There is a critical shortage of green energy workers with the right skills in the right place to advance global decarbonization efforts, according to new research from the BCG Henderson Institute.
BCG has calculated the skills gap in the green economy will rise to 7 million by 2030. This green skills gap is especially acute in solar, wind, and biofuels technologies—key pillars of the energy transition.
A lack of 7 million green energy workers by 2030 could lead to a temperature rise of 0.1°C by delaying progress on the construction of renewable assets for clean energy, according to study co-author Tanya Mondal, a project leader at BCG. Many countries have committed to reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 as part of global efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.
“Closing a global 7 million green skills gap by 2030 is possible. What makes it challenging is a mismatch between geography, skills, and timing,” says Johann Harnoss, a BCG Henderson Fellow focusing on innovation and global talent.
“People are not where they are needed most, the ones that are in the right place still have meaningful work and don’t feel the urgency to move, and those who move into green energy find that they need entirely new skills. Large-scale upskilling is a key part of the solution, so is skills-based legal migration,” Harnoss explains. (See the exhibit.)
In countries like Germany and the United States, where unemployment is relatively low, broadening the talent pool will be especially important.
Examples of jobs that will be in demand include:
“Topics such as sustainable finance, infrastructure, and technology innovation are rightfully top of the agenda at New York’s Climate Week and COP28. But the people dimension tends to be overlooked. Fixing this will be key to meeting the world’s net zero targets,” says Janina Kugel, BCG senior advisor on people and co-author of the study.
Five million of the 7 million jobs that are at risk of being unfilled are in the top 10 heaviest carbon-emitting economies, underscoring the importance of plugging the gap.
The green skills gap should not only be seen as a key growth constraint in the green economy, but also as a chance to share new economic opportunity for millions of workers with families and communities locally and globally, Johann Harnoss says.
This article is based on more extensive research on the green energy worker shortage that is available upon request from the authors Johann Harnoss, Tanya Mondal and Janina Kugel.