Renewable energy is destined to become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy in the coming years, needing to attract an array of talented people – perhaps as many as 50,000 in the next two decades.
Renewable energy is destined to become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy in the coming years, needing to attract an array of talented people – perhaps as many as 50,000 in the next two decades. It offers a wide range of rewarding careers – particularly for those who are looking for a career change and want to do something challenging and worthwhile. This diverse career sector, which works hand in glove with more conventional building trades such as electrician or plumber, also has government backing through its desire to improve the UK’s energy efficiency and be at the forefront of renewable technologies and skills.
For each renewable energy type (see the box titled ‘Renewable energy defined’) there is a range of job opportunities – from project management and engineering, through designing, selling and marketing, to installation, maintenance and back-up services.
Whether you are seeking an administrative role aligned to the building trades (see the feature elsewhere in this issue), or decide that you would like to be an installer working in or alongside the construction industry, there are courses you can attend on which no previous knowledge is assumed or required. If you wish to be an installer, you will start at the beginning, training to be an electrician or plumber with a view to specialising in fitting solar PV panels or solar thermal systems. For non-installers, training will give you a good overview of renewables in general.
RenewableUK is the UK’s leading not-for-profit renewable energy trade association. Its vision is for renewable energy to play a leading role in powering the UK. As an island the UK has some of the best natural resources in the world for wind, wave and tidal energy technologies, and RenewableUK believes that deploying them can generate significant power and benefit for the UK.
RenewableUK also acts as a central point of information, as well as conducting research, finding solutions, organising events and facilitating networking.
To find out more, about RenewableUK, the industry in general and how you could benefit from membership, visit www.renewableuk.com
RENEWABLE ENERGY DEFINED
Solar PV (photovoltaic) – a solar panel electricity system that uses energy from the sun, which is then directly converted into an electricity supply large enough to run household lighting and appliances.
- Solar thermal – also uses the sun, but turns its energy into heat.
- Wind turbines – work by using a turbine to convert the wind from kinetic energy into mechanical power.
- Rainwater harvesting – literally capturing and storing rainwater, which then has a variety of uses domestically and on a larger scale.
- Ground source heating – extracts heat from the ground by using buried pipes. It is used in all kinds of heating, including underfloor systems.
- Biomass heating – uses organic materials such as wood, crops and so on (either alive or recently living) to produce heat through combustion.
- ACS (Accredited Certification Scheme): any of the training you do should result in you gaining qualifications under ACS.
- MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme): this independent scheme provides customers with an assurance that the product and/or installer meet rigorous and tested standards and quality. If you intend to work for an employer who already has this accreditation, then you will not need it. However, if you intend to start your own company or work freelance, then the accreditation will be invaluable.
Courses for installers
For most installation and maintenance work, you will need to be an electrician or plumber holding recognised qualifications (again, see the ‘Building trades’ article elsewhere in this edition) before you can undertake further training. That said, there is a huge range of courses available that will give you practical training experience and further recognised qualifications that are specific to renewable energy systems. Courses commonly include solar PV installation and maintenance for both domestic and larger buildings, solar PV roofer courses, relevant health and safety certification, unvented hot water courses (essential for plumbers moving into solar thermal hot water installations), domestic wind turbine installations, installation of biomass boilers and installation of ground source heat pumps.
Rainwater harvesting installation is the one area that doesn’t require you to be a qualified plumber/electrician (although you will need to work alongside a qualified plumber for the final connection). Training for this type of installation will give you a thorough background in the area, including how to collect, store and use the rainwater.
Courses for non-installers
Throughout each of the renewable sources sectors in the building arena there is a need for project managers, designers, engineers, office managers and other administrative staff, sales people, advisers and procurers. All of these roles give Service leavers an ideal opportunity to use the core skills they gained in the Forces, such as teamwork, initiative, meeting targets, organisational ability, working under pressure, drive and clear communication skills.
Proof that you have some current knowledge of the renewables area will definitely be of interest to an employer. There are many basic short (one-, two- or three-day courses) that raise awareness, knowledge and understanding of the sector. These have often been designed with marketing, administrative staff and sales people in mind. Project management and managerial roles may also require a degree in a relevant area, and if you are planning this kind of further study there are specific degree or postgraduate courses available in renewable energy.