetimes, like the wind, the sun (solar), tides (tidal), waves (marine), flowing water (hydroelectric), and even living things (bioenergy). We call these “renewables”. Wood is also considered a renewable source, because trees can be replanted - it's relatively high-polluting though, because wood is burned to create energy.
What does this mean for my career?
You might be thinking all is a very long way away from your career path. Think again!
With governments all over the world working to tackle climate change, renewables are big business. Around the world, almost 10 million people worked in renewable energy in 2016. According to the ONS (the official stats pros), 48,000 people worked in renewable energy here in the UK in 2015 – part of 234,000 people working in the wider “low-carbon economy”.
Today, there aren’t enough people qualified to work in this sector – particularly in roles such as ecology and engineering. Governments have targets to reduce our reliance on non-renewable sources, increasing our use of renewables instead.
Only around 15% of energy in the UK comes from renewable sources today, which means there’s a long way to go. It’s likely that many more jobs will be created in the renewable sector over the coming years. So if you want to change the world, training for a job in renewables could be a smart move!
What areas are the jobs in?
You may have guessed it – renewable energy is a pretty big field of work. To start with, there are the many types of renewables we’ve already talked about. In the UK, bioenergy and wind are the two areas which employ the most people, while globally, solar is the biggest player.
According to Asif Rehmanwala, head of green energy company Ecotricity, there are a shortage of qualified people in the following areas:
- Landscape and wind analysts
If you train in one of these areas, you won’t be limited to renewables. Like many “STEM” (science, maths, engineering, technology) specialisms, these areas are highly sought after in a whole host of areas of work.
As we said, jobs in renewable energy can be found all over the world. Solar might not be big business in the rainy old UK, but if harnessing the mighty power of the sun is what floats your boat, you may find plenty of work in warmer climes, like parts of the United States.
There are 5 main areas where you can find jobs in renewable energy:
Before solar, wind or any other kind of renewable energy is generated, teams have to decide on the best place to collect it. Experts such as oceanographers, geographers, landscape or wind analysts survey the environment and analyse all the information they have gathered. Planners liaise with the government, local councils, and communities to make sure the impact on all things from wildlife to property prices is taken into account.
Mechanical, civil and even software engineers come up with the best way to overcome the particular challenges of the chosen site. Grid connection specialists work out how to connect the site to the power network, while different kinds of technicians choose the best equipment to start construction.
The construction work begins. Project managers oversee each bit of the process, while site managers direct construction workers. Contract managers choose the best companies to supply equipment and materials, and find other companies to carry out bits of the project. Civil engineers oversee and review construction to deal with new problems and make sure things are going to plan. Cablers lay the network.
Once the site is up and running, on-site staff carry out general maintenance and improvement work to ensure the station runs as efficiently and safely as possible, and keep it hooked up to the grid. Inspectors ensure standards and laws are being complied with.
Like any other organisation, renewable energy companies rely on a whole host of other teams to keep things ticking over:
- Communications team deal with the media and the public.
- Sales and marketing teams sell energy to customers.
- Customer service teams deal with existing customers.
- Human resources (HR) teams are responsible for hiring and looking after staff.
- Estates and facilities teams care for and manage the land owned by the company.
- Finance teams take care of money going in and out.
- The legal department looks after all legal matters.
We hope we’ve shown you that you don’t just need to be an engineer to work in renewable energy. Whatever your chosen path, there could be career for you, and with new jobs in renewable energy being created around the world all the time, there will be more opportunities in the future.
Renewables isn't the only way you can help the planet. Check out our guide to environment jobs to see 10 of the coolest green careers out there today!
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Lead image via Freepik
Different renewable energy sources via Wikimedia Commons
Bioenergy plant via Flickr