The Hunt for Green Jobs in Scotland

APRIL 2010
Photos and text by Roos Mulders and Teresa Smith

EDINBURGH – The Scottish government has vowed to create 60,000 new green jobs by 2020 and they’re rounding up industry and education to help them reach that goal.  But, the workforce isn’t jumping on board as quickly as necessary.  There are employee shortages from electricians and plumbers to engineers and outfitters.

The discussion paper mentioned by Colin Imrie, Head of Energy, Markets Division, projects 26,000 jobs in renewable energy, 26,000 in emerging low carbon technologies and 8000 jobs in environmental management which the Scottish Government hopes will be created as part of the switch to a low carbon economy. You can see what others are saying here:

Scotland’s big green dreams, present huge challenges if goals are to be met

The UK is in financial crisis and unemployment numbers are rising. Investment in resource and development in the renewable energy sector must create 60,000 green jobs in the next ten years.

Scotland is placed in a naturally rich position. Surrounded by the waves of the North Sea, located in the North of the United Kingdom with a lot of wind, it can generate a lot of its energy from renewable sources.  It will need people to develop the marine technologies and build the devices yet to be invented.

First minister Alex Salmond started his New Year’s address to the country by talking about the importance of the green economy for Scotland’s future. He says the government must work together with the country’s industry and universities to make them the “Saudi Arabia of Marine Energy.”

In 2003 the Scottish Government gave itself the goal of getting 20% of their energy generated by renewable sources by 2010. For 2011 they increased this to 31% and before 2020 they hope to get 50% of the energy from renewable sources such as wind, waves, tidal and biomass.

Scotland was a leader in wind energy research in the 1970s but dropped the ball due to lack of funding. Denmark and Germany took on the challenge and are now leading the world in wind energy production.  Scotland is determined not to let that happen again and the government is putting their money where their hopes are – into marine energy research.  For now, the jobs are mainly in highly educated, research positions.  The government promises that, by the end of the decade, that research will have produced inventions that Scottish hands will need to manufacture.

Scotland wants to lead in renewable energy

Country becomes greener thanks to its green fields, blue seas and windy climate

On the heels of the Copenhagen Environmental Summit, the Scottish government came out with the world’s most ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reduction and energy production from renewable sources.  Their goal was to get 31 per cent of the country’s electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2011, and 50 per cent by 2020.

The Scottish Government wants Scotland to be the Saudi Arabia of Marine Energy, Edinburgh, March 2010

Changing the way of life creates new jobs
“Decarbonising the economy is likely to be a major propellant to get us out of the financial crisis,” said Willy Roe, Chair of Skills Development Scotland.  “It’s about everything, every sector of the economy needs to be changed.”

The problem, says Roe, is how to get the population engaged in the greening process. “One of the issues in this country is that all the young people recently have not wanted to go into these technician roles.  It’s quite hard, there’s a real shortage of people wanting to be plumbers and electricians and technicians.”  He says that until the crash, most students trained for jobs in financial services or creative media – what they saw as more attractive, higher paid positions.  Asked if the government has a role to play in forcing a shift, Roe says the market will take care of it. “Plumbers and electricians will be paid more and that will, in turn, attract more people into these jobs.”

Every part of the society needs to be involved
Roe stresses that every Scottish man, woman and child will have to get involved and interested in the new way of thinking.  “We need the school system – and parents and young people and teachers – to recognize that the balance of our economy is changing from here on and that green jobs are going to be a really significant part of our economy in the future.  And it’s very widespread.”

“It’s a growing movement,” he says.  “But it’s not like flipping a switch.”

Scotland using waves and wind to usher in new jobs

EDINBURGH – As a way out of the global financial crisis, the Scottish government is taking a fresh look at their wet climate and windy moors. They’re asking for some ingenuity from Scottish minds.  The goal?  60,000 new green jobs to help combat rising unemployment in the country, energy efficiency and an eco-literate population.

Ready, Set, Wave!
On March 16, 2010, the Scottish Government awarded 10 seabed leases for land around the Scottish coast.  It is the world’s first commercial wave and tidal power competition and the winners are now in a race to find the most efficient way to produce green energy for the country and jobs for the workforce.

