Everywhere we look, the renewables revolution seems to be top of the agenda, whether it’s wind, tidal or solar.
It’s almost impossible to read the morning paper or watch the evening news without being told how the sustainable energy sector is shaping the global jobs market and providing a wealth of new opportunities for businesses smart enough – and quick enough – to jump on the bandwagon.
We face unprecedented challenges to our environment, our economy and the future security of our energy supplies.
The discussions we have and the decisions we make now will affect the lives of many for years to come.
If the only future facing us all is a low-carbon one, we must prepare to make the transition to that future. That transition presents valuable opportunities for us, and not reaping the benefits from them could be disastrous in the long term.
Worryingly, the same fears we hear about damaging skills shortages in our own industry are also touted in renewables.
But while, undoubtedly, an exciting, innovative and potentially far-reaching industry to be involved in, I would argue that when it comes down to it, the renewables sector is more or less a variation on a theme.
Oil&gas organisations of all sizes and across all disciplines are already using the skills, technologies and expertise which will be a vital component of the renewables industry and are therefore perfectly poised to exploit the potential as the world looks at a different energy mix.
Indeed, stakeholders looking to maximise their opportunities are turning their eyes to renewables with fresh interest.
I had this very discussion with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, David Kidney, during his recent visit to Aberdeen. To its credit, the Government has made mass investment into skills development in the renewables sector. However, I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel here.
Oil&gas companies already have extensive experience in areas such as supply-chain co-ordination, manpower and equipment supply, procurement, planning and logistics support.
Our world-class civil-engineering skills and track record in undertaking construction activities in some of the harshest environments on the planet will be critical for the renewables industry as it develops.
For offshore windfarms, in particular, marine expertise in areas such as cable laying, lifting and installation, and technology development, are all skills shared with oil&gas workers. Ours is a future full of many opportunities. We need to take them, and we need to use the collective employer model which has proved so successful.
There is no doubt that the oil&gas industry will continue to play a leading role in the world’s future energy portfolio. Ideally, the diversification from oil&gas into renewables will be the result of a natural evolution over time rather than a swift exodus, but companies need to make – and are making – serious choices about the way ahead.
David Doig is CEO of OPITO Strategic Limited