The offshore wind industry is growing exponentially, but thousands of workers need to be recruited and trained in the coming years
Offshore wind is growing ‘exponentially’ and will be a major driver of the energy transition across the world, with 51 GW of new offshore installations globally by 2024 and a need for more than 77,000 Global Wind Organisation (GWO)-trained workers, or 2.5 people per MW per project, in six emerging markets alone, according to a new report.
The first report of its kind, Powering the Future: Global Offshore Wind Workforce Outlook 2020-2024 provides a qualitative analysis of the workforce training needs required to fulfil offshore wind market forecasts in North America, China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea.
Published by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and Global Wind Organisation (GWO) and conducted in collaboration with Renewables Consulting Group, the report combines global market forecasts with local training needs to build a roadmap for offshore wind industries in emerging markets.
Recruiting and training offshore wind workers will not be without its problems however, and the report highlights bottlenecks for training such as a lack of training centres, standard familiarity and risk of training standards being perceived as ‘imposed’ and not reflecting local content.
“Having a trained workforce based on GWO standards is necessary to ensure health and safety of workers, secure the long-term sustainability of the sector, create thousands of local jobs and power the global energy transition,” says GWEC.
In addition, say GWEC and GWO, the Covid-19 pandemic will pose a new challenge to workforce and turbine supply chains to reach the world’s offshore wind ambitions.
The report concludes there is a ‘substantial opportunity’ for standardised safety training as the world’s offshore wind sites begin their construction and installation phases up to 2024.
“To help us all make the most of this opportunity, the following steps are being taken,” says GWEC.
“The first is to continue to develop our understanding of the market-specific considerations that may cause the workforce requirements to differ from the calculated baseline.
“The second is to emphasise development of skilled workforces, including necessary health and safety training, in GWEC’s policy recommendations and industry events in key offshore markets around the world.
“The third is to consult with developers, regulators and wind energy associations in emerging markets to understand the appetite for adopting GWO standards and any local barriers that might exist.”
Another important development is the continued expansion of the GWO Global Alignment Project. This project began in 2019 and will see newly aligned versions of GWO standards published in October 2020.
Working groups in North America, Australia and China have reviewed every document to ensure they are fit for purpose in those markets. Other markets will join the project over the next three years, supported by GWO’s Safety Without Borders strategy.
The report also recommends the development and distribution of starter packs stating the required equipment, both PPE and structural/facilities, for developing a GWO-certified training centre.
Increasing collaboration activity with associated industries will also be important. GWO is a member of the Industry Collaboration Committee alongside the G+ Offshore Wind, RenewableUK and the International Marine Contractors Association. It would be beneficial, says GWEC, to harmonise standards and remove duplication where it exists to the benefit of all operators across the wind energy supply chain.
The report also highlights that in 2021, GWO will introduce an Instructor Qualification Training course to support developing markets, improving quality and accessibility of the standards.
Implementing a global quality assurance programme is an ongoing process and included the recent publication of new GWO Requirements for Certification Bodies and Training Providers that introduced additional quality control measures. Updates to the requirements in April 2019 have already proven a success for governance and quality.
GWO has also provided training to 86 auditors in eight global markets, and only certification bodies who have documented conformance may now certify a GWO site. The result is a new authorised list of certification bodies published on the GWO web site. By the end of 2019, this list contained 44 certification bodies on four continents.
GWEC chief executive Ben Backwell says of the report, “The appetite for offshore wind is strong with investors and policymakers alike as more and more ambitious targets are put in place, but we need a trained workforce ready to realise these goals.
“There is no question that offshore wind will be a key driver of the global energy transition over the next three decades. With mature markets established in Europe and a developed supply chain, this burgeoning industry is now entering new markets across the globe and is set to become a US$1Tn industry by 2030, according to the IEA.
“The industry has grown nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2019. At GWEC, we expect this growth to accelerate sharply over the coming years as the world races to completely decarbonise its power sector in line with the requirements set out by the IPCC.
“With 29.1 GW of offshore capacity already installed at the end of 2019, GWEC Market Intelligence expects 50 GW of new installations by 2024, by which time offshore will constitute around 20% of total new wind installations across the world.
“However, as we head towards 2050, the deployment will need to accelerate still further. European policy makers are looking to installations of 450 GW, while the rest of the world – and in particular, Asia – will need to deploy as much as 500 GW.
“As the offshore wind sector plays an increasingly important role in energy systems across the globe and our level of ambition rises, it is absolutely crucial that we have the workforce in place to back up these ambitions and successfully implement policy.
“Ensuring we have a workforce with sufficient levels of skill in safety, technical and other essential training to power offshore wind development worldwide is essential to secure healthy long-term growth and the necessary degree of sustainability of the sector. This is especially important in the emerging markets highlighted in this report, as they are looking both to move fast to emulate the European experience and deploy offshore wind power at competitive prices, and to develop their own local supply chains to support this booming industry.”
Mr Backwell says health and safety must be prioritised to nurture and care for human resources, attract talent and build a good reputation for the industry. Ensuring the right training and standards are in place as the market continues to grow to new parts of the world is necessary to establish a safe working environment and retain a workforce for years to come.
“Getting this right is not only important to accelerate the energy transition globally but will also be an important driver of local job creation and investment for these emerging markets.
“The findings in this report are an important tool to match global market trends with local training needs. These markets are moving faster than we have ever seen before, and it is crucial that workforce training keeps up to build a good reputation for the sector and ensure growth opportunities for years to come.”
GWO chief executive Jakob Lau Holst says, “Having a GWO-trained workforce is often the missing piece of the puzzle when considering a new offshore wind project in any given market, but this should be seen as a top priority in nascent markets to secure their long-term growth and create thousands of local jobs.
“The offshore wind industry needs to be a leader in health and safety to attract the best talent and ensure the sustainability of the workforce. Having standardised training is the most effective way to accomplish this.
“GWO already has training centres in China, the US and Taiwan, but we will need to ramp up training centres in these regions drastically to train the necessary workforce of almost 78,000 people.
“Due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, GWO is also rolling out digital training platforms to ensure continuity in training and continue driving forward the global energy transition.”
Riviera will host a week of free to attend 45-minute webinars focused on offshore wind commencing 8 June. Register your interest now