COP26 Blog 3: A just energy transition

Continuing with his exclusive blog for Fuel Oil News, live from COP26, Stephen Marcos Jones, director-general UKPIA, shares his thoughts on the role that people will play in delivering a just energy transition and offers some smart ideas on developing new talent for the energy sector.

The role people in the fuel sector will play in delivering a just energy transition and developing new talent for the energy sector.

“Friday’s focus at COP26 has been on youth and public empowerment, and at UKPIA, we take the view that a just transition should be central to this theme. The meaning of just transition will vary across the globe, however, in the UK, for our sector, I think it is about making sure the future is a bright and engaging one; one that can meet climate change and societal goals and can continue to offer opportunities that attract the best and brightest talent.

“With today’s focus on people, I’ve been speaking with OPITO – the global skills body for the energy sector.”

People crucial to delivery of a just and successful transition

“As the energy sector evolves, from fossil fuels to renewables, the people who lead and actually deliver the change are going to be crucial to its success.

“That is why we believe in the need for a just transition. This concept means not leaving anyone behind, whether that be the people who rely on cheap energy (drivers and those who aren’t connected to the grid), the workforce, or the communities that have relied on our industry as the cornerstones of long-term, well-paid jobs.

“The energy sector has always attracted highly talented individuals, and we need these people to use their skills to shape the new energy sector.

“In upstream, many of the people who work in offshore oil and gas have the attributes to help grow the offshore wind sector. In downstream, we have been safely using hydrogen in refineries since the 1930s and with low carbon hydrogen being so important in reaching Net-Zero, these skills are going to be in high demand.

The role of UK upstream in leading the way to a low carbon future was highlighted in a recent report.

“Given the talent we have now and the future need for it we would say:

  • Why not enhance the current skillset of our workforce, as well as training new people and recruiting from schools and universities? 
  • Why not create an apprenticeship programme that allows a young person to do a rotation at a refinery, another in a solar farm, and perhaps another working for an engineering firm or for a CCUS company – allowing the individual to be truly equipped to contribute their skills to an evolving energy sector? 
  • Why not make sure that no community gets left behind as businesses and governments invest in the world’s future?

“There’s a great opportunity here, but it can only be achieved through doing things differently: bringing education and industry more closely together so education more accurately reflects local skill needs, especially with STEM subjects.

“Let’s think smarter – not work harder – to reach Net-Zero.”

Stephen’s previous blog post can be read here.