The wind and the waves from the North Sea could play a big role in renewable energy for Scotland, March 2010

“Until now the wind and waves and the tides and rain have been seen as big problems for Scotland, real downsides, things that are holding us back and constraining us as a country,” said Chair of Skills Development Scotland, Willy Roe.  “And now, magically just at the turn of the century as the whole world changes, these things which have been liability are now seen as incredible assets in perpetuity.”

Martin McAdam, CEO of Aquamarine Power, and one of the leaseholders, says his goal is to make the technology his company has already come up with cheaper so that it can have a real chance of being used on the open market.

“We can have a resurgence in manufacturing here if we do this right,” he says.  “Like wind in Denmark.”

Growing sector, more people involved
A year and a half ago, Aquamarine Power only employed seven people, today that number has grown to 40.  “We estimate that, down the supply chain, there are about 300 people involved with our company.”  About half of those are full time workers.

One of McAdam’s main priorities is to keep jobs in Scotland.  “From my perspective, it makes very little sense to send designs to China or Korea, have the device made there and then shipped back to Scotland.”  He says Scottish thinking needs to change.  “We need to have a culture in Scotland where people say ‘We can do it, we can do it cost effectively and we can do it with homegrown technology.’”

The prize will be jobs, he says.  In the next ten years, the focus will be on highly skilled jobs in technology development and, after that, more jobs will be created in manufacturing and implementation of that technology.  “There’s no reason they can’t be in Scotland,” McAdam’s adds.

Industries can’t go without universities

David Clouston working on his final project at the University of Edinburgh’s wave tank, March 2010

David Clouston, 23 is working on his final project at the University of Edinburgh’s mechanical engineering department.  He comes from the Orkney Islands, where all this development will be taking places, and the site of many of the seabed land leases.  He is excited about contributing to the renewable energy boom in Scotland and hopes to return to his home isles after studying.

“I see myself working in Edinburgh or Aberdeen just to get some experience before I go back, but certainly I would like to return there and hopefully be a big part of the renewable energy scene.”

Gap is in the black job sector
The jobs won’t only be for highly skilled university graduates.  Max Carcas, Business Development Director for Pelamis Wave Power, another leaseholder, says there will be “plenty of opportunity for people working in other industries to transfer their skills to the green sector.”  Employees in ‘black jobs’ – those currently working in the oil and gas sector, on rigs in the North Sea – may be magically transformed into part of the green economy.  Their skills ability to work on large marine machines will be invaluable as the marine wave and tidal technology moves past the prototype stage and into the mass manufacturing stage later in the decade.

“It’s the only way forward,” says Roe, “so why wouldn’t you do it?”  He is happy to hear about the developments and the transition from a black to a green economy.  And we’ll get a great reputation over ten or twenty years as a leader in renewable energy.”

Jobs, Green jobs for everyone!

EDINBURGHCreating green jobs is at the top of the Scottish government’s priority list. By 2020 they hope to fulfill their promise of 60,000 new green jobs:  ones that decarbonise the country’s economy. However, no one was able to tell us exactly what that means in practice.  A job that, on the surface looks like a black job could turn green overnight.  By some definitions, if you work in a petrol station, which provides diesel with a certain amount of biodiesel in it, then you could be part of the green sector. One thing everyone could agree on:  your job is green if it has some potential to help decarbonize the economy.

Jobs, jobs jobs, what is a green job?
We asked some key players in the green jobs movement for their definition.

Colin Imrie Head of Energy Markets Division, Scottish Government, says every job that contributes to the development of a sustainable low carbon economy and any job that promotes investment in the right type of green technology. So Stephen Warrington who teaches at the engineering faculty of the University of Edinburgh and gives lectures about renewable energy, has a green job.

Willy Roe, Chair of Skills Development Scotland thinks that the number of green jobs is going to grow enormously in the next decade.  He already sees green jobs in food services when a priority is given to making sure the food comes from as eco-friendly a place as possible. “All of these are going to be green jobs in the future. In fact as our economy moves into a low carbon economy more, more and more jobs are going to be able to be classed as green jobs”, he says.

