Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), Chairman of Lindoe Offshore Renewable Centre and former Prime Minister of Denmark; Maria Da Graça Carvalho, MEP in the Group of the European People’s Party (Conservatives and Christian Democrats) and former Science Minister of Portugal; and Anne Panneels, Senior Advisor for the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) all emphasised the enormous potential to create new jobs in wind power and other renewable energy technologies during a debate facilitated by the Financial Times’ Environment Correspondent Fiona Harvey.
By the end of 2009, the wind energy sector employed 192,000 people in Europe. In addition, European companies employ tens of thousands of people outside of Europe.
“The European Wind Energy Association expects strong growth in wind turbines employment in Europe over the coming years to 280,000 by 2015 and 450,000 by 2020. That’s on average, 450 new European wind energy jobs per week over the next decade” said Christian Kjaer, Chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association.
Three key areas – offshore wind farm, electricity grids, and the training and education of more engineers and technical staff – were identified as critical to creating those new jobs.
“Only if we continue to install large amounts of renewable energy in the EU and support pilot projects of new technologies, will European renewable energy companies be able to compete”, said Rasmussen, “Offshore wind farm has the largest growth potential and needs to receive stronger public support from and within the European Union”.
"The Green Revolution is only the latest in a number of technological and economic revolutions in Europe’s history” said Da Graça Carvalho. “The crucial factors are whether or not Europe will be able to develop top-end skills in research but also in the fields of technical maintenance. With regards to jobs, a decentralised renewable energy based economy will generate more employment than an excessively rationalised and centralised system."
“Also critical will be to satisfy the conditions for a just transition to a low carbon economy. This includes consultation bodies involving social partners at intersectoral level and in each key sector, dedicated to R&D and investment choices, to the development of skills and adapted training strategies that are well thought out and provided at the right time thanks to social dialogue and the anticipation of needs, ensuring that the jobs created will be quality jobs,” said Panneels.
The coming years will see the development of a new offshore wind industry. Existing and planned European offshore wind projects would, if implemented, supply 10% of Europe’s electricity. Employment in offshore is expected to exceed onshore by 2025, and by 2030, over 60% of the total employment in wind energy is expected to be in offshore wind energy.