UKCCSRC Spring 2023 Conference – Parallel 2c “Jobs and skills for sustainable CCS scale up” (ECR Meeting Fund)

Jaqueline de Oliveira Brotto (Imperial College London) provides an insight into Parallel session 2c “Jobs and skills for sustainable CCS scale up” at the UKCCSRC Spring 2023 Conference on “CCS from geographically dispersed industries”.

On 28th and 29th March I had the opportunity to attend the Spring Conference and one of the talks I went to was on “Jobs and skills for sustainable CCS scale up” with researchers Kirstie Simpson (University of Chester) and Christian Calvillo (University of Strathclyde).

Initially, Kirstie presented the scenario of job growth at HyNet – North West, responsible for providing infrastructure to produce, transport and store low carbon hydrogen in North West and North Wales, and provide infrastructure to capture, transport and lock up carbon dioxide emissions from industry. With this mission, HyNet anticipates creating around 55,000 jobs in the UK between 2022 – 2030, with 6000+ UK construction jobs per year. In relation to the Industrial Cluster CAPEX Summary by Decarbonisation Infrastructure, a CAPEX of £515bn to 2050 is estimated. With that CAPEX figure, 353,155 jobs per year to deliver industrial decarbonisation, of which 97,302 (28%) are professional and 255,853 (72%) are technical.

Kirstie drew attention to resources (workers), which will have to be shared to a greater or lesser extent between future IDC construction projects and future non-IDC construction projects. In addition, it will be necessary to expand the construction workforce by 350,000 to be able to complete all IDC projects and all non-IDC projects. She further cited that if the construction workforce expansion is less than 350,000, then some construction projects (either IDC, non-IDC or both) will have to be cancelled or postponed.

On challenges and opportunities, Kirstie split between Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE). For HE, a mobile student body with easier access to funding, student numbers and provision in engineering is fit for purpose, but will develop as new technology develops, focus needed on EDI, opportunity for postgraduate/research and collaboration with clusters. For FE, less mobile student body and more affordable funding required, increased student numbers and provision needs, esteem for technical programmes/careers in general, focus needed on EDI. She also raised issues such as pay now and pay later. Skills and competency gaps – known and unknown. Costs – financial and otherwise, socio-economic opportunities – really levelling out? Demand and supply – action and reaction. Finally, she highlighted three key issues: skills challenge – existing and pipeline; workforce – diversity and equal opportunity; and the need for action now.

Christian Calvillo then opened his talk about the work of the Centre for Energy Policy (CEP) at University of Strathclyde. They are working to ensure transitions to mid-century net zero targets deliver sustainable and equitable prosperity. The CEP is a multi-disciplinary hub that facilitates research, knowledge exchange and policy engagement on energy and climate issues. In particular, CEP has expertise in modelling for wider economy scenario analyses, to investigate how different actions and options are likely to impact across the wider economy, how and where value is generated, and to which sectors and regions it accrues.

The CEP research portfolio cuts across various aspects such as improving residential energy efficiency, enabling the electric vehicle (EV) roll-out, decarbonisation of heat, hydrogen production from marine renewables and deploying carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS), involving applied examples for the UK national and/or devolved and regional economies but all set in a wider public policy context. Also, collaborating with engineers and industry on technical challenges and scenarios, and with other social scientists.

Christian addressed the research project with the UKCCSRC, which is ongoing with a deadline for completion in June 2023. In this project, two central questions are being analysed:

1. What are the key drivers and mechanisms governing net employment, wages and wider cost outcomes of investing in and delivering CO2 transport and storage projects, both for CCUS-relevant industries and across all other sectors of the economy in different near, medium and longer term timeframes?

2. How can understanding of these key “moving parts” inform potential policy solutions to alleviate the impacts of persisting labour supply constraints, and/or cost and price pressures thereof under different circumstances and timeframes?

After research, Christian mentioned that limited ‘green growth’ could be realised through the deployment of a UK transport and storage industry, however, much will depend on how the industry is funded and sources of demand going forward. Generally, UK labour supply shortages will impact through wage pressures and displacement of employment across sectors, although, if CCUS development activity takes place over a longer period, these pressures will be smaller in magnitude.