All sorts of green jobs
There are two strains of energy jobs that will come out of this push, says Roe.  One will be positions in what he calls the low-carbon economy: retro-fitting old buildings and changing over out-of-date, energy consuming systems to more efficient ones.  The other will be as-yet-unseen jobs in the no-carbon economy: development of new technologies, some of which are still at the very beginning stages of invention.

Coal used to be cheap and easy for Scotland’s energy. Therefore every room had its own chimney, Edinburgh, March 2010

Low-Carbon Economy
“It’s going to change a lot of jobs,” says Roe.  “All of the people who work as electricians, plumbers and other building services specialists will need to learn the tricks of the trade of the low carbon economy.”

To that end, the Scottish government is promoting what they call “Modern Apprenticeships.”  Electricians and plumbers working in the old industry now will be required to upgrade their certification and get a license to update homes so they meet green standards.

“The low carbon economy is here now, but it’s only very small,” says Roe.  “But it’s going to accelerate enormously and fast, from here on.”

Updating Scotland’s buildings
Roe says construction jobs will be easy to find in the new, greener economy. By 2016 every new building will have to be built to be carbon free and every structure in Scotland will need an update to reduce how much energy they waste. “More people will be needed than are currently in it,” he says.

He points to tramlines being built in Edinburgh, which, after some delay, should be finished by 2014, and the government-subsidized electrified railways which will run throughout the U.K. in the next 50 years.  These, he says, are examples of the Scottish government’s commitment to creating jobs that make the country greener and utilize the skills that the workforce already has.

No Carbon Economy
What Roe calls the ‘No Carbon Economy’ will consist of more up market jobs requiring a higher level of education.

His examples included engineers who build and design robots to install electric car batteries and researchers who are currently trying to figure out how to make ‘smart windows’ which will detect the temperature in a house and allow heat in or out depending on the homeowners needs. “Depending on how fast all this goes, it’s going to propel all sorts of inventions,” says Roe.

He’s confident that Scotland’s bright minds are up to the task.  “We have a two centuries long tradition in Scotland in creative engineering.   A lot of this is going to be about engineering.”

Scotland can’t just go it alone

EDINBURGHIf the Scottish government wants to change the way they generate energy they must get the right legislation and framework for it – and that’s not up to them. As Willy Roe, Chair of Skills Development of the Scottish Government, says: “The politics about our energy is extremely complex. It is not just in the Scottish Governments hands, but it is in London’s hand.”

Energy generates political strife between Scotland and London
Within the politics in the United Kingdom energy policy is partly run by the UK government and partly by the Scottish government. “So it is a serious issue what the politicians in London decide. And in this case, this way of governing could be been seen as a big impediment for the Scottish goal to develop their renewable energy sources,” Roe says. In the push to decarbonise the UK economy, their government has been promoting nuclear power. On the other end of the energy spectrum, Scotland is trying their best to generate energy from renewable sources such as wind, wave and tidal.

Change on the horizon after May 6th elections?
The London government has a lot of power:  it creates the regulatory framework to manage the energy market, it establishes the financial incentive systems for renewable energy, and London is responsible for the transmission grids, which transport electricity throughout the UK.  Until recently, Roe says the UK government has made it as difficult as possible for Scotland to move forward with their renewable energy schemes.  He blames the UK for favouring nuclear energy and cutting off funding to renewable alternatives, thus forcing the Scottish government to go it alone.

Thus, a change in government in the upcoming British elections could mean a change for Scottish energy. Both Labour and the Conservatives will continue to favour nuclear energy, with a smaller share of funding going to renewables. However, the Liberal Democrats widely oppose the construction of new nuclear power stations. They believe that Britain’s future electricity needs can be fully met by the use of renewables and offshore wind in particular. Roe: “If something will change, I don’t know. But what everyone has realised is it’s not one or the other. It’s not nuclear or renewables it is a mix of both.”

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