New report identifies Ireland’s €38 billion offshore wind opportunity

29 Jan 2024

Government and industry must work together to address skills shortages

Achieving Ireland’s 2050 offshore wind energy targets could be worth at least €38 billion to the Irish economy, according to a new report launched today at Wind Energy Ireland’s Annual Conference in Dublin. The research highlights the need for a targeted skills development fund to ensure Irish workers and businesses reap the benefit from this enormous investment. 

More than 700 delegates are attending the Annual Conference, which takes place over 30 and 31 January in the Clayton Burlington Hotel, and comes just weeks after the wind industry’s best ever year for generating electricity. Now the sector is identifying the country’s future skills and talent needs for offshore wind.

The Building our Potential: Ireland’s Offshore Wind Skills and Talent Needs report, produced for Green Tech Skillnet and Wind Energy Ireland by BVG Associates, is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the opportunities for Irish businesses to be part of delivering the target of 37 GW of offshore wind energy by 2050. But significant investment in training and skills development will be needed to maximise the economic benefit to Ireland from the development of offshore wind farms.

While there is already a growing number of Irish companies involved in offshore wind energy, including some competing internationally, the industry will need far more workers if it is to achieve the targets set by Government. The report identifies numerous parallel industries, such as marine and engineering, where workers have skills transferable to wind energy development. This suggests targeted investment in upskilling and retraining could yield significant employment opportunities.

Collaboration between Government and industry will be key to ensuring that the billions of euro to be invested in building a new generation of offshore wind farms stays in Ireland.

Speaking about the launch of the report, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD said: “Developing green skills and green jobs has become a top priority of mine and my Department.

"The development of our offshore wind resources is a key objective for Government. Not only will it help us reduce our carbon emissions, but it will bring greater energy security and reduce costs for consumers.

“This report clearly demonstrates the significant economic and social benefits to communities across Ireland, particularly in the shape of new job opportunities.

“This will shape my Department’s work and ambition with stakeholders across government, the public sector, the tertiary education sector, and industry, as we look to build the skills we need to deliver a greener more sustainable future."

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, added: "I welcome the findings of this report which clearly highlights the scale of the economic opportunities which offshore wind can bring to the State. As a large part of our energy future will involve offshore wind development, this sector can become the backbone of future energy systems.The opportunities this presents in terms of developing a skilled workforce and new careers in the renewables space cannot be overlooked.”

‘‘We are delivering an all-of-Government approach to offshore wind through our off-shore wind taskforce, which includes representation from a number of key Government departments, including the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research and Innovation. A key focus of this taskforce is ensuring that the resources are in place to realise and meet this new skills demand.’’

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland said: “Offshore wind energy is not just about cutting carbon emissions and providing cheaper power. It is Ireland’s future economic strategy. Every offshore wind farm means new investment, high quality green jobs and greater energy security.

“This report identifies, in granular detail, the skills we need over the next two decades to transform our workforce to build not just Ireland’s offshore wind energy future but to compete internationally.

“If Government and industry can work together to identify and invest in the right training initiatives, coordinate the work already underway in Education & Training Boards and third level institutions, and support Irish SMEs looking to get into the sector, then there is no limit to what we are capable of.”

The report sets out several key recommendations to enable the Government to harness the full potential of Ireland’s offshore wind industry. These include:

  • Establishing a skills development fund for targeted investment in private-public training partnerships and third-level investment. This investment must be guided by industry expertise to ensure that the skills outputs match sectoral demands.
  • Attracting workers, particularly Irish nationals, from abroad to plug short-term skills shortages through initiatives such as relocation grants.
  • Ensuring offshore specialisms are covered in public education and private training providers to equip future workers with the necessary skillsets to participate in the offshore wind industry.
  • Building expert knowledge in transmission systems to address the severe skills shortage in electrical system expertise (HV and HVDC), both domestically and internationally.

Paul Healy, Skillnet Ireland, CEO, said: “The Building our Potential: Ireland’s Offshore Wind Skills and Talent Needs report gives an insight into the unique opportunity that offshore energy presents and reiterates that a skilled pipeline of talent for this sector is of paramount importance. 

“With programmes spanning wind, solar, and hydrogen, the Green Tech Skillnet supports the optimisation of renewables on the Irish grid and has successfully engaged over 3,000 trainees in the sector since 2021. On foot of this report, we look forward to continuing our collaborations with Green Tech Skillnet and making sure that Ireland has a future-ready workforce to further build our competitive edge in this sector.”

Also welcoming the report, Leo Bertels, Managing Consultant, BVG Associates added: “Ireland’s ambitious targets for offshore wind deployment represent a huge opportunity for the nation’s economy, energy system and workforce.

The report maps out job opportunities presented by each phase of project delivery, identifying the top 42 roles which are expected to be of most relevance for Ireland. These include roles in early-stage development and project management activities, as well as certain elements of the operations, maintenance and service activity, particularly in new floating wind technologies.

Noel Cunniffe concluded: “Our offshore wind industry is a huge economic opportunity for Ireland. By investing in the right training programmes, and taking a proactive approach to skills development, we can cut our carbon emissions, cut electricity bills and create jobs.”

BVG cover

Read the report in full here.